How to End Negative Self-Talk

Reject Dieting End Negative Self-Talk

The very first step to eating intuitively or mindfully is to reject the diet mentality.

It might sound like the easiest thing in the world to stop your diet, but for many people this first step can be among the most challenging. This is because while clearing diet books off your shelf is simple, it can take more effort to clear diet thoughts from your mind.

Years of dieting warps our internal compass about what foods and behaviors are good and bad. Recognizing the harm that diets cause, both emotionally and physically, and committing to eating intuitively is sometimes not enough to reorient the way we subconsciously think about food. As a result, many people who consciously choose to stop dieting and engage in mindful eating continue to behave as if they are on a diet: counting calories, eating only at set times of the day, or avoiding “bad” foods.

In their book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, authors Evelyn Tibole and Elyse Resch describe these behaviors as “pseudo dieting.”[i] This sort of unconscious, restrictive behavior is the result of an ingrained diet mentality and indicates the continuation of negative “self-talk.”

How we speak to ourselves:

You know that the core tenant of mindful eating is to learn to listen to and respect the signals your body gives you. An important counterpart to this idea, however, is to also listen to your internal thought patterns or “self-talk.”

Self-talk is the combination of emotions and thoughts you have throughout the day about who you are and what you’re doing. On diets, self-talk is often highly critical because it dieting usually arises from self-criticism. Thoughts like “I’m fat,” “I’m lazy,” “I have no self-control,” lead dieters to have a negative opinion of themselves and their bodies. Research has shown that this cycle of negativity, in addition to being psychologically damaging, actually diminishes peoples’ ability to make positive changes and lose weight.[ii]

Even after you’ve recognized that dieting is harmful, this pattern of negative self-talk created by the diet mentality can sabotage your efforts to listen to your body’s internal cues. But, the good news is there is a way to stop negative self-talk. In this post you’ll learn how to recognize your inner critic and silence it for good.

Step #1 Face your Fears about Not Dieting

For many of us the idea of going diet free is scary. Common sources of anxiety about not dieting include:

·         A worry that not dieting will lead to over-eating;

·         Not knowing how to eat without diet rules;

·         Feeling like without diets you will be out of control.

If you have these feelings of fear, understand that they are entirely reasonable: if you’ve spent years bouncing between diets that didn’t work, you haven’t yet learned how to rely on your body’s internal cues to make food decisions. But, you should also recognize that such anxiety is the result of dieting.

Fear of over-eating: In reality, being on a diet causes many of the ill-effects people fear will occur when they are not dieting. For example, restrictive eating habits cause you to become overly hungry, depleting your self-control, and triggering over-eating.

Not knowing the rules: Your body knows exactly what it needs and when it needs to eat. The fear that, without a diet’s guidelines, you’ll won’t know how to eat is a fear we’ve been taught with a lifetime of dieting. Diets teach us to rely exclusively on external measurements (e.g. calories or eating schedules) to decide how to eat. But, if we learn to listen and hear our internal signals once again, your body will tell you all you need to know.   

Feeling out of control: Perhaps the most insidious fear diet-culture has cultivated is the idea that unless we are on a diet we are “out of control.” This is the root cause of what [name] and [name] refer to as the “diet dilemma.” We start diets, often, as a means to lose weight. Inevitably, by forcing us to restrict our food intake, we stimulate cravings and reduced self-control, binge or over-eat, gain weight, and feel even more reliant on dieting to help us lose weight again. Essentially, dieting is the cause of our feelings of uncontrolled eating, not the solution.

Though it might be daunting at first, know that with time and practice, you can learn to interpret internal cues and listen to what your body needs.

 

Image via Tibole E, Resch E.  Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works .

Image via Tibole E, Resch E. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.

Step #2: Recognize Negative Self-Talk

Once you’ve addressed any internal conflict you might have about ending dieting, you might find you still have an inner diet critic: that little voice that criticizes you for eating “bad” foods and praises you for diet-like behaviors. In order to silence this inner critic you must first recognize your patterns of self-talk. Below are simple strategies to recognize and begin to change how you speak to yourself:

Catch your inner critic: Building an awareness of your own self-talk is an essential first step that can help you gain distance between your inner voice and reality. Throughout the day, check in with yourself and how you speak to yourself. Don’t judge your thoughts, but observe what types of comments you tell yourself, how often these thoughts are negative, whether the thoughts are unreasonable or over-exaggerating, and where the thoughts might be coming from? 

