Friday, February 26, 2010

Self-talk

Sometimes I get upset with how people talk about themselves on the weight loss message boards. They call themselves names, beat themselves up over every transgression, no matter how small, and just aren't very nice to themselves. I can't decide if I want to smack some sense into them or give them a big hug. I definitely want to say: Don't talk to yourself like that!

Our self-talk can be so powerful. I really think being mean to yourself puts you into a cycle of failure. Maybe people do this because they think it will motivate them to clean-up their act. But I don't see that happening, at least not in the long run. Sometimes I see people letting themselves off the hook after their self-scolding. (I was mean to myself so now I deserve to treat myself with food?) Other times they get so down on themselves so often that they come to think of themselves as not being worthy of reaching their goals, which leads to self-sabotage and giving up.

In her article "50 TIPS TO HELP YOU SUCCEED AT “NORMAL” EATING", Karen Koenig gives a number of tips about self-talk. Some of them struck me as too "psycho babble-ish" but there are a couple that really speak to me. Such as:



Instead of thinking there are “good” and “bad” foods, consider them as nutritional or non-nutritional (“good” and “bad” are moral terms that are best avoided in the food arena). 

To me, this is the most important of the 50 tips. When we cast our struggles with food as a morality play, we give food a power that it should not have. Food is fuel and some choices are better than others, though even that changes based on context. Just as you aren't a bad or good person based on what you weigh, you aren't a good or bad person based on a single food choice (or even a whole day of them).

Don’t put yourself down for the mistakes you make with food. Rather, lavishly praise yourself for all your successes, even the tiniest ones.

Never say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to a young child you love, including calling yourself stupid, hopeless, bad, a failure, worthless. Be your own cheerleader by generating positive thoughts about your progress.

I think these two are really the same tip. I prefer the second way of putting it though. It seems less fake and easier to follow.

It seems to be human nature to magnify our mistakes and minimize our successes and we need to fight that tendency in ourselves. So next time someone tells you that you look great or did really well in your last race, smile and say "Thank you" instead of shrugging it off or making a joke or pointing out something negative about yourself, okay? I started doing this a few years ago and, yes, at first it feels weird. But it's amazing what a difference it makes in how you look at yourself when you treat yourself like someone who deserves praise.

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking and using words like never and always. Remind yourself that most of life is not black and white, but gray.

Another hard one for us chronic dieters. But all-or-nothing thinking makes failure inevitable as no one can be perfect all the time and sometimes it's not even clear what the perfect choice is!

Detoxify negative things people say about you that are untrue rather than repeating them to yourself. Remember that what people say belongs to them, not to you, even if your name is attached to their words.

This is new idea for me so I'm going to have to think about it some before I can fully respond. I don't think I repeat untrue negative stuff to myself but I do tend to play out negative exchanges over and over in my head. I'm not sure if that's what she means. But the second part about what people say belonging to them is really profound.

Stop judging yourself harshly and start developing self-compassion. Treat yourself lovingly and practice speaking to yourself with extreme esteem.


Which puts us back where we started. Stop being mean to yourself when you aren't perfect!
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