Change This Bad Habit, Accomplish Anything

0SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/12/2011 12:50 PM   :  107 comments   :  20,099 Views

There are a lot of important pieces in the weight loss puzzle. Good tools for tracking nutrition and exercise, reliable information, social support to boost motivation and help you stay focused--all of these things are crucial. But even with all this, success still comes down to how well you can help yourself make good choices in the moments when those choices actually need to be made.

All of us have to cope with feelings, thoughts, impulses, and situations that can make it very hard to stay mindful, motivated, and disciplined when itís time to actually decide what weíre going to eat and whether weíre going to get up and do some exercise. Learning how to effectively coach yourself through these challenges is crucial if you want to keep moving forward. And the first step here is paying careful attention to how you talk to yourself when things go well, and when they donít.

For me, negative self-talk has always been the biggest obstacle to doing what I need to do. In the past, I started all my weight loss campaigns with extremely negative feelings toward myself, like feeling disgusted every time I saw myself in a mirror or photo, and assuming others felt the same way about me. I told myself that losing weight was the key to being happy. Every time I gave in to some impulse or bad mood, I mercilessly beat myself up for not having the character or willpower to say no to a candy bar or second helping of dinner; I never gave myself any credit when I did well.

I can tell you now that this ďtougher than toughloveĒ kind of negativity is a prescription for failure. Even if feeling bad about myself motivated me to try to make some changes, it was never enough to keep me going for very long. Mainly, it just increased my feelings of resentment, frustration, and helplessness until they erupted in an eating binge or a collapse into depression and hopelessness. All that negative self-talk made it impossible for me to come up with any realistic goals and strategies, or figure out how to help myself do what I wanted to do. I was stuck for years in an all-or-nothing mentality where I had to be perfectly good or I felt perfectly bad.

But Iíve also learned that I canít just switch my self-talk to the other extreme, where itís full of sweetness and abstract fluff about how wonderful I am and how I can accomplish anything I want as long as I believe I can. That may help turn off some of the negative self-talk for a few minutes, but thatís just the beginning. What I really need is the sort of non-sugarcoated but respectful ďpushĒ you get from a good coach: identifying both my strengths and my weaknesses, recognizing what needs work, setting realistic and meaningful goals, learning from my problems and my successes, and challenging me to put my best efforts forward.

At this point, Iíve identified four principles of constructive self-talk that help me avoid falling back into the pit of negativity and verbal self-abuse:

1. Donít say anything to myself I wouldnít say to someone else. If I find myself slipping back into harsh self-criticism, perfectionism, or unrealistic expectations, I stop for a minute and ask myself whether what Iím saying to myself is something Iíd say to anyone else who came to me looking for help with a similar situation. Then I say that to myself instead.

2. Look at the whole picture. No matter how persistent a problem seems to be, I remind myself it is never the whole story. There are times when Iíve handled the problem well and accomplished something positive. Instead of just going over what went wrong this time, I ask myself what I did to make things go right in those other instances, and how I can do that again now.

3. Ditch the drama. If Iím upset about something I ate or some exercise I didnít do, I remind myself that, in the grand scheme of things, this just really doesnít matter very much. Iím going to eat well more than 50,000,000 calories in my lifetime (thatís about 2000/day for 68 years), so how much does it really matter whether a few hundred of them got eaten a few hours earlier than scheduled? Is it going to ruin my life if it takes me a few days longer to reach my weight or fitness goal? Really, itís blowing the small stuff way out of proportion that causes the real problems, isnít it?

4. Reward myself for positive thinking. Meaningful rewards are powerful motivators. But how often do we reward ourselves for taking the time to really think things through in order to get past unhelpful reactions, assumptions, and negative self-talk? I used to reward myself when the scale showed me a number I liked, but that never helped me stay motivated when the scale wasn't being cooperative. Now I do it when I stop a negative rant in its tracks or manage to follow the principles above when I need them.

Once you've found your own way to stop the negative self-talk, then you'll be free to give yourself the kind of authentic toughlove that can really get and keep you moving towards success.

