It’s easy to lose weight when your mind is in charge. No, not the voice that is your inner critic. To lose weight, you need the voice of your inner coach and best friend.
I used to be ruled by my inner critic. It would sabotage my brain, and many times, I did not even know it. And in turn, it would sabotage my health:
- “Just this once I will,”
- or “You’re not strong enough to keep on your diet,”
- or “I worked so hard this week, I deserve it”
… and one spoonful of ice cream led to the whole pint. One lax day of no exercise led to a whole week (or month). One appetizer led to a full course of thousands of calories.
How many times have you heard the term “negative self-talk?”
Negative self-talk is a common phenomenon that affects many people I’ve worked with. It is a destructive habit that can sabotage your mental and physical health, keep you stuck in a loop of self-defeating behaviors, and hinder your personal and professional growth. But, it’s easy to fix!
How to Correct Negative Self-talk
First, you need to acknowledge that it exists in many of your interactions throughout the day. Your negative self-talk is a pattern of negative thoughts that can be triggered by different situations, such as failures, disappointments, criticisms, and conflicts. These negative thoughts can lead to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, depression, and self-defeating behaviors. It’s easy to allow them to rule your mind. Unless you learn to counter them with the voice of your inner best friend.
Changing Negative Self-talk With the Inner Coach
All-or-nothing thinking is a type of negative self-talk where you think in extremes. You view things as black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of failure and disappointment when things do not go as planned.
Practice trying to find a middle ground between any extremes. Reframe it into a positive. Each situation can be thought of as a gift or an opportunity rather than a negative. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and others.
Your inner critic: “I ate one piece of cake, so I might as well eat the whole cake. I’ll never be able to stick to a healthy eating plan.”
Your inner coach/best friend: “It’s okay to indulge in a small treat every now and then. I’ll make healthier choices for my next meal.
Overgeneralization is a type of negative self-talk where you overgeneralize based on a single negative event. For example, if you get on the scale and stayed the same weight, you might think that you are not disciplined enough to ever succeed in reaching your goal.
One way to manage overgeneralizations is to recognize that a single event does not define you. Focus on your habits and commitments. Tap into your strengths and sense of accomplishment instead of dwelling on your failures. Practice positive self-talk by affirming your abilities and worth.
Inner Critic: “I always mess up my diet. I can never stick to a healthy eating plan.”
Inner Coach/Best Friend: “I’ve had some setbacks in the past, but I’m capable of making healthier choices moving forward and learning from this.”
Personalization is a type of negative self-talk where you blame yourself for external events that are beyond your control. For example, if a friend cancels plans, you might think that it is because you are not a good enough friend, and you decide to eat 6 donuts that a coworker brought in.
To correct this, recognize that other people’s actions are not always about you. Avoid taking things personally and focus on your own actions and reactions.
Your inner critic: “It’s all my fault that I gained weight. I have no self-control.”
Your inner coach/best friend: “Weight gain is a common struggle, and there are many factors that contribute to it. I’ll focus on the things I can control my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions and take small steps to improve my health.”
Distortion is a type of negative self-talk where you filter out the positive and focus only on the negative aspects of a situation. For example, you might hear yourself saying after you receive positive feedback on doing something that was challenging, “That was no big deal; anyone could do that,” or you might focus on one constructive comment that seemed negative to you.
To correct this, try to see the bigger picture. Don’t disqualify the positive. “I’m much more than that. How silly to focus on the negative.” “Everything that happens to me is either a gift or an opportunity. A gift to see things differently or an opportunity to learn something new.”
Recognize the positive aspects of a situation and do not let one negative comment overshadow them. Practice gratitude by focusing on the things for which you are grateful.
Your inner critic: “I’m such a wimp for being afraid to go to the gym!”
Your inner coach/best friend: “I’m so much more than a feeling. Fear is a natural emotion that keeps me focused on what makes me uncomfortable. When I’m outside my comfort zone, I’m learning and growing.”
Catastrophizing or Minimizing
Catastrophizing is a type of negative self-talk where you imagine the worst-case scenario in a situation. For example, if you overeat during the weekend, eat out with family and friends, and don’t lose any weight for one or two weeks, and your blood sugars are way higher than what you planned. “Every time I try to enjoy myself, I make a mess of my progress! I’m never going to be able to get a handle on my diabetes!” You might imagine that you’ve failed and your progress is hopeless.
To correct this, try to focus on the facts of a situation instead of imagining worst-case scenarios. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen and how likely it is to happen. Instead of assuming the works with “what if,” ask yourself, “If this happens, what can I do to improve it.” Then, focus on getting back to the habits that you’ve worked on that will be solutions to the problem instead of worrying about the worst-case scenario.
