If you have punished yourself or called yourself names for eating foods on your taboo list, changing your self-talk is the first step to healthier eating, weight loss and a more positive food experience.
Is any of this familiar?
Self-Talk: I can’t believe I ate that. I keep messing up. I’ll never lose weight!
Self-Talk: What a pig! I’m so ashamed for eating two pieces of cake. Since I’m not losing weight, I might as well eat pizza and cookies for dinner.
My patients and clients frequently describe situations such as these. And indeed, I have even heard similar tapes in my own head after eating something I later regretted. One thing I know for sure is that language this is more likely to do harm than good. Often the self-doubt and self-loathing that follows a dietary misstep lead the individual even further from healthy eating and self-acceptance.
So how do you end the negative tapes in your head? It starts with looking at the diet slip up objectively. It’s common to catastrophize the problem, making it seem unfixable and bigger than it really is. Certainly, eating too much dessert doesn’t make someone a pig or a failure anymore than having a fender bender labels someone a bad driver. To help put your diet slip into perspective, ask yourself if it will really matter in three months, three weeks or even three days? If you treat the slip like just a slip and continue on with healthful eating, it will make no difference after today.
Now that you can see the problem for what it is, the next step is to speak kindly to yourself. Imagine that you’re speaking to someone else. Practice running those tapes in your head.
Here is my 3-step process to reword your negative self-talk.
H: Hear the negative language.
O: Observe the situation objectively as if you were observing a friend.
P: Plan a different response for the next similar situation. For example, the next time your co-workers celebrate birthdays with a cake, you’ll move far from it before eating your small piece. Then you’ll immediately get rid of your dirty dishes. Or you can offer to bring a trimmed down treat such as these Banana Mini-Chip Muffins.
Whatever your plan for next time, be sure it includes a little kindness toward you.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is a registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes educator in SE Virginia and a paid contributor to The Skinny on Low Cal. Through speaking, writing and coaching individuals, she helps empower people to live healthier, happier lives. Jill is the author of three books including The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition.