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Fake It 'Til You Make It: Positive Self Talk

Turning negative feelings into positives isn't hard; it just takes practice.

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel good about yourself, full of positive energy, and ready to get out there and shake up the world? Or are you kicking yourself because you ate a forbidden food last night, or didn’t lose any weight this week? If you’re attitude is “I can do anything,” then you know what? You probably can. But if you’re constantly telling yourself “I’ll never succeed,” then that could just as easily be true. You’ll do whatever your mind tells you to do, even fail. Your mind is that powerful.

This type of negative thinking is called negative self-talk, and it follows us through the day. It includes all the not-so-nice things you say to yourself throughout the day that make you feel bad about yourself, such as “I’m so stupid” and “I’ve been bad about my diet.” Do you always blame yourself when things go wrong? Do you constantly criticize yourself or call yourself names? That’s negative self-talk.

You can get into such a habit of negative thinking that you can’t see any happiness down the road. You think all the negative stuff is true and will be true forever. The funny thing is that most of what you’re telling yourself isn’t even true now, never was.

The danger of negative self-talk is that it turns into negative self-opinion. “I can’t cook” turns into “I’m no good at anything.” “I blew my diet” turns into “I’ll never lose weight” or “I’ll never be healthy.” Keep thinking that way, and you’ll really start to believe it! You’ll see yourself as a total failure. When your self-esteem gets that low, you don’t think you deserve anything positive. You might think you deserve to be fit and healthy. Please, don’t go there!

Restrictive diets—those that limit calories to an extreme or forbid whole food groups for no medical reason— can make anyone feel like a failure, especially if you’ve tried over and over again, and haven’t been able to stick to them. You’re doomed the minute you go on a restrictive diet because they are almost designed to fail. Most weight loss diets set you up to temporarily lose some weight and then gain it back again. How many times can you watch yourself try and fail to lose weight without feeling bad about it? But the truth is, you didn’t fail. The diet failed you.

Breaking the habit of negative self-talk helps you stop blaming yourself for failures that are yours. It takes a lot of practice to stop a cycle of negativity because these thoughts have become so automatic. But you can change the way you think and feel about yourself. The first step is recognizing your negative thoughts when they arise. Then you can actively change them, right then and there.

Listen to yourself carefully. When you have a negative thought of any kind, stop what you’re doing. Replace that negative thought with something positive. For instance if you hear yourself say “Oh man, I have such ugly back fat,” immediately replace it with “I look so young for my age” or “My hair looks great today” or “I have great legs.”

So instead of saying "I knew I couldn't do it," say "I'm doing my best." Instead of "I'll never stick to this," say "I'll make these changes, one step at a time." Instead of "I hate to exercise," try "I love how I feel after a good workout."

If you can’t come up with a positive thought, come up with solutions to your negative situation. As soon as you say, “I look fat” or “I’m bad because I ate this,” follow up with “I can do something about this” or “It doesn’t matter as long as I eat well the rest of the day.” Instead of "I hate my body (or myself)," say "I'm going to work hard to get stronger and healthier every day."Even better, come up with very specific wording, such as “I’m going to eat more fruit today” or “I’m going to a shred class.” Thinking about these small solutions might help you feel more positive about the bigger picture of your food life, and maybe even your life in general.

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