Your inner critic: “If I get high blood sugar, I feel totally out of control and that I’m a failure!”
Your inner coach/best friend: “One high blood sugar doesn’t define me or mean I’m out of control. There’s plenty I can do. I can go for a walk, eat lower carbohydrates the rest of the day, and/or do a stress reduction mindfulness exercise.”
Mind reading is a type of negative self-talk where you assume that you know what others are thinking or feeling without evidence. For example, if you meet a friend whom you haven’t seen in a few weeks and they don’t say anything about your current weight loss, you might assume that they think you’re not making any progress.
To correct this, recognize that you cannot read other people’s minds. Avoid making assumptions and start asking questions to get their perspective. Focus on what you have control over which are your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Your inner critic: “No one is noticing my progress. I must be a failure!”
Your inner coach/best friend: “Every day I am intentional with my thinking, eating, and living. Each choice takes me closer. I am making progress one day at a time.”
Emotional reasoning is a type of negative self-talk where you believe that your emotions reflect reality. For example, if you feel anxious about going to the gym for the first time, you might think that it is going to be a disaster.
To correct this, ask yourself what the probability of odds of that happening is. Recognize that your emotions are not always accurate reflections of reality. Challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself if there’s evidence to support them. Remind yourself everyone in that gym had a first-day experience, just like you.
Your inner critic: “I’m probably going to look like a fool in the gym. I’m going to sit on a machine and do it wrong. Everyone there is going to laugh at me and think I’m hopeless.”
Your inner coach/best friend: “Almost everyone in this gym started off nearly in the same place as me. Let’s focus on the positive. I’m here, I’m sweating, and I feel like I’m getting a great workout. For those machines that I can’t figure out, I’ll ask the instructor for help. They are here to help me succeed.”
“Should” statements are another generic form of negative self-talk. These statements involve imposing rigid expectations on yourself and others, such as “I should be perfect” or “They should know better.” “Should” statements can create unnecessary pressure and guilt and can make you feel like you are not living up to your own or others’ expectations.
Your inner critic: “I should be able to resist junk food all the time. If I can’t, I’m weak and not good enough.”
Your inner coach/best friend: “It’s okay to have cravings for junk food. I’ll make sure to plan for small indulgences and enjoy them in moderation. Coach Evan will help me understand my cravings and how to handle them.”
To combat “should” statements, try reframing them as more flexible and realistic statements. For example, instead of saying, “I should exercise every day,” say, “I would like to exercise most days to feel healthier.” Similarly, instead of saying, “They should know better,” say, “I wish they had behaved differently, but everyone makes mistakes.”
Catastrophizing is when you blow things out of proportion and assume the worst-case scenario will always happen. For example, you might assume that if you fail an exam, you will never get into college, and if you do not get into college, you’ll never get a good job, and if you don’t get a good job, you’ll never be able to support yourself or your family. Catastrophizing can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
To correct catastrophizing, try to stay grounded. Ask yourself if your thoughts are based on facts or emotions. Challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself questions like, “Is this really the worst thing that could happen?” or “What’s the likelihood that this will happen?” Focus on the present moment and take things one step at a time.
Your inner critic: “If I don’t lose weight, I’ll never be happy or healthy. I’ll be miserable for the rest of my life.”
Your inner coach/best friend: “Losing weight is important, but it’s not the only factor in my happiness and health. I’ll focus on making positive changes, deposits in my health account, and enjoying the journey.”
Be Determined and Willing to Improve
Remember that changing your self-talk will not happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and practice. But with determination and a willingness to improve, you can transform the way you think about yourself and the world around you.
We all have an inner critic. It is that voice inside our head that berates us and beats us down when we make a mistake or fail in some way (e.g., “You are a failure,” “You can’t do anything right,” “You are a loser”). This inner critic is thought to be there to help us, though more often than not, these words do more harm than good, leading us to self-doubt and, in some cases, self-hatred. Your inner critic doesn’t serve you. Your inner coach does.
Thankfully, we also have an inner coach within us. This is the voice inside our head that encourages us and offers us words of support when things go wrong (e.g., “You’ve got this,” “You can handle this,” “You are more capable than you think!”).
The only issue is that our inner coaches are often far less vocal than our inner critics. Some of us may have even lost touch with our inner coach altogether. I offer a meditation that’s designed to help you tap into your inner coach, to become more familiar with it, and to learn how to listen to it over your inner critic in times of need.
If you’d like to get a copy of this meditation, get in touch with me with the subject line “My Inner Critic needs help.”
For more self-guided business owner resources, visit Beyond the Chaos’ complete guide to successful small business operations.