Tag Archives: body shame

Change How You Talk To Yourself, Change Your Story (and Your Outcome)

Try changing how you talk to yourself when something is too hard. Can it change your story? Can it change your outcome?

On the rail trail, my feet hit the gravel covered ground one after the other.

I’m out for a run with John (who is training for his 1st 5K).

The first few minutes of a run are so hard for me. Every time. Without fail.

Doesn’t matter how much or how little I’ve been running lately.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve been eating well or living it up.

It does not matter what kind of shape I’m in or what kind of night’s sleep I’ve had, for me, the first 10 minutes or so always feel like my feet are encased in cement blocks.

But if I can just get through those first few minutes, I come out on the other side and start to feel like I’m gliding easily. One step falls in front of the other, over and over. I find the natural rhythm that comes from my body, a pace that I set. I start to feel like I could keep going like this forever (barring any foot or knee pain surfacing as it sometimes does!).

During those first 10 minutes where I just want to stop, there are countless thoughts that appear in my head and most of them have to do with “Just stop running.” “You can stop now.” “You should walk instead, this sucks.” “Why are you doing this. Let’s walk!”

Years ago, I went around saying I wasn’t a runner, because when I felt the difficulty of those first few minutes and heard those thoughts over and over again, I did stop. I took those things to mean that this wasn’t for me. The story I was telling myself about my abilities and it being hard added up to giving up.

There is massive power in the stories we tell ourselves.

If I tell myself, I’m not a runner, then I become someone who doesn’t run because I believe the story I’ve made up.

Doing something differently though brings me different results and allows a new story to form.

On some runs, as my feet hit the trail, one after the other, those first 10 minutes are still hard. And I still have thoughts about how I should stop and how it would be easier if I just started walking. But on some runs, I add some of my own thoughts. I say to myself:

You can do this.

You are amazing.

Look at how far you have come.

How incredible is it that your body can do this?!

I love that you are doing this.

I can’t wait to see how far I can go today.

This feels good.

You really are amazing.

And guess what happens? Those 10 minutes pass faster and the entire run feels better. I feel better. The story I create changes from my mind telling me “this is so hard, I shouldn’t do it”, to “this is hard but I’m totally capable of doing it and it’s going to be great”.

And the result is that it is great.

(Just to be clear, I am not advocating for ignoring your body when it warns you that something is dangerous. Sometimes our bodies tell us we should stop because we’re going to injure ourselves or that we’re not at that level of fitness yet. But you know the difference between that and the habitual negative self talk that we sometimes get into. I always recommend listening to your body (and that is not the same as ignoring the bullshit we like to tell ourselves). The mean and demoralizing chatter that comes from our brain is not the same as the warning signals our body sends. Always use your best judgement!)

The words we use to talk to ourselves are so incredibly powerful.

Most of us try to motivate ourselves with shame. It doesn’t matter if it’s to stick to some sort of goal, to make habit change or push ourselves out of our comfort zone. If there’s something we want to do but it’s really hard, shame is our go to.

You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You don’t have what it takes. You just can’t do it.

Sound familiar?

These thoughts are not just something that happens with challenging physical endeavors. It’s something that will happen when we apply for a new job, when we go out on a date, when we try something new or anytime we’re doing something unfamiliar.

Shame “speak” protects us emotionally. We know that if we feel bad enough about something we might have the motivation to change it. If we feel bad about ourselves, we’ll stay small, we won’t take risks and we are less likely to get hurt. As far as our brain is concerned, that is always the goal (to stay SAFE) so it really thinks by putting these thoughts through your head when you’re trying to do something difficult, it’s helping. It’s trying to be a buddy! This is something we subconsciously do – and there’s no way to stop those thoughts from appearing. But that doesn’t mean we have to let them be the star of the show or in control.

When these thoughts show up, if we take a minute to step in and use the part of our conscious mind that we have access to, we can add our own spin to motivate, to encourage, to inspire.

You are not your thoughts. And just because you think something doesn’t make it true.

If you have a date with a new person coming up, your go to thought might be something like: “Ug, he’s not going to be interested in me. I should cancel before he rejects me. This is going to be awful.”  When that shows up, so what? Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I can’t wait to meet this person. I hope we have lots to talk about. I’m excited to see if we have chemistry. I’m a good catch and this will be fun!”

If you have a job interview, your go to thought might be something like: “I don’t know what I’m talking about. I answer every question so badly. I can’t sell my best qualities. This is a nightmare and I’m not going to get the job.” Well, when that shows up, so what? These thoughts aren’t you. Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I am going to be relaxed and be myself. I know my field and I have a ton of great stuff to say about it. I am going to blow them away and if I want the job, it’ll be offered to me.”

You can even try this with the negative thoughts you have about your body, or about the food you eat. Add your own positive or neutral spin on those thoughts.

This isn’t magic. You can’t make things happen that weren’t going to happen otherwise, but you can change how you show up in life, how you interact with your world and how people perceive you. The most important thing is be more proactive with your self-talk will change how you perceive yourself and over time that will add up to a little less of the bullshit self- talk and more confidence and surety in every area of your life.

