Let’s Change That Voice In Your Head!!
If you haven’t read Part 1 of this two-part series, you may want to go back and read that first.
Not gonna do that? I get it! Here are the highlights:
• When it comes to our health and fitness, most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. Even though the yo-yo fitness struggle is real, we beat ourselves up with some seriously negative self-talk. That self-talk might just be reason you’re not hitting your goals.
• Are you setting goals you know you can’t reach? Sounds weird, but setting unrealistic fitness targets is, subconsciously, a way of guaranteeing failure. Then you get to prove that the voice in your head was right all along.
• Are these long-term or short-term goals? Be honest with yourself…is this pursuit of fitness about making a change to a healthier lifestyle, or is this about flaunting a six-pack on your pending beach vacation?
• Harsh self-speak about our bodies and perceived-fitness eventually turns into a harmful mix of shame and embarrassment. Those awful feelings can spill into other areas of our lives and affect our work or relationships.
• This behavior is just a habit and it’s never too late to create a new habit! Start with observing what things you’re saying to yourself and when. Take at lease a week, write them down, record them on your phone, any system is fine - just collect them without judging yourself. You can’t change what you can’t see clearly, and you might be surprised when you clearly see how you speak to yourself!
It Takes Practice to Change That Voice in Your Head
You didn’t start talking badly to yourself overnight, so you’re probably not going to stop that quickly, either. There are some simple behavior modification techniques that can be very helpful. We’ll talk about them and you can try one whenever the self-meanies pop up. Identifying exactly who that voice belongs is also an important part of changing what it’s saying. But really, the big kicker will be kindness. Kindness toward yourself, your situation and your efforts.
So, Who Does That Voice Belong To Anyway?
Ok, time to have a look at that list of awful things you’ve been saying to yourself! Go ahead, take a look. Shocking, isn’t it? Would you ever speak to friend this way? What about your children? Where does this negative self-talk come from?
Sometimes, it's not even your own voice in your head. Perhaps you had a mother who was always telling you to lose 5 pounds, or you were teased and shamed about getting winded during an easy activity. Did your doctor use that disapproving, shame-inducing tone when reviewing the results of your blood work? Or maybe you compare yourself to the airbrushed, filtered perfection of celebrities or social media personalities, and then feel inadequate by comparison. You would never let any of these people pitch a tent on your front porch and scream these things at you all day, so don’t let them set up in your head either.
Ask yourself where it's coming from. Is it really your own voice, or is it someone else's? Once you identify the source, you can start to separate yourself from it and reframe your thinking. Unkind words from a parent might be their way of trying to protect you, and stop you from getting deeper into a bad situation. Friends can feel so comfortable joking with you that they’re not aware how deeply their words sting. Your doctor may just be frustrated that her earlier hints at lifestyle changes weren’t taken seriously, and by a lot more patients than just you. Celebrities and media personalities? Please, they have their own agenda and a vested interest in the perfection myth. Nobody is living your life. Nobody else’s opinion of you will ever matter more than your opinion of yourself. And if it turns out the voice is actually your own, then you’ll know where your focus should be.
Change Your Behaviors, Change That Voice!
Sometimes you can change the situations that trigger the negative words in your head BEFORE they start.
1. Don’t let yourself get Hangry!
It doesn’t matter if weight loss is your goal or increasing your fitness level is, you have to eat. Real food that gives you hours of energy, fuels your body and keeps you thinking clearly, please. You cannot allow yourself to get so hungry that the easy pickings of tasty, yet nutritionally empty junk food get hold of you. Or worse, you’re starving and hoping a collection of caffeine and supplements will get you through. You’ll only end up losing muscle, gaining fat, and not have any energy for your workouts. Regardless of whether your back out to work, work from home, or a combo of both, you must have healthy, balanced, meals and snacks available to you. And no suffering! Eat food you actually like and make sure it tastes good! A little preparation on your part can make this much easier: veggies and fruits washed and cut, proteins cooked and ready to eat, and a mix of good fats, like nuts & avocados, to tie it all together.
2. Get. Some. Sleep.
Skimping on that valuable rest time sets a whole chain of events going in your body. Sleep is essential for muscle recovery, so if we're not getting enough rest, our workout performance will suffer. In the long-term, this can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in body fat. Kinda‘ defeats the purpose of working out in the first place. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to a number of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease. Adopt a healthy sleep routine and make sure you're getting at least seven hours of shut-eye every night. Let go of the idea that you’ll “make up” those missing sleep hours on the weekend. It’s not helpful nor restorative. If you use your phone as your alarm clock, consider going back to an old-fashioned alarm clock. A plethora of studies have shown how important it is to get away from our devices at least an hour before going to bed, and having it in the room makes it too tempting to get a last scroll or video watch in.