Challenge your inner critic: Recognize that thoughts and feelings don’t always reflect the reality of a situation. When you hear your inner critic, evaluate if it is based on over-generalizations or short-term thinking. This sort of thinking can turn a single misstep into a catastrophic failure when, in reality, it is a minor mistake that is outweighed by your overall progress.

Modify self-talk: You might not be able to fully silence your inner critic, but you can balance it with positive self-talk. If you notice that your thoughts are overly negative, try to focus on positive aspects of yourself and your behavior. For example, think about how you’ve improved over the long-term and recognize that small steps can led to overall positive change.


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Step #3: Create Encouraging Self-Talk

The goal in changing the way you speak to yourself is not to replace an overly negative inner voice with an unrealistically positive one. Rather, the goal is create a more realistic and neutral inner voice. In this your inner critic can actually begin to provide you with feedback that may help you understand yourself better and make positive changes in the future.[iii]

As children, we are given a chance to make mistakes and try again. For some reason, however, once we reach adulthood many of seem to think that we should always be perfect. That’s just not how it works: we all mess up sometimes. Negative self-talk is, not only unnecessary, but can stop us from trying again or making changes to improve. Below are some steps you can take to start changing negative self-talk into a positive, encouraging inner voice.

Steps to encouraging positive self-talk:

Stop “black and white” thinking: Often, negative self-talk arises from black and white thinking: thoughts like “I failed,” “I’m a terrible person,” and “I will never accomplish what I want,” are defeatist and encourage giving up. Instead, when faced with negative thoughts, think something like “that didn’t work,” or “I can do better.”   

Change demands to suggestions: Negative thinking often uses demanding words like “always,” “can’t,” or “must.” Instead, try to change your internal dialogue so that you use more neutral words such as “could” or “may.”

Be compassionate to yourself: Try to speak with yourself as you would a close friend or loved one. If you mess up don’t call yourself “stupid” or “lazy” or any other horrible thing. Instead, recognize that everyone makes mistakes, evaluate what might have caused your error, forgive yourself, and concentrate on succeeding in the future.

For more tips to combat negative self-talk, check out this video from Psych Minded.


References:

[i] Tibole E, Resch E. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.  2nd ed. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin; 2007.

[ii] Carels RA, Burmeister JM, Koball AM, et al. A randomized trial comparing two approaches to weight loss: Differences in weight loss maintenance. J Health Psychol. 2014;19(2): 296-311. doi: 10.1177/1359105312470156.

[iii] Campbell B. Changing Self-Talk: A Cognitive Therapy Primer. CFIDS & Fibromyalgia website. http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org/library/changing-self-talk. Accessed October 8, 2018.  

Meal Planning 101: How to Meal Plan in Intuitive Eating

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Once we have the basics down of intuitive eating, many of us come upon a totally different and seemingly more complex stumbling block: meal planing.

Knowing how to listen to and cherish our bodies and making piece with food is one thing. But, once you’re ready to honor your hunger, how can we make sure we’re nourishing ourselves with good food choices?

In this post, foodie nutritionist, Rachel Hartley lays out some simple strategies to plan your meals in a way that works best for you and your body!

Meal Planning 101: How to Meal Plan in Intuitive Eating

A big part of Intuitive Eating is learning to make decisions about what to eat based on what sounds and feels good in the moment. It may seem like intuitive eating and meal planning conflict, but I actually think they go hand in hand. When meal planning is done in a way that allows for flexibility and takes pleasure into consideration, meal planning can be a powerful ally in making peace with food. 

If you live in NYC with basically every cuisine and type of food within a ten-block radius and have unlimited funds to order out, then yes, you can make food decisions 100% based on what sounds good in the moment because you have access to all the foods. For the rest of us, we need some semblance of a plan to make sure we have a variety of tasty foods available when hunger hits. Without a plan to have access to food, you'll be stuck making decisions about what to eat when your blood sugar is already running low. When your blood sugar is low and your brain is in need of nourishment, it's really hard to make a rational decision about what to eat. 

Where meal planning goes wrong is when it's too rigid. Spending your entire Sunday on pinterest picking out recipes, creating a calendar of weekly meals, shopping, then prepping is...a lot. And what happens when Wednesday comes and you just have zero desire to eat barbecue salmon tacos and really you're just craving Thai? Or when you get called into a late meeting and get home ravenously hungry, will you still want to prepare that vegetable lasagna from scratch? 

