Tag Archives: negative self-talk

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.


I like my body. How I went from hating it to being ok with it. (Part 5 of a 5 Week Series)

dance-unsplashThis is the 5th and last post in my 5 week series on Body Image. See part 4part 3part 2 and part 1.

Last week, I talked about how picturing myself as a child helped to turn around my urge to tear my body down. It’s a lot easier to feel sympathetic towards myself when I think of the innocent kid I am deep down inside.

It’s just one of many things I’ve been doing on a regular basis to transform the way I feel about my body. Loving or liking your body is a “practice”. We practice yoga, we practice sports, we practice before giving a presentation or dance recital. And yes, changing how we feel about our bodies or how we feel around food requires creating a practice of sorts. Today I’m sharing the 5th  “practice” in my body image toolbox.

The fifth thing I’ve done is that I’ve changed my workout focus from one where calories burned was all that mattered instead to how it makes me feel. Same with my food choices, I don’t choose them based on how few calories or fat grams are in them, I choose stuff that satisfies me and give me energy.

In my workouts and in my food choices, I put my focus on how it’s going to affect how I feel.

This kind of goes back to the second post in this series, about appreciating what my body can do. I used to only exercise to burn as many calories as possible so that I could eat more. This meant lots of cardio or lots of long walks. Miles covered and minutes accrued mattered. This left me feeling drained and like I was always trying to make up for something. Every bite of food meant another minute I’d have to workout. I could never rest and just enjoy a meal. Choosing what to eat and how much to eat became very complicated.

If I wanted to enjoy pizza and some wine on a Friday night, I’d have to either not eat most of the day in order to have “room” for those things or I’d have to spend two hours in the gym to “earn” it. It was exhausting.

My workouts left me feeling drained. They were compulsory. They were punishment. Sure, there were aspects of exercise I enjoyed, but it was so often done as a component of weight loss that I began to dread it and I would go through periods where I rebelled and wouldn’t work out for weeks out of retaliation. With food, I couldn’t eat a meal without automatically calculating the calories in it. Even today, I have calorie counts memorized and though I don’t “count” them intentionally today, that knowledge is in my head and I can still give a tally to a meal lightening fast, and pretty accurately. It’s not a skill I’m proud of. I hate that so much of my mental energy in my life was dedicated to how good I could be at restricting food.

Today I do things differently, and I’ll admit, it has taken me years of trial and error to get here.

I now only do exercise that makes me feel good. I now only eat food that makes me feel good or what I truly want (sometimes that’s raw vegetables and sometimes it’s potato chips).

Sometimes I want to feel powerful and strong (weight lifting), sometimes I want to feel graceful and controlled (barre), sometimes my body aches and I need a rest (yoga or walking), sometimes I’m angry or stressed and want some relief (HIIT or kickboxing).

Choosing exercise on any given day that will make me feel the way I want to feel, instead of as a punishment helps me appreciate and care for my body and it also makes choosing what to eat much easier. If I want to get through an intense workout, I need to have the right balance of nutrition in my body. A donut or cookies is not going to give me the energy I want to have (not saying you can’t ever eat these foods – just that this helps us to make more conscious choices).

Alternatively, if I have a yoga class or barre class to go to, I have to be careful not to eat too heavily beforehand, or I’ll be burping or uncomfortable all throughout class. Over time, making choices this way reduces my desire to eat foods that won’t help me tackle these physical goals. This doesn’t happen overnight and certainly I still sometimes eat things just because it tastes amazing and I really want it (but I move on and don’t beat myself up about it).

Listening to what our bodies need is really important too. Lately, I’m thinking I may have to take a break from barre. I don’t want to because I do love it (despite zero grace or dance ability it makes me feel like a ballerina and I secretly want to be a ballerina, at least when I’m alone in my kitchen!) but my hamstrings and glutes are so tight from 3 years of repetition that class is starting to feel less like a good thing for my body and more like the potential for injury. I need to listen to my body. I may take some time off from those classes (I’ve already cut way back) or I need to make massage and foam rolling a priority to keep my body feeling good. I’ve been doing more yoga in the meantime until I make a decision. It’s helping but it may not be enough.

