I wanted to go back to a letter I wrote many years ago, as I’ve noticed so many patients falling into the spiral of negative self-talk through the Covid-19 pandemic and all the nuanced issues are stemming from it.  To elicit change and create motivation, we must first look at how we are speaking to ourselves.  From there, we can work on shifting our perspective and acting on the things that are important to us.

We are our own worst critics. We are at our worst when it comes to diets and exercise. One of the problems is that we really have no support or “cheerleading team” for the long term. Thus, we must become the loudest and most active member of our own Fan Club. Friends and relatives may be great to help initially, but ultimately it is our ability to be there for ourselves when the going gets tough.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to “be there” for ourselves in an effective way. We will develop lots of negative feelings about ourselves. Some of us actually feel disgusted with how we look, and feel we lack willpower or a sense of character because we can’t stick to a diet or have had more unhealthy food than we intended. This kind of self talk is a prescription for failure. It increases feelings of resentment, deprivation, and helplessness until they erupt in a self-defeating binge or a collapse into depression and hopelessness.

You must become a good coach and recognize your real strengths and weaknesses. You need to learn how to work with them, to keep you focused on the positive in every situation, and to put your best efforts forward.

So:

– Do not say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. It is interesting that we would say things about ourselves which we wouldn’t dream of saying to another person or a friend. If you are telling yourself things that are hopeless, then stop, and ask yourself if you would say this to someone who came to you for help with the same problem. (If your child was struggling, would you tell him or her that they are hopeless, and they will always fail? If not, then why would you tell yourself that you will always fail at a diet?)

– Look at the complete picture. No matter how persistent your problem of getting back on track or getting out of a long rut seems to be, always ask yourself: “What has gone right?” not, “What has gone wrong?” Sometimes we have to look at a weight plateau as a huge success, simply because you haven’t gained, even though you’ve been dealing with more stress (for example, through the COVID pandemic) or other life events.

-Be kind to yourself when you realize you’ve been thinking the right way. By this, I mean, reward yourself for realizing you are thinking properly about trying to eat in a healthful way. Don’t measure success simply by what the scale shows or doesn’t show. If your attitude is right, then you are successful. If you know you are trying, you are winning at the “game” of lifestyle change.

Once you become your own best friend, supporter, and coach, a whole world of possibilities will open.

(Inspired by an article from sparkpeople.com)

Keep on trying. Don’t ever give up. You can do it!

Dr. Doug