How are you at coaching yourself? Do you have any secrets or suggestions that have worked for you?


Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
 

NEXT ENTRY >   What Could You Accomplish in 4 Weeks?

Great Stories from around the Web

Comments

  • 57
    It's so good to read your blogs, Coach Dean! I find so much encouragement in them.
    It is a constant struggle for me to stop the negative talk in my head - so this is another great reminder of what to do when I'm beating myself up. - 1/13/2011   8:38:59 AM
  • 56
    I am just starting off my journey and after doing nothing for a long time, I am telling myself that taking baby steps and getting into good habits slowly is a lot better than doing nothing at all. Soon I will be adding more steps to those baby steps and then walking into good habits for longer moments and going farther. - 1/13/2011   8:08:05 AM
  • 55
    I haven't been a very good 'coach' to myself. I'm tougher on me than anyone could ever be. I've decided to change this 'stinking thinking' and treat myself with the love and respect I deserve.

    Great article...thank you!

    Deb :) - 1/13/2011   7:57:55 AM
  • 54
    One of my challenges! Thanks for posting some ideas for treating myself with respect. - 1/13/2011   7:45:20 AM
  • 53
    Thank you for the reminder. This is some of the things I have tried to tell myself to just keep moving forward or getting back up each time I fall into temptation. - 1/13/2011   7:37:44 AM
  • 52
    Oh how true. Brilliantly insightful. Thank you - 1/13/2011   7:22:40 AM
  • 51
    Thanks for this great blog post, Coach Dean! I am finally starting to realize that negative self talk is one of my biggest enemies and you have given me a great "to do" list to combat it. - 1/13/2011   6:58:28 AM
  • 50
    This is great advice. I work with a student with Asperger's disorder and some anxiety issues, so my current project is teaching him to change his self-talk from hurtful to helpful. It's slow going, but I may start sharing with him some of the Spark's blogs on the subject! If they work for us, they can help him, too! - 1/13/2011   6:37:43 AM
  • 49
    When changing negative small talk, I ensure that I provide myself with a realistic message that works to change those messages. As an example, my run yesterday was a real meh. But rather than spending a lot of time on negative self talk, I said to me, "My run today was not perfect, but I am getting better every time I work out." I can believe this message, it is realistic and positive and helps me continue to work towards improvement. I will never be perfect (Don't tell my wife I said that!!), but I can always strive to improve. - 1/13/2011   5:03:02 AM
  • 48
    I've read your articles for over four years on this site. Your insights are credible and filled with wisdom versus pop psychology that I discarded long ago.

    My own self-talk had always been harsh compared to the nice talk given to others. It was not until I read your own personal story and subsequent follow ups here on the dailyspark blog that I found out what my problem was.

    While making good habits in eating and exercise, sleeping, drinking water and the like, I never formed the habit of treating myself nicely...as I would treat others.

    At this point, and in maintenance, that is my on going goal..to treat myself as I treat others both here on Spark and in real life. This is a work in progress but I can say that making a habit of looking at situations with a half glass full mentality and thinking of myself as a decent, and even special person is coming along.

    Healthy thinking is the real secret of healthy living maintenance and that's not much of a secret.

    I've found in your articles one thing that stands out...it takes courage to lose weight, courage to maintain weight, and humility to bring the wisdom of experience to words.

    Thank you Dean.

    I'm finding my new "healthy normal" and in the process I'm finding permanent maintenance however imperfect that can sometimes be.

