Say What?

“Ugh, I am so fat. What is the matter with me? Why can’t I just lose weight?”

Sound familiar? It does to me. This is how I used to talk to myself, and not only did it make me feel like crap about myself but it also kept me from losing weight.

What you say to yourself is so important. Especially if you want to change your body. The words you choose and the questions you ask yourself add up to a silent conversation that you’re constantly having with yourself — and you’re having one, even if you don’t realize you are.

The problem is, it’s the wrong conversation.

Saying harsh things like this to yourself has serious consequences and will keep you stuck forever in the binge/diet cycle.

Also, how you see yourself reinforces your inner dialog. How you talk to yourself makes you think of yourself a certain way, which gives you an identity. Then the identity fuels the constant conversation you have with yourself. (For more on this, read my post “Who Do You Think You Are”:

If you want to change something, you have to be aware of it. So the first step is to spot it. Then — and this is key — ask yourself the right question.

When you ask yourself a question, your brain will always answer. So, for example, asking yourself “Why can’t I just lose weight?” gives you answers like “Because I have no willpower,” “Because I just can’t stop eating,” or “Because I hate working out.” These answers reinforce your destructive behaviors, make you feel terrible about yourself, and fuel your tendency to binge.

But if you turn the conversation around by asking, “What’s really going on here?” you might say, “I have a layer of fat around my stomach that I want to get rid of.” Then you may say, “Well, what’s causing that?” which might result in “I’m fueling myself wrong.” Now you’re getting somewhere, because you’ve given your brain a problem to solve and it will prompt you to look for solutions.

Let’s look at how these two questions differ.

The first question, “Why can’t I just lose weight?”, is emotionally charged and makes it personal — it’s you that’s the problem. The second, “What’s really going on here?”, is unemotional and makes the problem an external one that has nothing to do with who you are.

The first question results in a finality: I have no willpower, I can’t stop eating, I hate working out. These answers leave you with nowhere to go. They make you feel like you’ll never make progress. They make you feel like finding something to binge on.

The second question makes you solve a problem. It forces you to come up with solutions. Coming up with solutions to a problem puts you in control, and this makes you feel confident. The more confidence you get the more likely you are to make changes.

And when you come up with your own solutions, you’re more likely to succeed — because you’re going to pick things that fit your (current) capabilities and lifestyle. You don’t have to use any willpower to make a bunch of drastic changes that a diet demands. And, most of all, you’re more likely to stick with it and change a habit.

Changing the direction of your conversation also stops you from putting labels on yourself — I’m a sugar addict, I’m a meat eater, I’m big-boned. Again, the identities you create for yourself are powerful, so if you’re going to label yourself, at least make sure you’re creating the right ones: I’m a runner, I’m a vegetarian, I’m a health freak.

Once you start asking yourself better questions, you start having more constructive conversations with yourself. And as you keep problem solving, the healthy changes you make reinforce the positive things you say to yourself. And so on. (Remember that shampoo commercial, “And she told two friends . . .”? 🙂 )

An awesome outgrowth of this is that you start to look at your body without shame or judgment and you start being more objective and loving. Sure, you may have an extra layer of fat around your midsection, but now it’s a problem you can solve instead of what happens when you can’t stop eating because you’re fat and disgusting and can’t control yourself.

Notice what you say to yourself throughout the day. You won’t believe the number of times you say just the most horrible things to yourself and how often you ask questions that make you feel like shit and lead you straight back to the refrigerator.

What’s something you repeatedly say to yourself that you can work on changing today? Leave a comment and let me know.

Spotting your negative conversations is the first step . . . then you can change them. I promise you that no amount of calorie counting will come close to touching the benefits your body will get by doing this one thing.