Whether we are aware of it or not, we are talking to ourselves (don’t worry it is normal) throughout the day. We tell ourselves it is okay to do certain things, tell ourselves it is not okay to do other things, daydream, make judgments of ourselves and others, and prioritize tasks. We also talk to ourselves when it comes to our coping choices and the way we use unhealthy things to cope with daily life. Many times we will “talk ourselves into” unhealthy choices or “talk ourselves out of” healthy choices. For most of us, this has been a practice we have perfected over many years, probably since childhood. How we have “made it okay” with our self-talk to make unhealthy choices plays a key role in the health status we are in today. Changing the “automatic” words we tell ourselves when we are justifying our choices will play a key role in you achieving the weight and wellness goals that you so strongly desire.
Exercise: Choose a time twice per day for 15 minutes where you can be mindful (aware or “in the moment”) of your self-talk. Choosing times on opposite ends of the day such as morning and evening will work well for many. Before and after your hours of employment, during your commute to and from work or errands will provide you with the opportunity to examine your thoughts and self-talk as it relates to the actions you take during that time, whether it is health related or not. The exercise will help you to see how you justify behaviors, judgments of yourself and others, carry out daily tasks and of course make nutrition choices. You should start with about twenty minutes on this exercise. In the space below, list at least five ways you spoke to yourself during the time of this exercise. It could be judgments of yourself or others, work related, reward justifications, talking yourself out of exercise etc. Try to conduct this exercise without stress or pressure. In other words, relax and look at the way you talk to yourself and make things okay or not okay.
- I told myself the person across from me on the bus was poor because her clothes were worn and her shoes had holes in them.
- I told myself I did not have time to exercise today because of work and a school appointment with my child’s teacher.
- I told myself that I am being treated with less respect than others at work because of continued reprimands by my boss.
- I told myself that I had to eat unhealthy fast food because I did not have time to prepare breakfast.
- I told myself that I “needed” chocolate and other comfort foods due to the hard day at work.
It is so important to recognize thoughts quickly that do not lead to our best health and overall good. Focusing on negative events that have occurred in the past, ruminating about events that have happened recently, holding onto resentments, having anger toward another person that you feel has wronged you, remaining sad for extended periods over losses, and failing to correct anxiousness are not healthy for the physical body.
Now it is your turn to use self-awareness to recognize how you may use self-talk to sabotage your goals of a healthy and fulfilled life:
Based on the answers that you have listed above, how can you change the talk you have with yourself to change the outcome or behavior so that it reflects your goal of improved health, wellness, and a leaner weight?
- As I see the person across from me on the bus with worn clothes and shoes, I will tell myself that the person is acceptable to me without judgment and allow that person to be themselves and dress in the manner that they may need to for work or economic reasons.
- As I tell myself that I do not have time to exercise today, I will examine other ways I can get my exercise done either today or when I am faced with other busy days. I will tell myself to learn from the experience and that exercise is a key part of my goal of improved health and wellness. I will make exercise a priority and focus on the benefits of exercise.
- As I tell myself that I am being disrespected at work because of continued reprimands by my boss, I will change the talk to myself to, “I am responsible for the emotions within myself and not for the actions of others. I can control the extent to which I get upset and look openly at my work performance to see if I can improve and/or address the areas my boss is reprimanding me about.” Or, “I have examined everything my boss is reprimanding me about. I feel as though I am doing the best I can and will talk to my boss about the reprimands and be open to the feedback he or she gives me. I will communicate clearly, honestly and with respect.”
- As I tell myself that it is okay to eat an unhealthy fast food breakfast because of time, I will remind myself of the work I have done to achieve improved health and wellness and the consequences of poor food choices. If I have to eat at a place that has mostly unhealthy choices, I will order fruit cups, salads, or the healthiest choice possible to stay on track with my health mission. I will plan better for morning meals and give energy and thought to being successful with my health choices. I will know that resilience will be necessary and explore my time management to create time to make a healthy breakfast in the future.
- As I tell myself that I need the comfort of chocolate or other foods, I will recognize that this may be the way I have automatically coped with stressful, anxious, and/or depressing situations in my life. When I begin to automatically go to the thought of comforting chocolate, I will immediately switch all thoughts and energy to something else. I will remind myself of the benefits of eating healthy and focus on how I can be successful in my health choices that day only. I will dispute the talk that I have with myself and my definition of “need.” I will refocus on my health mission, call my accountability partners, read a story of inspiration, or anything necessary to stay on track. I am worth it.
Now it is your turn:
To change and grow requires work and discomfort. Please examine how you sabotage yourself through self-talk and do the work to change it to a conversation that moves you toward your goals. Begin as soon as possible. If you need help seek it. BE YOUR OWN MIRACLE!