You’ve gone over your calories for the day or eaten something on your “forbidden” list. You figure that since you've blown your diet, you might as well keep on eating and start over tomorrow. You keep eating, but despise yourself for it.|
You’ve done well all week, but the scale says you’ve gained a pound. You panic, feeling certain that you’re doomed to be fat forever.
You set the alarm an hour early to exercise, but hit snooze. Feeling like a lazy slug, you wonder if you have any willpower to do what you know you need to.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?
The tendency to leap from minor, trivial problems to overblown, unrealistic conclusions is something that everyone struggles with to some degree. This type of negative thinking is one of the biggest reasons that people have difficulty sticking to their weight loss plan—and why small problems can cause stress and misery that is often avoidable.
Of course, there are dozens of deep, psychological reasons why individuals get caught up in this negativity. But you don’t have to know why you do it to stop being negative. All you have to do is to take a close look at what you are actually doing and decide to stop doing it for that moment. Here are three techniques you can use to stop all those negative thoughts before they stop you:
1. Look for Hidden Thoughts and Assumptions
The process of moving from an event (like going over your daily calories) to a conclusion about the meaning of that event (I’ve blown my diet) and what you should do about it (keep eating, start over later), typically involves several more mental steps that you probably aren’t aware of. Psychologists call these intermediate steps automatic thoughts because they are habitual, happen quickly, and feel so “right” to us that we don’t even notice them.
Although you can’t completely prevent automatic thoughts from occurring (after all, they naturally help us make good decisions in a hurry), these thoughts are not always accurate. Chronic negativity about yourself or your situation is a good sign that your automatic thoughts are inaccurate.
Luckily, it’s not difficult to learn how to identify your automatic thoughts, figure out if they make sense, and change the ones that aren’t working for you. The first step is to develop the habit of asking yourself: "What would have to be true in order for the negative conclusion I reached to be justified?"