blog_nutritionOy vey! The diet talks again? Are you that person who has tried various different diets and tried everyone’s suggestions of the “best” way to lose weight – to no avail? No worries, this article isn’t another run down about which super-foods to eat and which junk foods to avoid. The goal of this article is to make you aware of how your negative self-talk is getting in your way of happy, confident, and successful dieting.

While we attempt to diet, avoid unhealthy foods, and make healthy choices our negative self-talk gets louder and louder. Albert Ellis calls this negative self-talk irrational beliefs and cognitive distortions. Our cognitive distortions leave us feeling deflated, frustrated, and upset. Of course we hate dieting. Not only do we need to avoid the foods we enjoy, we berate ourselves every step of the way. Thereby, we deflate our self-confidence and happiness while on our journey of weight loss. Learning about some of the cognitive distortions can help you hone in on what is getting in the way of your happy dieting and perhaps you can then experiment with some of the suggested interventions.

You start your healthy eating or diet with the irrational belief that you failed so many times and there is absolutely no way you are going to succeed this time. The cognitive distortion of overgeneralization will very often stop you from even trying. Is telling yourself that you are guaranteed to fail helping you? Is it helping you reach your weight loss goal? How about rethinking this to something along the lines of; “I may have failed many times at dieting, but I do not have proof that I will fail this time. What I do know is that if I do not try I am most definitely not going to achieve the goal!”

Fortune telling:
Fortune telling is when we state that something is going to happen with out having proof that it will happen. Deciding that you are going to fail at your diet won’t get you very far. Telling yourself that you know yourself and you are for sure going to eat cake at the party, robs you from the opportunity of taking control over your choices. Just like the distortion of overgeneralizing, you want to ask yourself; “Am I gaining anything by convincing myself that I know for sure that I am going to fail at this diet?” It is important to think about our past experiences but that does not mean that we need to keep replaying the same ending of the story.

Mental Filter:
We all do the mental filter distortion from time to time. This is when we only focus on one aspect of an entire event. Let’s get real, while dieting you are guaranteed to cheat or slip-up. Only focusing on your cheat is going to create an attitude of “if I cheated I may as well go all out.” Stop and think about all the good foods you ate and do not trample on your goals because of one cheat.

If you cannot do it perfectly you won’t do it at all. Unfortunately for you, we are fallible human beings who make mistakes and do not always follow the rules. Expecting your diet and healthy-eating to be perfect, is irrational. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Telling yourself that you can either diet perfectly or not at all gets in your way of achieving your goal.

Magnification or Minimization:
You blow your cheating out of proportion by insisting that one bad food item will completely ruin your possibility of losing weight and visa versa, you minimize your bad choices by saying, “one cookie is not big deal.” The key here is to find the balance between staying on-course, forgiving yourself when you slip-up, and continuing to pursue ahead towards your weight loss goal.

Emotional reasoning:
Are you the person who says, “I feel like a failure therefore I am a failure?” Emotional reasoning is when we use our emotions as the truth. Just because we feel a specific emotion, does not mean we are that emotion. When you are feeling bad about yourself does it mean that you are a bad person? Feeling helpless does not mean that you are helpless. Try to make a list that you can use as proof that you are not helpless in the world of making healthy choices. Your list can include all the healthy food choices you did make in the past week, all the unhealthy foods you have avoided, or your total exercise hours. If you have nothing to put on your list, then maybe you are not on a diet at all and it is time to go back to the drawing board.

Should Statements:
Should statement are everywhere! They rule our lives. Much of what we do is grounded in “I am doing this because I should.” You want to be aware of your should statements in both negative and positive aspects. For example, “I should diet” appears to be an attempt to push you toward a positive behavior and “dieting should be easy” appears to be an attempt to push you toward a negative behavior. Yet, in both cases the “should” is an irrational belief. Rethink it by asking yourself; “Do I have to diet? Well, no I do not have to – but I would like/prefer to.” Changing your should statements to preferential statements will give you a sense of agency. Now, you are dieting by choice and not by force. In other areas that the should statement creeps up is while you are dieting. “This should be easy, this should take faster, I should not have to work this hard.” Do these statements sound familiar? Try to challenge your should statements with questions such as; “Whoever said a diet is easy?” or “Whoever said a diet will take fast. I would love if it took faster, or it was easier, but it does not have to be?”

Must statements:
Let’s preface this with a cliché: “You don’t must have it.” Must statements are dramatic. They convince us that we just cannot live without certain foods. Since must statements are full of drama, kill them right back with drama. “Will you die if you do not have this slice of pizza? Is it really that awful?”

Instead of saying “oops, I made a mistake by having ice cream” you tell yourself that you are failure, an idiot, a fool – because you cheated on your diet. The problem with labeling is that if you give yourself a label you need to act on it. What do overeaters do? They overeat. Labeling yourself causes you to behave according to the label. Calling yourself fat, overweight, an overeater, or any other negative label you attach to yourself, will simply reinforce the cycle that you are trying to avoid. Highlight the negative choice or behavior without labeling yourself, “I overate at this dinner, it does not mean I am an overeater.”

You blame other people for your poor eating habits. “I only eat white bread because my husband buys it. If he would not buy the white bread, I would not eat it.” Ask yourself if blaming others for you eating habits will get you to your goal. You get credit for noticing the source of your challenge but instead spend your time thinking of creative ways to circumvent the bad eating habits of the people in your life.

The next time you start a diet or are trying to move toward healthier eating habits be aware of your negative self-talk and get ready to challenge them!

Sara Schapiro-Halberstam, M.S., CASAC, is a psychotherapist at My Therapist New York where she provides individual counseling, couples counseling, and sex therapy. To contact Sara you can email her at [email protected]