I trust that my body knows what it needs. It knows when it needs to move (I feel that urge as my focus wanes when I’ve been in front of the computer for three hours without a break). It knows when it needs to rest (as I write this, I’ve decided I’m not going to workout tonight – I am tired and I’m respecting that). It knows when it can handle (or even crave) high intensity cardio, a long bike ride or extra weight on the barbell. My body is incredibly intelligent and if I listen to it, I don’t have to worry about if I did enough If I burned enough calories etc.

Making the switch from exercising or eating as a form of punishment or solely as calorie burner to exercising and eating to feel good won’t happen overnight and it’s not a simple thing you can do once or twice and have it stick. It’s something we need to work on on a deep level and before we can really start making strides with these concepts we need to practice more self love, learn to choose foods that nourish, and learn to tune in to our body. But even though you may not be able to jump into these ideas right away . . .I wanted to share this idea as something that has made a big difference in how I feel about my body because it makes it easier for me to exercise regularly and eat well more often and I think we all can get there one step at a time.

I hope this 5 part series on body image and how I stopped hating my body has given you some ideas to try in changing your own body image. Please let me know if you try any of these!

Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the book and enter your name and email and it’s yours!


I like my body. How I went from hating it to being ok with it. (Part 4 of a 5 Week Series)

Would you talk to this little girl the way you talk to yourself now?

Would you talk to this little girl the way you talk to yourself now? (and yes, I still sleep like that now!)

This is the 4th post in a 5 week series on Body Image. See part 3part 2 and part 1.

Last week, I talked about how I started to look for what is beautiful about other people’s bodies instead of comparing myself to them and tearing them down. It’s helped my body image in a big way (and I feel like way less of jerk since I’m not criticizing other people because of my own hate for my own body).

It’s just one of many things I’ve been doing on a regular basis to transform the way I feel about my body. Loving or liking your body is a “practice”. We practice yoga, we practice sports, we practice before giving a presentation or dance recital. And yes, changing how we feel about our bodies or how we feel around food requires creating a practice of sorts. Today I’m sharing the 4th  “practice” in my body image toolbox.

The fourth thing I’ve done is that I started to picture myself as a little kid when an urge to say something bad about my body comes up. Sounds a little weird but read on!

I started to picture myself when I was a little kid.

Every time a horrible thought about my body comes up or the urge to pinch, pick apart or tear myself down arises, I remind myself that the person I am saying that about is a little girl named Andrea. Andrea loves books, barbies, coloring and helping her mom in the kitchen. She loves Saturday morning cartoons, roller skating, riding her bike and playing in the woods behind her house with her friends. She’s affectionate, curious and cares about how other people feel. She loves animals and laughing. She’s creative and has a wild imagination.

Andrea's 5th birthday party April 1983

Would you tell her she’s fat? That she looks “wrong”? That she’s ugly? Of course not. So don’t do it to yourself now.

She’s just a kid.

Would I speak the way I speak to myself to little Andrea if she was standing in front of me?

Absolutely not.

I wouldn’t dare treat a kid the way I treat my adult self.

Why? Because she doesn’t deserve it.

I don’t deserve it either. We’re the same person.

I want to have higher standards for myself. If I wouldn’t talk to a little kid the way I talk to myself, then I can’t continue saying the horrible things I’ve said about myself.

I now can’t not see myself as a kid when these cruel thoughts pop in my head and it now helps stop them quickly. Remember the kid you were. How innocent, hopeful, kind, ambitious, gentle, unique and whole you were (and ARE!!). How worthy of love and valued you were (and ARE!!).

You deserve better treatment. She deserves better treatment. You are the same now as you were then and you deserve love and acceptance – especially from yourself.

