Sounds kind of strange, right? But stop for a moment and think about what sort of things you say to yourself after you overeat or happen to overindulge? Maybe it’s something like,
“I can’t believe I did that, I have no discipline.”
“I’m so mad at myself for eating that, why did I do that”
Might even be,
“From here on out, it’s an extra hour of cardio everyday and salads only.”
I ask my clients, if a friend of yours happened to overeat or order dessert would you look at him or her and say the things you say to yourself? Of course not, so why do we think it’s okay to speak to ourselves this way? First of all, you didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t burn down a house or steal from someone, you ate some food, maybe more than you needed, but you are not bad as a result of this. And continuing the negative self-talk is only going to cause you to stay stuck in a mindset of beating yourself up, trying to rationalize why you did it, and figuring out how you’re going to fix it. And we all know the “fixing” that you’re going to do will probably come in a form of punishment. You’re also likely going to tighten the reigns around what you’re allowed to eat, making you much more likely to repeat the overeating and negative self talk over and over again.
Why We’re Overeating in the First Place
I talk about this all the time, but most of us are overeating because of the food rules we impose upon ourselves when it comes to what we should be eating 24/7. We have come to believe, by no fault of our own, that the only way to be “healthy” is to make drastic changes, cut out foods groups, and subsist on baked chicken, steamed broccoli, and salads for life.
Who the heck can do this?
In addition, we’re also taught that if we can’t maintain this rigid and restrictive way of eating, we lack willpower and discipline, which can contribute big time to our mental wellbeing. This, then, often leads to a sense of failure and shame when we do happen to treat ourselves to a slice of pizza or bite of dessert, which for many, turns into a downward spiral, leading to the, “screw it” mentality.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re responsible for our own food choices, as well as figuring out if there’s an emotional component that needs to be dealt with, but the model many of us try to live up to is unrealistic and unattainable for the long-term. Healthy changes, like any change in our life, start small, but again, we’re trained to make full-blown overhauls to our lives, which, not sure if anyone has noticed, isn’t working!
How Negativity Affects Our Weight
This sense of failure and shame breeds the negative self talk that keeps so many stuck in a cycle of restriction and overeating, as we feel like we’re always trying to “make-up” for being bad, while continuing to overindulge in the foods we’re not allowed to have. Over time, this restriction that we place on our eating often continues to intensify, which makes sticking to it much more difficult, and overeating more common and frequent for us. And as a result, no matter how much we restrict or how “good” we try to be for a few days, we find we’re steadily gaining weight, further perpetuating the negativity we project onto ourselves.
Where the Negativity Comes From
For the most part, it’s a collection of unkind voices from our past that tell us we don’t have any willpower or discipline, that we won’t reach our goal, or that, shoot, we’ve blown our diet, again. These voices may come from our parents, grandparents, siblings, past lovers, and of course, our society’s ever-so-healthy view of what a man or woman should look like (I hope everyone can tell this is total sarcasm), or the latest diet trend on Facebook. And over the years we internalize these things that we hear and see, eventually believing them to be truth, resulting in the creation of false standards by which we feel we are measured. Thing is, many of these things are not true, but because they’ve become so ingrained in our psyches, it’s hard to shake them.
Stopping the Negativity
The only way to stop the negativity is to start by becoming aware of when you’re doing it and why, while also taking a look at the food rules you’re following, which I talk about here. Because if you find yourself feeling like a failure for not wanting to eat a salad everyday, it’s important you realize that not only is that unrealistic, but by no means should it make you feel like you’ve failed in any way.
Start by paying attention to the things you tell yourself on a day-to-day basis, especially when it comes to eating, and notice how often you say something negative. Once you catch yourself, take a step back and find out where it came from, and then question if it’s really true, and how it makes you feel. Once you do this, try to reframe what you say to yourself into something helpful or constructive, that can lead to a positive action.
So for example, if you overindulge in pizza at a party, instead of saying,
“I have no discipline around pizza, I’m never going to lose weight.”
“The next time I eat pizza, I’m going to make sure to have it with some salad, which will help fill me up and eat a little less.”
Pretty different, eh? We didn’t swear off pizza for life or get angry at ourself, we recognized the situation for what it was and moved on. I know it’s harder than it seems, trust me, I know, but it’s so possible and so, so worth it.
Bottom line, accept responsibility for your actions and take back control instead of falling victim to the moment and beating yourself up, which in the end, will get you further and further from your goal.
During one-on-one consults we dive deep into old patterns, habits, and behaviors that address negative self-talk to help you create greater self-awareness and learn the right way to talk to yourself that will lead to positive changes. Find out more here.