I remember a few years ago when two girlfriends of mine were on weight-loss journeys. I heard their positive, supportive comments to each other and witnessed all of the ways they built each other up. They encouraged each other when they’d had a rough week and shared tips and strategies to make the following week better. Immediately following this positivity, I would hear their negative self-talk and notice them focusing on their personal failures, rather than their successes and efforts. The disconnect was huge!
One day I pointed this out to them and their eyes opened wide. They realized how hard they were being on themselves. We chatted about strategies for breaking this negative cycle, and they created a plan for treating themselves more like a friend. They would never speak to anyone else the way they were speaking to and thinking about themselves —not their parents, children or friends. It was time to change.
What my friends were experiencing is what I call the negative emotion cycle of health self-care. They started out with a goal, missed their goal, berated themselves and then acted in an unhealthful manner. For example, someone on this negative cycle may have an ultimate goal of losing 50 pounds, but instead of losing one week, he or she may gain a pound. This would lead to negative self-talk, feelings of frustration — and maybe even shame — and then perhaps to binge eating ice cream, which directly conflicts with the weight loss goal and is unhealthy.
So if you’re in this cycle, how do you get off? Your first step is to realize you need to be kinder to yourself and focus on behavior change. Start with your goal.
Since it is a common one, let’s continue to use the example of wanting to lose weight. We start with goals, because they help you measure your progress and allow you to celebrate your wins. Most people find that while it’s great to set an ultimate goal, it’s more motivating and easier to stay positive when you break the larger goal into smaller chunks. If you want to lose 50 pounds in the next year, break that into smaller goals of losing one pound a week. Or perhaps you could add extra time to exercise. If you need to go even smaller, try walking for five minutes after spending two hours at your desk. These little changes can add up and help you meet your goal.
Celebrate your small wins with healthy rewards. This is the fun part! The hard part is when your weight stays stagnant or you gain. It happens to everyone; accept that as truth. You are not a failure if you gain instead of lose. You’re a winner if you take the less successful week and use it to create a new plan.
Review your weekly habits and identify any negative behaviors. Write down what you will do differently in the coming week and MOVE ON. Shaming yourself and dwelling on the missed goal won’t do you any good. And more importantly, deciding to quit or binge eat definitely won’t help you get where you want to be. Map out a new strategy to make the next week the best it can be.
If you find you are stuck in a negative cycle, feel free to contact me, Karen David. You CAN get yourself on a more positive path to health.
A nurse for more than 25 years, Karen David is a Certified Wellness Coach and Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist. She brings her passion for well living and calm presence to empower others in health and wellness. Karen is CEO of Live Life Well, LLC.
This article is for informational purposes only. Practices, services or products described are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please speak with a doctor before beginning any new health regimen.