To keep your mind on this idea, try carrying around a picture of yourself when you were little or posting a pic as your desktop background and see if it changes how you think of yourself today. If a picture of yourself doesn’t make you feel compassion or sympathetic, try someone else you care about – a niece, nephew, a friend’s kid – someone else who you wouldn’t dare talk this way to.

Can you have the same compassion for yourself that you would give to a child? Why or why not?

Keep an eye out for the last post in this series (#5) next week!

Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the book and enter your name and email and it’s yours!


I like my body. How I went from hating it to being ok with it. (Part 3 of a 5 Week Series)

One of the easiest changes I've made to improve my body image is to swap out my urge to compare and tear down other people's physical appearance in favor of looking for the positives in them. It helps and makes you feel better than negative things do!

One of the easiest changes I’ve made to improve my body image is to swap out my urge to compare and tear down other people’s physical appearance in favor of looking for the positives in them. It helps and makes you feel better than negative things do!

This is the 3rd post in a 5 week series on Body Image. See part 2 and part 1.

Last week, I talked about how I’ve started to focus more on what my body can do, instead of what it looks like and how it’s given me a huge sense of appreciation for my body.

It’s just one of many things I’ve been doing on a regular basis to transform the way I feel about my body. Loving or liking your body is a “practice”. We practice yoga, we practice sports, we practice before giving a presentation or dance recital. And yes, changing how we feel about our bodies or how we feel around food requires creating a practice of sorts. Today I’m sharing the 3rd “practice” in my body image toolbox.

The third thing I’ve done is that I look for what is beautiful about other people’s bodies.

I started to purposely pay attention to what I liked about other people’s bodies.

Please note, this is not the same thing as comparing myself to other people’s bodies and this is not the same thing as compiling a list of bodies I like or body features I wish I had.

I don’t do “body inspo”.

Instead I tasked myself with finding something “good” about everyone I meet, rather than comparing myself to them.

Seeing a stranger and thinking about what nice eyes they have, how strong their shoulders look or liking how they carry themselves helps me to see the good things about my own body too.

When you are highly critical of yourself, often our first response with another person is to find things to tear down about them too (it’s not really about them, it’s about our own disgust with ourselves). If I think I’m fat, I may look at another person and decide if they are fatter or skinnier than I am. If I feel like my face is ugly, I may look at someone else and try to determine if they are worse looking than I am. I know it sound really screwed up and terrible to admit that on my worst days of body hatred, I’d sometimes look at other people and pick apart their features. It’s awful. I feel like a horrible person for admitting to that but I know that I’m not alone in this. I’ve had countless other women admit to me the same terrible habit. It’s the normal MO when we’re highly critical of ourselves. We do it to make ourselves feel better, but it honestly doesn’t do that – you then feel bad about your body still and now you feel like you’re a bad person for having these kind of thoughts about how someone else looks.

I basically worked on doing the opposite. And it helps my body image in a big way. And I don’t feel like a jerk for the types of thoughts I have about other people anymore.

If I can take the time to find negative things about another person’s appearance, I can take time to find positive things about their appearance. Finding positive, charming and appealing things about every body I encounter has made me more gentle towards my own body and kinder and more gentle towards other people too.

I like this person so much better.

I’ve been doing this swap in behavior for so long now that it’s becoming automatic. I’m less likely to attack my own body and I’m less likely to try to build myself up by tearing someone else down. And this switch has been one of the easiest ones I’ve made (isn’t that rare in this body image / food relationship world!?).

If you try practicing this, be very conscious about whether or not you are finding good things about other people and then comparing for a lack of that quality in yourself. It’s a tricky line and we want to put that comparison part down. Just because someone else has a beautiful smile doesn’t mean that your smile needs improvement. One person’s appealing traits doesn’t mean there isn’t enough to go around for you. If you find looking for positives in other people’s physical appearance to be triggering (I definitely can see how it could be for some), then a better alternative would be to look for things you like about that person in general. Are they kind? Do they have a good heart? Do they seem genuine / sincere? etc. Sometimes we can sense these things in another even if we have just met them and looking for the glimmer of these good things in another can make you feel better about your fellow humans and that may translate into you being kinder to yourself too.