3. Quit scrolling celebrities and so many fitness pros.
Not just at bedtime, all the time! We all know the drill. You’re mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed when you see it: a photo of your favorite celebrity or fitness personality looking absolutely perfect. Immediately, you start to compare yourself to them and feel bad about yourself. But here’s the thing: the person in that feed probably doesn’t use an eating plan you can stick with. In fact, they’re probably just paid to promote a certain product or diet plan. So why are you letting them dictate how you feel about yourself? It’s time to unfollow anyone on social media (including your news feed) who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself – including the celebrities and fitness pros. When you do, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel about your own weight loss journey.
What if the voice already has a head start? It’s a habit on autopilot, after all.
Then try one or more of these:
One technique to change that inner-yapper is to immediately say "Cancel-Cancel" whenever you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself. While saying it (yes, out loud), snap your fingers or tap your head two times. Really, any small action will do. Then, right away, replace that negative thought with a positive one. For example, if you were thinking "I'm so out of shape," you would say “cancel-cancel” then immediately replace that thought with something like "I am getting a little stronger everyday!”
2. IS THIS TRUE?
Another technique to try is to stop whatever action you’re doing for a second and ask yourself if that internal insult is even true. You may not be able to stop your physical action right then …maybe you’re driving or in a meeting. Do the best you can. Just know that it’s not uncommon to find that we’ve already associated certain actions, like grocery shopping or time sitting in traffic, with negative self-talk, without even trying to. Asking if any of your meanness is true is the big part. And I mean T-trusted, R-real, U-unchangable, E-etched in stone. TRUE. I’m guessing probably not. Why are you speaking lies to yourself? There’s no reason to tell yourself lies, especially the kind that keep you from your fitness goals.
Heard yourself turning negative? Ok, Right that second! High-five yourself, do a little dance, rock that fist pump. Why? Because you caught yourself in the act! You caught the bad guy, well, the bad voice, anyway. You only get the chance to change it if you catch it, so good for you!!!
We’ve been hardwired to only celebrate the accomplishments, only the perfect moments. Well, why shouldn’t we celebrate the mindfulness? Observation is an underrated skill and sometimes its easier to tap into that good feeling when you can point at a skill. Then later you can start expanding those celebrations!
Speaking of Celebrating…
Celebrate every single thing that you do that moves you closer to your health goals. Choose celebrating in the moment over rewards that come later. For the most part we choose rewards that are unhealthy like junk food, binge eating, and excessive drinking. Activities that derail your fitness or weight loss efforts are not rewards. And while were at it, stop rewarding the people around you with unhealthy choices as well. All that does is reinforce the idea that eating anything low in sugar or salt is straight up suffering. If knowing a reward is waiting is motivating to you, try making the reward something fun that you do, like an extra bedtime book with your kids, playtime with your pet, or time with a friend. Make sure the size of the reward matches your effort. Just know that it may take a while before you get it. Delayed gratification doesn’t work for everyone.
Celebrating in the moment, however, is like magical fairy dust! Actually, celebrate whenever it occurs to you. Your brain can’t wait to release all of those feel-good chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. It doesn’t cost a thing, you don’t have to go anywhere, and you don’t even need anyone else around. (But, believe me, even strangers enjoy helping you celebrate how awesome you are.) Whatever you choose to do to acknowledge your accomplishments, even the tiny ones, now becomes the positive reinforcement you need to keep moving forward! And its not about anyone else validating you…It’s All About You Loving You!
Bring On The Kindness!
We all have moments where we doubt ourselves. We think that the weight is not coming off as quickly as it should be, or that we'll never achieve a complete workout session that we didn’t quit on. It's important to remember that everyone moves at their own pace and that it can be hard to stay motivated. Goals can seem so far away, and it's easy to get discouraged when progress is slow. You are not your goals. You’re so much more than that. Give yourself some grace and understanding. Every journey has its ups and downs. Instead of beating yourself up over a setback, be kind to yourself and be proud of the progress you’ve made, even if it seems small. Remember that setbacks are part of the journey and that you will eventually reach your goals as long as you don't give up. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. Be encouraging and motivating. But don't forget to enjoy the journey along the way! The journey is where the good stuff is anyhow!
The Bottom Line
How you speak to yourself matters. Everyone spouts the line about loving themselves, but most of the time we’re pretty hard on ourselves. And when our health and fitness get involved, we can be downright mean! It is possible to turn that voice around.
A combination of self-observation, identification and behavior changes can go long way to helping us flip those negative, nagging voices in our heads into positive, uplifting narrators.
We can and should be our own best cheerleaders!