Because you ARE amazing, valuable, talented and worth it, even if sometimes you don’t believe it.

Some stuff to get your journal out for:

Where do you keep giving up on yourself when you hear negative self-talk thoughts?

What stories are you telling about yourself based on intrusive negative thoughts?

During those times, what are some more motivating things you could tell yourself?

What do you need to hear from yourself?

Just try it. I promise it will change everything for you.

Do you want to learn more about feeling confident in your relationship with food? Are you just in the beginning phases of trusting yourself? If so, click the image below and grab my copy of “You Have What it Takes“, a guide full of questions to help you improve your relationship to food.

Weight Loss, Honesty and Denial Part II: The Nice One, The Sharp Dresser and The Doormat

photo credit: Gifts from Saville Row via photopin (license)

You can have all the accessories you want, but who are you doing it for?  (photo credit: Gifts from Saville Row via photopin (license))

Last week I wrote about the role honesty has to play in order for weight loss to happen permanently. To sum that up, if we can’t own up to what we’re actually putting in our mouths and what actions we’re taking (or not taking), it’s going to be a long frustrating road!  For women with food and weight issues, not being able to be totally honest, or denial, shows up in many forms in our lives.

Today we’re doing a part II on Weight loss, Honesty and Denial, which focuses on how we deny ourselves, either as a form of punishment or as a way to compensate for our size and how that interferes with weight loss.

We’re Good at Denying Ourselves
When food or weight is an issue for us long term, we might get really comfortable in the world of denial. We try denying ourselves the food we want so much, we deny ourselves the relationships and jobs we want, we deny ourselves of the experiences we want, we deny feeling our emotions and turn to food to numb out and we deny reality by ignoring the reason we’re overweight. There’s so much denial and lying going on that it’s hard to know where it ends and where we begin.

For some reason, we wholeheartedly embrace the idea that until we lose the weight, we don’t deserve these things (the jobs, relationships, experiences etc). As if the way to fix the “problem” is to punish our way to thinness. We think we can’t handle feeling our emotions until a certain set of unnamed parameters aligns in such a way that we’re suddenly invincible. We dream of the day when we’re thin enough that we can eat all the things we’ve been denying ourselves (a day that will never come since we overeat lots of stuff that we don’t even want).  Where did we get the idea that punishing ourselves is the way to get what we want? No idea but most of us are plagued by it in some way.

We spend our time half in our lives and half thinking about the life we would live if we finally reached that size or goal weight. Even the half that we do spend in our lives, much of it is spent projecting a person that we think others want to see. A person that would be more accepted, loved and interesting than the one who currently resides in the body we have. We numb ourselves out of the very life we have and then we create a carefully cultivated image for others to see. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we’re not going to be able to put our guard down around others either.

What am I talking about?

The Nice One, The Sharp Dresser and The Doormat
We do things to prevent others from seeing who we really are.

You might have grown up being the nice girl because from a young age you learned that people might not like you because of your weight – at least if you’re nice they’ll have one less reason to dislike you.

You may be an impeccable dresser, have all the best purses and your hair and nails were always perfectly maintained because you learned that looks and size matter – if you look good maybe they won’t notice your weight.

You might have become known as the caretaker in your circle of friends and family having learned that you need to have another value to be accepted if you’re overweight.

You may have become a doormat having learned that you better be agreeable if you’re overweight or you won’t be loved.

Or maybe none of these are you, but you’re known as the funny one, the smart one or the outgoing one in your circle of friends because you learned that you needed to stand out in some way in life other than for your weight.

Disclaimer: This is not to say that overweight people don’t stand out in these ways naturally, just as normal weight folks do – it’s just that some of us may have purposely cultivated these things a little more than we might have otherwise as a distractor from out weight.

This was me for years. I can’t tell you how many times I was over-dressed for an event when everyone else was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  When people would comment on it, I’d just say “I prefer skirts!” or “Makeup is an art!”. The truth was that I didn’t feel like my body looked ok in the clothes everyone else wore – I felt like a tank and at least if I was dressed up and had flashy colorful makeup on someone might notice me for more than just being the “big girl” at the party. I’d still be the big girl but I’d be the well dressed girl too. I still love to dress up and love makeup – it’s a part of me now, but these days I also feel just as adorable in a pair of jeans or a pair of workout tights. I still don’t like t-shirts and never will.

As I got older, I tried out other roles, like the strong one, the nice one, the funny one, the outgoing / outlandish one and I’m sure others. Since I could never shake the weight for long despite my sincere desire to be thin, I tried on whatever camouflage I could access – thinking one of these eventually will fit! None of them did.

You Don’t Need to Apologize for Your Existence 
The point of this post isn’t to make you feel badly for being the nice girl, or for wearing makeup or having nice purses and shoes. And I’m not suggesting you change these things – especially if these are things you now love about yourself. I love accessories myself.

The point is to become aware of the ways that we do things to punish ourselves (with the denial of food or life stuff) or compensate for our weight because when we believe there is a part of us that we have to make up for, disguise or deny – we walk around feeling ashamed and almost apologetic for just being here and that’s exactly the type of stuff that leads to weight gain, chronic diets, restriction and we get more of the same.