    - 1/13/2011   2:24:39 AM
  • 47
    I follow Judith Beck, PhD's "The BECK Diet Solution" as we have a Team here. She teaches how to THINK like a THIN person. So I tell that negative voice to shut up in my head. - 1/13/2011   12:45:19 AM
  • 46
    I remember reading #1 in one of your articles a couple of years ago. I can't even tell you the number of times I've repeated that to myself and others. Some of the best advice I've ever heard. - 1/13/2011   12:26:52 AM
  • 45
    great advice! - 1/13/2011   12:23:12 AM
  • 44
    Great article and great advice. Thanks so much! - 1/12/2011   11:50:26 PM
  • DEBKING37
    43
    Liked and favorited:) Thanks! - 1/12/2011   11:34:28 PM
  • 42
    Love the tactics and good to follow through with multiple things in your life. Thank you for sharing! - 1/12/2011   11:28:48 PM
  • ELEANORRIGBY13
    41
    This is a great post. Good to keep in mind, and not just for weight loss. - 1/12/2011   10:01:01 PM
  • 40
    Wow ... this one was written straight to me. Thanks for the blog! - 1/12/2011   9:40:51 PM
  • 39
    Truely inspirational. I believe meditation helps improve how you talk to yourself. I plan to add atleast 10 minutes a week of meditation to my weekly goals. - 1/12/2011   9:02:51 PM
  • TRIPGOER
    38
    This was just the right day to read such a good article. - 1/12/2011   7:54:56 PM
  • TAMWILLIAMS1
    37
    Awesome article. Its just the sort of wisdom I needed at the start of this weight loss journey. - 1/12/2011   7:34:42 PM
  • 36
    This blog was right on. For me, the most important thing is to keep in mind that when I make a mistake, it's just one mistake in a long journey. - 1/12/2011   7:26:29 PM
  • PICKANYNAME
    35
    My "Coach" THANKS YOU!!!! - 1/12/2011   7:06:09 PM
  • DOCKSIDER
    34
    This was a wonderful blog, and I especially liked the Four Principles of Constructive Self-Talk. I always try to focus my attention on the positive rather than the negative -- it is not always easy, but it is always worth the effort. - 1/12/2011   6:22:18 PM
  • 33
    This was one of the best blogs i have read here on Sparkpeople.One of the goals i made this year is to change my self talk....thanks for the encouragement! Have saved it to my favorites so i can reference back to it easily. - 1/12/2011   5:33:53 PM
  • 32
    I think when I pray or meditate I find myself relaxing and it makes the negative take a back seat. I need to meditate more!!! - 1/12/2011   5:31:26 PM
  • 31
    I really needed to read this article. I am a natural encourager. I try to find the positives in a person's activities or attributes... all except my own. I appreciate your suggestion to not say something to myself that I would never say to someone else. Smile. - 1/12/2011   5:21:36 PM
  • 30
    I talk pretty tough to myself - in terms of reality, truth and proven science. I think there is a tendency to lie to ourselves......

    I'm too tired to cook
    Everyone else eats cheeseburgers and fries - that's normal
    I don't have time to grocery shop every 4-5 days for fresh fruits and veggies
    I hate to exercise
    Extreme Pizza once a week is OK
    I don't know how to cook
    My DH hates healthy cooking

    See how easy it is to justify - talk yourself into bad habits?

    When I'm bad (or just trying to talk myself into hurtful behavior);
    I get tough and real with myself.

    Takes the same time to sit in a drive-thru as it does to run in a get
    $15 of fruits and veggies... and it'll go a lot farther than just a couple
    of meals.

    etc etc etc - 1/12/2011   5:21:24 PM
  • 29
    Thanks Dean for another great article with a lot of common sense information! - 1/12/2011   4:49:26 PM
  • 28
    numbers 3 and 4 nicely reinforced an approach i decided to take back in 2007 when i can say an "honest" and "thoughtful" discussion with myself took place and during "our little talk", i came to the conclusion that a) i didn't want to lose myself obsessing over everything i put in my mouth EVEN if it wasn't on "the plan" because i felt that was the beginning of a slippery slope of sorts, for me anyway. one reason is that i truly believed that if i focused on my daily activity instead of the end result, if i ate an extra cookie or ordered a sm. fry every now and then, that even THOSE actions were part of establishing a more balanced lifestyle overall and that too, was part of the overarching goal of getting healthy.