I like to think of meal planning more like meal preparedness. Because being prepared is really the point of it. Meal preparedness allows for you to have structure and makes it easy to honor your hunger because food is always available. It allows for you to build pleasure into your meals when you think about what foods you enjoy, not what you think you should eat. It's helpful for ensuring variety. And if you're working through eating disorder recovery or making peace with food in the Intuitive Eating process, planning ahead ensures you're prepared to build food challenges into your week. 

With Intuitive Eating, meal planning isn't based on what you think you should eat, but rather what you want to eat. There's no calories or points or whatever involved in the planning process.

Clients often share that they've tried meal planning in the past but got overwhelmed and gave up because it was taking hours and hours out of their weekend. It's no wonder when you have a dozen different diet rules you're trying to accommodate for! With meal planning for intuitive eating, nutrition may be a part of your decisions, but it's gentle nutrition. For example, I always include a vegetable in each meal when meal planning, and usually plan for enough to cover at least 1/3rd of my plate. If in looking at my week, I notice it's a bit skimpy in whole grains, I might purchase a whole grain pizza crust for my planned pizza night. Or if I realize I've been eating a lot of meat and cheese as of late, I might swap chicken for tofu in the stir fry I'm making, and/or use vegan cheese in one of the dishes (y'all, I'm a huge cheese snob but I really like Miyoko's vegan cheeses). 

How I meal plan can vary a bit based on whether I'm testing recipes for the blog or a brand I'm working with - which I usually am. But if I'm not doing recipe development, here's what I do: 

  • Pick 2-4 "recipe" meals - depending on whether my husband or I are traveling, I'll pick 2-4 meals that are based on a recipe. I try to aim for 1-2 brand new recipes, which helps get my creativity going and gets me that variety I crave. For the others, I pick simple recipes that I basically already know how to make. For example, if I pick a recipe for a stir-fry, that's super easy because I'm really familiar with how to stir-fry, and usually just have to glance at the recipe a few times during cooking. Or, I might pick out a recipe I know by heart, and try to switch it up a bit using different spices or condiments - again, this helps keep my variety craving taste buds happy. 

  • Have 3-4 pantry meals on hand - Pantry meals are meals you can throw together with shelf stable ingredients and/or leftovers. I like to have a few different options available for easy meals. One of my favorites is sauteed onions and frozen spinach tossed with whole grain pasta and canned tuna. I'll add black olives and sun-dried tomatoes to dress it up. This is a great place to use up leftovers and prevent food waste. 

Then we have room to go out to eat once a twice a week. I find that this leaves a lot of flexibility, because I don't have so much food on hand that I have to eat before it goes bad - if I'm craving pizza, we can just go out and get pizza and not worry about the spring mix starting to wilt. 

Other strategies might work better for you. Some people are ok with eating a lot of the same foods and enjoy routine, while others want to try lots of different foods. Some people are cooking for big families with lots of different taste preferences, while others are cooking for one or two. 

Read the whole post at Rachel Hartley’s blog here: https://www.rachaelhartleynutrition.com/blog/2015/08/wellness-wednesday-meal-planning-101

Break free from toxic dieting with mindful eating

Break free from toxic dieting with mindful eating

Diets ask us to ignore and fight our innate biological urges, creating a topsy-turvy emotional state. We are taught that being hungry and depriving ourselves is “good” when everything inside of us tells us the opposite. In this post, we discuss how the “dieter mindset” has caused us to lose touch with our own bodies and how we can re-establish that connection and break free from the toxic diet cycle.

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Honor Your Body (Don’t Punish it) with Food

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You’ve seen it before, the fad diets that rise in popularity with promises of losing weight with no effort, improving athletic performance, increasing lifespan, or offering some other scientifically dubious health benefit like “glowing,” “detoxifying” or “eating clean.”

Most of us have tried at least one of these and found that, while they might seem to work at first, they don’t deliver on their sensational claims in the long-term. And most of us eventually give up on the fad, revert to our old habits, gain back whatever weight we lost, and feel worse about ourselves for “failing” at the diet. But what if these diets were all destined to fail because of the mere fact that they are diets?

Diets Slim Wallets, Not Waistlines

For those over 30 years old, you know that these years can be some of the best of your life with stable relationships, careers, and more disposable income. Unfortunately, you might also notice that it has become more difficult to maintain a healthy diet and weight. This can be disheartening since we know that being overweight puts us at a significantly greater risk of developing the chronic diseases that tend to manifest in middle-age, like hypertension, heart diseases, and diabetes.[1]  And while one of the blessings that comes with kissing your 20s goodbye is having more resources to focus on your health it often also brings greater demands on our time and energy.