If you feel ashamed on a daily basis for just being in the body you have, it’s really difficult to do the things needed to lose weight. If you feel you deserve punishment or that you shouldn’t have certain things because of your weight, you’ll end up doing things that actually make you gain weight (cycles of deprivation lead to bingeing). So much of successful weight loss actually has to do with what’s going on in our heads, being aware of it and not what’s on our plate!

Your weight or size does not mean you have something to apologize for. It does not mean you need to make up for something. It does not mean you don’t have many things going for you. It does not mean that something is wrong with you. It does not mean you are starting off with a lower score than everyone around you. It does not mean you can’t be loved and appreciated exactly as you are. It does not mean you deserve punishment or need to be someone else.

Yes, there are lots of people in this world who might think less of you for being overweight. I’m not in denial about how things are. But why are we trying to please people who would judge us on something like that?

Realistically you can’t change others opinions of you and frankly other’s opinions of us are none of our business. Someone else’s opinion about you says more about them than it does you and nothing you do, say or what you look like will change that. Since you can’t change how someone else thinks about you, you may as well focus on what you can change and that is how you think of yourself! The good news is that you can think of yourself however you want, without approval or validation from anyone else and you can do this now, even without losing an ounce of weight.

And when you think of yourself positively, without shame, with acceptance, guess what happens? We stop punishing and hiding ourselves and weight loss becomes a lot easier.

A few questions to consider (and feel free to answer in the comments):
What have you been denying yourself because of your weight or size? (food, relationships, jobs, experiences etc.)

Are there personality traits or physical attributes that you’ve focused on projecting more of as a way to distract others from your size? If so, what are they? How have you used them? How have they helped or hurt you?

What do you think about the idea that you can accept yourself now, at your current weight? How do you think it would change your life if you could do that?

If this speaks to you, I hope you’ll contact me to set up a mini session – where we can discover what might be getting in the way of the person you want to be. (To not miss out on my emails – put your name in the green box below). You can also find me on most social media outlets, though I’m probably the most active on Facebook.


We Can’t Shame Ourselves Thin

For some reason, we think that if we could just hate our bodies a little more, it will spur enough motivation for us to change it. We believe that if we could reject it more, that we’ll finally reach the weight, size or shape that eludes us. That there is a level of disdain, distrust and disgust we need to reach with ourselves before we’ll diet enough, exercise enough and have willpower enough to reach an ideal in our heads.

So many of us think this way and unconsciously accept this type of thinking as truth. But have we ever seen even a modicum of proof that it works? Of course not – but yet we act it out as though it was the only way. And we hold onto this body hate so tightly, as if we loosen our grip on it, even a little, we’ll lose total control and end up in a worse body than the one we already are living in. But this is total lie.

Here is the honest truth:  There is no amount of self-rejection that will lead us to the body we want. No one has ever lost weight and kept it off with hate. You can’t shame yourself thin.

The more energy we put into rejecting ourselves, the greater our struggle will be. It’s tiring and the goal always seems so impossible to reach. As long as we direct hate at ourselves, we will continue to do the very actions that keeps us in a body we are unhappy with.

To lose weight and to change our bodies, we actually have to let go of our habit of beating them up. We have to choose love and appreciation instead. We have to accept what we look like and how much space we take up right now. We must consider this:  What if I had to stay in this body as it is right now for the rest of my time on this earth? How would that change how we lived our lives? And what is holding us back from living that way right now?

The way we think about our bodies is a choice. I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, but feeling the way we do really is a choice. It all comes from our brains – which we are in charge of. We choose to hate our stomachs. We choose to see dimples on our thighs as repulsive. We choose to view a number on the scale as good and another as bad. We choose to put energy into feeling disgusted with ourselves.

Ask yourself, why am I choosing to think thoughts about myself that cause pain?

Why am I choosing to think thoughts that cause me to do harm (restrictive eating, bingeing, over-exercising, not exercising etc)?

Why am I choosing to think thoughts that prevent me from living the life I want to live?

How do you want to feel about your body, about yourself? Really. Think about this. If you could choose how to feel (and know that you can), what would you willingly choose to feel? I know that the answer is not hate, shame, disgust or pain.

Halting negative thinking is not easy. It takes a lot of practice and awareness. The first step is noticing where those painful thoughts creep in.

I have a little homework for you. Will you do it?

Homework assignment:
This week, just notice how your brain operates. Our brain likes to be efficient and do things it’s good at (think how we go on autopilot when brushing our teeth) – and it’s excellent at thinking painful thoughts about ourselves. Just notice where it goes. Become a witness in your own mind. Become aware of your patterns. Notice what you are thinking about your body and notice how that influences the choices you make. Write these thoughts down – and write down what was going on when they came up.  Be honest and don’t hold back.

Don’t focus on changing your thoughts with this assignment – this week I just want you to notice what your brain is up to! And please, let me know if anything comes up that surprises you or if you have any questions.