You started to redefine your health — eating better and/or being more physically active. You started out strong, setting realistic goals and measuring your progress. But lately it’s been easier to watch TV than get outside for that walk or make a healthy meal.
It’s okay! You haven’t failed. Don’t give up. You got this.
Getting off track temporarily is an inevitable part of changing behavior. If it was easy, you’d have done it long ago, right?
If you’ve made progress toward a healthy lifestyle, you most likely, you most likely set realistic, measurable goals. (For refreshers, review How to Eat Better and Still Eat Well and How to Add Physical Activity to Your Life.)
You can regain momentum and stay motivated by reframing your thinking patterns. Everyone has negative thoughts at times. Negative thoughts can prevent you from achieving your goals. Even worse, negative thinking can cause you to self-sabotage and overeat. A vicious cycle of self-defeat can result.
Types of Negative Thoughts
Here are the common negative thought patterns:
- Feelings of shame or guilt; e.g., “I should not have eaten that sundae” or “I should be able to stick to my exercise plan.” These “should statements” are a common negative thinking pattern, or cognitive distortion. They put unreasonable demands and pressure on ourselves, which can make us feel guilty or ashamed.
- Feelings of low self-esteem or failure; e.g., “I am a bad person.” “No one loves me.” “I’m a failure.” Harsh self-criticism reflects “all or nothing” or “black and white” thinking, another negative thinking pattern that distorts our thinking. Like “should statements,” black-and-white thinking is a type of cognitive distortion.
- Feelings of impending disaster; e.g., “If I don’t lose weight, I will lose my job, and I will be a total failure in life.” This is catastrophic thinking — visualizing a bad outcome, which leads to future disaster.
Too many of these negative thoughts, too frequently, can cause you to feel anxious or depressed. This leads to feeling overwhelmed, which can paralyze you and prevent you from taking steps toward your goal.
How to Reframe Negative Thoughts
Instead of letting these negative thoughts take over, “talk back!” It is possible to “reframe” negative talk and get motivated again. Here are some ideas to do that.
First, write down your original thought.
Then examine the thought itself. Is it accurate? Or an unbalanced statement? Ask yourself these specific questions:
- Are there “shades of gray?” Very little in life is black-and-white.
- Are there alternative explanations?
- Is there objective evidence to the contrary? Would your friends agree with the thought? What would they say?
- What positive interpretations can you find that expand your thinking?
Now that you’ve looked at both sides of the situation, you should now have the information you need to take a fair, balanced view of what happened and “reframe” the statement. You may want to write it down to replace the negative one. Don’t be surprised if your mood improves!
An example of reframing might be: “I got off track for 2 days. It’s ok. I’m not perfect; no one is. I’m not a failure. A lapse is normal.” With your revised statement, your defeated feeling will likely be replaced by self-empathy, positive energy and resolve to get back on track.
Medical studies show that healthy lifestyle changes — eating better and exercising regularly — can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some kinds of cancer. So, talk back to those negative thoughts when you lose your momentum, and continue to redefine your health!
The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can help you develop lifelong healthy habits. Eight YMCA locations in the state of New Hampshire – and 200 other Ys around the country – help thousands of people reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This small-group program helps people with prediabetes to eat healthier, increase their physical activity, and lose weight, which can delay or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Call 603.232.8668 or visit our website for more info and to sign up for a program where you live.