Latest Weight Loss Trick: Using Your Brain
Written by: Brandy Baxter, MS, RD, LDN
Often we underestimate the power our thoughts have on our actions and attitudes. Negative self-talk, in particular, can really derail your weight loss efforts. Negative self-talk includes the thoughts you have about yourself that have a pessimistic or discouraging tone. Examples include “I blew it at dinner tonight by getting the cheeseburger and fries. I will never get this healthy eating thing right” or “My stomach is so big, I’ll never fit into that dress again.” These aren’t typically things you’d say to another human being, so why would you say them to yourself?
If you wake up the day after eating the cheeseburger and fries, and decide since you chose an unhealthy option the night before that it completely undoes all the hard work you’ve done that week, then you’re much more likely to go off track and make unhealthy choices the rest of the week. However, if you turned that negative self-talk into positive self-talk, the outcome is likely to be much different. Instead, you could say to yourself “Yes, I had the cheeseburger last night, so I’m definitely going to make sure I get my walk in after work today so I can get back on track.” This thought is much more productive and self-loving than the previous one, and really puts the focus on moving forward and working toward the goal ahead.
In addition to negative self-talk, we often will talk ourselves into or out of certain behaviors. We may get delayed picking the kids up from school, and are only left with 20 minutes to exercise that evening instead of the original 45 minutes we planned for. So, we may think “There’s only 20 minutes now, so there’s no point in even starting to exercise.” When in fact, you can get in a good workout in 20 minutes by changing the intensity slightly or picking a different activity to do. Another common thought may be, “I went on a 30 minute walk tonight, so I deserve that ice cream sundae.” We often over-estimate how many calories we burn during exercise, therefore may eat all the calories back without realizing it. That’s okay if you’re at a healthy weight and just trying to maintain, but for weight loss it just won’t work.
Moving forward, I encourage you to take notice of any negative self-talk you catch yourself doing. If it helps, start writing these down so you can notice a pattern. Then re-write the sentence to turn it into positive self-talk. This takes practice, but over time you can change your thoughts and attitude to a much more positive, self-loving mindset.
Also try to catch yourself any time you try to talk yourself out of healthy behaviors or into unhealthy ones. Stop and remind yourself of your long-term, bigger picture goals. Ask yourself, is this going to help me achieve that goal? If not, change the thought and behavior.