Keep an eye out for part 4 next week!

Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the book and enter your name and email and it’s yours!


I like my body. How I went from hating it to being ok with it. (Part 2 of a 5 Week Series)

One way I've improved my body image is to focus on what my body can do instead of how it looks. I'm appreciative of basic things like walking, breathing and seeing - just being alive! It helps.

One way I’ve improved my body image is to focus on what my body can do instead of how it looks. I’m appreciative of basic things like walking, breathing and seeing – just being alive! It helps.

This is the 2nd post in a 5 week series on Body Image. Go here for part 1.

Last week, I talked about how I shush my inner critic and tell her to go home (sometimes escorting her out myself) when she whispers negative things in my ear. It’s just one of many things I’ve been doing on a regular basis to transform the way I feel about my body. Loving or liking your body is a “practice”. We practice yoga, we practice sports, we practice before giving a presentation or dance recital. And yes, changing how we feel about our bodies or how we feel around food requires creating a practice of sorts. Today I’m sharing the 2nd “practice” in my body image toolbox.

The second thing I’ve done is that I focus less on what my body looks like on any given day and pay more attention to what my body can do.

I started putting my focus on what my body can do and what it does for me everyday.

I am in awe and so appreciative of how fortunate I am to have this body to carry me through life.

Feet that work when I need to take a step.

Eyes that see when I want to read a book, drive a car or look into another person’s eyes.

A heart that keeps beating so I wake up each morning and sends fresh blood and oxygen to all the parts of my body that need it.

Lungs that bring in enough fresh air so I can get through a tough workout and that function well enough so that a walk to the mailbox is just a walk to the mailbox.

Muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and all that stuff that works together so I can do jumping jacks, shovel the walkway, or reach for something on a high shelf on my tippy toes.

Hands and arms that can hold another person, type on a keyboard or cook a meal.

A brain that remembers dates and birthdays and still has room and the ability to learn new things. And a memory that still can picture my mom’s face even though I haven’t seen her in person in almost 16 years.

An immune system that responds when I get sick but also functions to keep me from getting sick too often.

A nose that can smell a delicious meal cooking, fresh flowers on the counter or keep me safe by alerting me that something is burning that needs attention.

Knees that bend and straighten when I need them to.

A belly and digestive system that accepts the food it receives and puts all those nutrients to work in my body so that I can keep doing all that I am currently able to do.

Ears that can hear my favorite music, John snoring or the cat purring.

Taste buds that can notice when my stew needs more thyme or garlic and when a piece of fruit is no longer in season.

When my body responds the way I need it to, when it does what I ask it to do, I no longer accept it as a given. I have known too many people whose bodies couldn’t do some of the things I have taken for granted. In an older post, I talked about my mother, my aunt and a friend’s mother who all had medical conditions that prevented them from doing basic things like walking, breathing comfortably or even showering on their own. The more empathy I feel towards their situations (and others like them), the more challenging it is to take my own physical abilities for granted. And if I’m respectful, appreciative and aware of the incredible daily things my body does for me, it is a lot harder to pick on myself for having a soft, round belly or for having a crooked jaw or for eating more chocolate than I needed.

It’s become much easier to say “I like my body” no matter how my body looks like on any given day, because that “like” is coming from a place that isn’t about how I look. If I hold out saying and feeling that “I like my body” until I like what I look like, I could be holding out forever. Looks fade, skin gets looser, gravity takes it’s toll – if we’re not happy with what we look like in our 20’s and 30’s, we’re certainly not going to like what we see as we age (this is not to say I can’t appreciate my physical features – I can and do. This girl can be as vain as they come.). Why not like what we have as it is today? As it is tomorrow? It’s all we have – so let’s love it up.

Putting my focus on appreciating the things my body does for me daily rather than what it looks like also helps in a big way with my eating. If I want my body to continue functioning well, as best as it can, at my current state of health, I need to feed it in a way that supports that. Bingeing on chocolate, cheez-its or other snacks until I’m crazy full won’t do that. Eating a variety of whole foods, to satisfaction does. The choice becomes a little bit easier to choose things that continue to make my body feel and perform it’s best.

