Weight Management: Stop Negative Thoughts
Weight Management: Stop Negative Thoughts
How can you use healthy thinking to reach a healthy weight?
Notice and stop your thoughts
The first step is to notice and stop your negative thoughts or "self-talk." Self-talk is what you think and believe about
yourself and your experiences. It's like a running commentary in your head.
Your self-talk may be rational and helpful. Or it may be negative and not
Ask about your thoughts
The next step is to ask yourself whether your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful. Look at what you're saying to yourself. Does
the evidence support your negative thought? Some of your self-talk may be true.
Or it may be partly true but exaggerated. There are several kinds of irrational
thoughts. Here are a few types:
- Focusing on the negative: This is sometimes called filtering. You filter out the good
and focus only on the bad. You don't give yourself credit for the good
things you do. Example: "I ruined my eating plan this week by having so much
pizza tonight." Reality: Did you keep to your eating plan most of the week? If
you did, then you're not giving yourself credit for all the great things you
did that week.
- Should: People sometimes have
set ideas about how they "should" act. If you hear yourself saying that you or
other people "should," "ought to," or "have to" do something, then you might be
setting yourself up to feel bad. Example: "I should never have pizza or
dessert." Reality: If you really don't ever want to have pizza or dessert
again, that's fine. But many people find a way to work those foods into their
eating plan and stay at a healthy weight. They try to have a flexible eating
- Overgeneralizing: This is taking one
example and saying it's true for everything. Look for words such as "never" and
"always." Example: "I can never stick with an exercise plan." Reality: Have you
ever made a vow to exercise and stuck to it? If you did it before, you can do
it again. And even if you weren't able to do it in the past, that doesn't mean
you can't stay with plan in the future.
- All-or-nothing thinking: This is also called black-or-white
thinking. Example: "If I can't stay on my eating plan all the time, I'll just
give up." Reality: Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One slip-up doesn't mean
you can't get back to your plan the next day.
Choose your thoughts
The next step is to choose an accurate, helpful thought to replace the unhelpful one.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts
is one of the best ways to practice stopping, asking, and choosing your thoughts. It makes you aware of your self-talk. Write down any negative or
unhelpful thoughts you had during the day. If you think you might not remember
them at the end of your day, keep a notepad with you so that you can write down
thoughts as they occur. Then write down helpful messages to correct the
If you do this every day, helpful thoughts will
soon come naturally.
But there may be some truth in some of your
negative thoughts. You may have some things you want to work on. If you didn't
perform as well as you would like on something, write that down. You can work
on a plan to correct or improve that area.
If you want, you also
can write down what kind of irrational thought you had. Your journal entries
might look something like this:
Stop your negative thought
Ask what type of negative thought you had
Choose an accurate, helpful thought
"I ruined my eating plan by
having so much pizza tonight."
"I wish I didn't eat so much pizza. But
it's only one meal. I stayed on my eating plan really well the rest of the
"I should never have pizza or
"Having dessert or pizza now and then is
okay if it's part of my eating plan."
"I can never stick with an
"I've had some problems sticking with an
exercise plan in the past. But that doesn't mean I can't do it in the future.
I've made other changes in my life."
"If I can't lose 10 pounds this
month, then I'm going to give up this eating plan."
All or nothing
"I'm going to try to set a realistic goal.
It may be a smaller goal than before, but I'm still working toward a healthy
Test Your Knowledge
Which of these thoughts is an example of healthy
- I'll never be able to stick to a healthy eating
- I made a mistake eating so much, but I can try again
How can a daily journal help you have more accurate, rational
- It makes you aware of your self-talk and can help you
correct irrational thoughts.
- Writing in the journal every day will help healthy
thinking come naturally to you.
Continue to Where to go from here
Return to Weight Management: Stop Negative Thoughts
Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
Sue Barton, PhD, PsyD - Behavioral Health
August 3, 2012
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