    i ALSO decided it was important to acknowledge my hard work and that any day spent developing better, life-affirming habits was another step i took away from my old habits and my old lifestyle. in fact, the older i get, the more i have decided i need to relax about a LOT of things in my life. - 1/12/2011   4:47:53 PM
  • AKAFIT
    27
    I have been guilty of the negativity that she speaks of in this article. I still have to remind myself that I have lost 20 pounds when I see myself in pictures because I can see the other ME staring back. It is a process, one that I a slowly learning is well worth learning to handle. Not to mention, it is so important to me to teach my daughter how to be loving and appreciative of who she is. - 1/12/2011   4:43:40 PM
  • 26
    I think these four principles of constructive self-talk are great not even just with weight loss and for me... especially #1. Gotta try the four principles! Thanks! - 1/12/2011   4:26:38 PM
  • 25
    don't say to yourself what you wouldn't say to someone else--exactly! this idea has really made a big difference in my life over the last few months. - 1/12/2011   4:22:36 PM
  • 24
    This is exactly what i needed to hear. I wasn't sure how I am going to get out of this blah feeling I have, and not being able to start my program back up. But this is definately a great start ! Thanks. This could be the turning point I've been hoping for the last few weeks. - 1/12/2011   4:19:23 PM
  • 23
    I saved the article to my favorites for future reference. - 1/12/2011   4:09:56 PM
  • 22
    I am working on identifying at least one positive thing I've done each day. And usually I end up with several! Just doing little things add up and make you feel like you are moving forward. - 1/12/2011   4:08:20 PM
  • 21
    every day I tell myself Love life and life will Love you back. - 1/12/2011   3:57:45 PM
  • 20
    Thanks for the article. I really enjoyed it, and I hope I can put the points into daily practice. - 1/12/2011   3:56:55 PM
  • 19
    You're such a great motivational writer, Mr. Anderson. When can we expect a book?? - 1/12/2011   3:52:30 PM
  • JAY75REY
    18
    Fantastic advise, and I like the simplicity...4 rules to help guide ourselves. Especially 2 and 3...keeping things in perspective. - 1/12/2011   3:49:52 PM
  • 17
    Excellent! I needed to be reminded to be kinder to myself! Thanks - 1/12/2011   3:49:18 PM
  • 16
    LOVE LOVE LOVE this!! Just the message I needed. - 1/12/2011   3:27:48 PM
  • 15
    Thank you for putting how I feel into words! I feel like you were inside my head when you wrote this. I am so appreciative of those who share their thoughts so eloquently!!!! You made my day!!! - 1/12/2011   3:21:44 PM
  • 14
    that's a good article, but the ads in the text were very confusing because in the past, there were sometimes links to spark articles. I realize spark needs to take adds to keep this amazing site free for it's users, but - if I have a choice, I prefer the usual ads peppered over the site, but not the texts. - 1/12/2011   3:10:46 PM
  • 13
    Refreshing common sense advice again...thanks, Coach! - 1/12/2011   3:10:37 PM
  • 12
    A very good article! I am not one to beat myself up over a slip but I know there those who do just that. I just pick myself up and start again ! - 1/12/2011   2:53:30 PM
  • MIZTEN
    11
    What a great article! This approach is very much like my own. "Look at the whole picture" is especially pertinent. Only you can know the complexities and challenges of your life. Applying info bites of advice to your own life/world/self will lead to confusion, if not disappointment. - 1/12/2011   2:34:13 PM
  • 10
    Great blog! Just what I needed! - 1/12/2011   2:26:53 PM
  • 9
    I don't base rewards on the scale... I base them on achieving my daily goals... if the scale wants to reward me too, that's fantastic... if not, I still get my bubble bath or whatever for doing what I'm supposed to be doing... I'm taking this project on as a long-term deal. I figure if I do the right things for my body, the weight will come off naturally, without me being a maniac about it. Plus, I'm building those lifelong habits along the way... - 1/12/2011   2:12:33 PM
  • 8
    It's so easy to think negatively when you slip up. When I start to think that way, I try to focus on all the positive things that I have done already that day & the negativity seems to just go away. I think rewarding oneself for not caving in to the negativity is a great idea! - 1/12/2011   1:58:50 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


Join SparkPeople.com

x Lose 10 Pounds by October 11! Get a FREE Personalized Plan