Successful weight management requires a good attitude, and a good attitude requires positive and logical thinking.
Humans have fascinating minds. For one thing, we have a continual conversation in our minds and, most of the time, little awareness of it. This conversation can be the difference between whether we’re happy or sad. It determines many of our emotions, especially the extreme negative ones such as anxiety and depression. It can energize us to want to do something or zap us of all will to move forward. It can help one person become successful and wealthy or famous despite many failures along the way, and it can paralyze another from trying again after only one failure.
This is especially true with weight and health management. Your patterns of thinking determine your attitude and motivation, and even your ability to solve dieting problems.
These three types of thinking can defeat the best intentions to be healthy and fit:
Thoughts that judge: “How could you be so stupid?” “I’m a fat loser.” These thoughts belittle, hurt and make people feel like they’re incapable of doing anything. Most of us know how hurtful judging statements are if they’re said to someone else, but we often don’t consider that those statements are just as hurtful when we utter them to ourselves. Judging yourself harshly and calling yourself names will stop you in your tracks, destroying the motivation to move forward.
Thoughts that tell the future: “What’s the use? I’ll never be able to learn to bike long distances. Nothing’s going to work out anyway, so why try.” “If I go to the beach, everyone will look at me and be disgusted.” Most people don’t believe in fortune tellers, but many live their lives telling their own future and believing their own negative and illogical fortunes. If you believe what the future holds is bad, where are you going to get the motivation to achieve what you want?
Thoughts that catastrophize: “Walking every day is going to be horrible. People will look at me and I won’t be able to stand it. That would be terrible!” The mind listens to the words you use when you talk to yourself and feels the emotions that fit the words. Some people avoid situations because they have exaggerated what it will be like. When words such as “horrible” and “terrible” are used to describe a situation that doesn’t come close to comparing to something truly horrible and terrible, it’s next to impossible to get yourself to do what you want to do.
The first step in determining if your thoughts are illogical and hurtful, and standing in the way of your weight management goals, is to start listening to what you say to yourself. Pay close attention to the words and the tone.
Now, imagine that you’re saying the same things to a child. Think about how they would feel if you talked to them in such a manner. Would they feel energized and motivated to do what you want them to do, or would they feel like rolling up in a ball of fear, anxiety and shame — unable to move? If it’s closer to the latter, it’s time to start talking to yourself differently.
The next step is a process, an imperfect one. It’s a learning process like any other. Think of some things that you’ve mastered, such as playing an instrument. You didn’t pick up the instrument and play perfectly the first time. The more you practiced the better you played. Changing your illogical and negative thinking is just like that. You start with catching yourself when you’re saying self-defeating things. Then, you choose a replacement statement that is more logical and realistic — one that, if said to a child, would make him or her feel positive and motivated. The statements usually are true and encouraging.
Here are some examples:
• “Rome wasn’t built in a day. I know it’s going to take some time, but if I start now with small steps, it will get easier.”
• “Don’t worry. No one’s perfect. I can learn from this mistake and use what I’ve learned so that I will do better in the future.”
• “I did a pretty good job this week. I made some strides in eating more nutritiously and even rode my bike more than last week. If I focus on small steps and a good attitude, there’s no telling what I can do!”
To feel motivated and to achieve goals, we need encouragement and praise, not judgment, fear or punishment. Applying this knowledge to your weight management plan will keep you motivated and help you go the distance.
Previously published in The Tampa Bay Times