On top of everything, we are surrounded by cheap, calorie-dense foods that while tasty, aren’t always the healthiest option. Yet, it’s often easier to eat what’s convenient rather than taking the time to plan, prepare, or select the foods that are best for us.

Unsurprisingly, many of us find ourselves among the 70 percent of American adults classified as overweight or obese and searching for that simple trick that will help us shed pounds and improve our health.[2]

The diet business, a $450 billion a year global market, is all-too happy to exploit this situation. But, even though half of all adults are on a diet and we spend about $66 billion annually on weight management products, we keep gaining weight.[3],[4] While the obesity crisis is often put into terms of its cost to society, it also has tremendous personal price.[5] Every time we try and fail to stick with erodes something far more valuable than money: our self-confidence and belief in our own ability to control our behavior, diet, and health.

Diets Don’t Work

While some people can conform to restrictive of diets for a time, for most of us these programs focused on consciously limiting food intake to a prescribed pattern doesn’t help us lose weight and can actually lead us to become less healthy, physically and emotionally.[6]

Diets fail, not because we are weak, stupid, or have too little willpower, but because they’re designed to fail.

The Myth of Willpower

 In a famous psychological experiment study participants were asked to remember a string of numbers that were either two or seven digits long. They were then instructed to walk down a hallway to a room and repeat the numbers to another researcher. Once in the hallway, however, the subjects were met by someone with a snack cart and offered their choice of snack, ostensibly as a reward for participating in the study. Subjects could choose either fruit salad or chocolate cake. Though the subjects didn’t realize it, their choice of snack was the true focus of the experiment and the results proved both shocking and revealing. Those trying to remember just two numbers generally chose the fruit salad. But, subjects asked to remember the seven digit number overwhelming chose the chocolate cake.

What this experiment demonstrates is that willpower is not some inborne trait or measure of your value as a person: It is a finite cognitive resource.

Like a computer’s processing power, we each have a limited amount of cognitive energy which we expend addressing large and small tasks or decisions every day. When we run out of cognitive resources, however, we tend to default to our impulses. Like the subjects in the above experiment, their cognitive energy was used up trying to remember a seven-digit number which made it difficult to calculate the long-term effect of choosing cake over fruit. All they could think of was that since cake tastes better than fruit it was the better reward.  

When you diet you are essentially putting yourself in that experiment, making each choice about food an enormous burden on your cognitive resources involving tracking calories, weight, nutrient needs, creating a battle of wills between your higher-minded goals and impulses, and the psychological ups and downs of feeling frustration for lack of progress and shame for “cheating” on the diet. It’s no wonder that dieters cheat the minute they run out of cognitive energy.

While we can’t change the amount of cognitive resources we have or control the demands on our attention, we can change the cognitive math around food-thinking. And this is at the heart of the Lotus Eater approach.

One is the Healthiest Number

Mindful or intuitive eating on the other is, at heart, a one step process.

This central goal of mindful eating is to honor your own body with the foods you choose to eat.

Lotus Eater is here to help you do that. With our tools, resources, and support network we will discover together how to respect our own bodies, be kinder to ourselves, and build a healthier, happier relationship with food.

Your Health Adventure

We might not all have epic tales like Odysseus’s voyage across the Mediterranean, but we’ve each walked a unique an interesting path to become the person we are now. In the comments, let us know about your health journey; where it started, where it has taken you, where you’re hoping to go next. And don’t forget to note something about yourself or your life that you cherish.

 

References:


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS Data Brief No. 288, October 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db288.htm. Accessed September 8, 2018.

[2] National Center for Health Statistics: Obesity and Overweight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm Updated May 3, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2018.

[3] Mann T, Tomiyama J, Westling E, Lew A, Samuels B, Chatman J. Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets are Not the Answer. Am Psych. 2007;62(3):220-233. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220.

[4] U.S. Weight Loss Market Worth $66 Billion [news release]. Rockville, MD: Marketdata LLC; December 20, 2017. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-weight-loss-market-worth-66-billion-300573968.html. Accessed September 9, 2018.

[5] Cook L. Americans Are Fat, and It's Costing Us Billions. U.S. World & News Report. November 2, 2015. https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/11/02/americans-are-fat-and-its-costing-us-billions-each-year. Accessed September 8, 2018.

[6] Schaefer JT, Magnuson AB. A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues. 2014;114(5):734-760. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.024.