What amazing things does your body do that you are appreciative of?

Can you list out 10 things you are grateful for about your own body?

How can you support your body to do more of the things you want to do?

Keep an eye out for Part 3 of this body image series next week, where I’ll share another practice I use in my life to transform how I feel about my body!

Could you use some support with body image? Schedule a free consult with me here.

Also, I have a brand new guide for you! It’s called You Have What it Takes:  Overcome Emotional Eating, Overeating and Chronic Dieting by Rediscovering Qualities You Already Have and it’s designed to help you build more confidence and understanding of yourself as you take on the task of improving your relationship with food. You can get your copy here.




I like my body. How I went from hating it to being ok with it. (Part 1 of a 5 Week Series)

Let's smash how we talk about our bodies so that we think of them differently

Let’s smash how we talk about our bodies so that we think of them differently

I sometimes catch a glimpse of my naked body in the mirror and feel really ok about what I see. In fact, sometimes I actually like what I see.

This is kind of radical thing for me personally, but also, certainly in the world we live in today.

Even writing that down, that my naked body is ok, that I don’t hate it anymore, that there are actually things I like about it, almost feels shameful. I’m not supposed to feel that way and even worse, if I do, I shouldn’t dare to admit that! There’s a part of me that knows that it’s not normal in our society to feel ok about my body. It’s vain or conceited, not being humble or modest if I decide I like my body as it is. As women, we’re supposed to hate every part of ourselves – we’re too big, too small, too loud, too quiet, too aggressive, not assertive enough, she wears too much makeup, she should wear some make up etc. And I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I majorly missed the mark. Never able to get it right. Never enough. Never ok.

But I’m done with that. It’s too exhausting to keep up.

This whole body acceptance thing is not something that came easy to me.

In fact, it’s only been the last few years when I could see my naked body and not feel total revulsion. Or even see myself fully clothed and not find 8 reasons not to leave the house.

My body is not perfect by the standards that most others would hold it up to. And I’m pretty sure if you saw me naked you could find plenty of things to find fault with if you wanted to. But I don’t really care anymore about what other people think of my body. I’m no longer trying to manipulate it for the approval or benefit of some unknown person.

But it’s more perfect to me today than it has ever been.

Honestly, this is ironic in a way, that at 38 years old, my body, which is starting to show visible signs of the effects of gravity, the beginning of wrinkles, and let’s not forget lots of loose skin and stretch marks from many years of yo yo weight gain and loss, is more pleasing and accepted by me now than it was when I was 28 and 20 lbs lighter than I am right now.

This doesn’t mean that I’m walking around thinking I have the greatest body on the planet. And it doesn’t mean that there aren’t days or times when I stumble back into a fixation on something I don’t love about my body. Usually it’s when I put on something that doesn’t fit right (though buying higher quality clothes has helped in that area!) or when I haven’t gotten enough sleep and I suddenly notice a change in my face that I hadn’t noticed before. For a short while, my old critic will come up behind me and whisper in my ear “What is that? You should fix that. That’s ugly.” But instead of listening to her whispers and letting them fill up my head with with her unsolicited opinions, I shush her and tell her to go home. She’s not welcome here anymore.

That’s just one thing I do that has helped transform acceptance of my body.

How did I get to this place? To a place where I can walk by a mirror and see my body with all it’s possibly imperfections reflected at me and not want to run screaming?

It was a conscious choice because my quality of life was going down. It had become more tiring and painful to continue doing what I was doing (focusing and indulging in the negative thoughts I was having) than it was to decide to take active steps towards changing it. Deciding to start doing things differently, and keep coming back to doing them differently when things weren’t so easy, felt better and easier than staying where I was.

Over the next 5 weeks I’m going to share the most concrete changes I’ve made towards my body acceptance that you can start doing too.

This is Part 1.

I shush the critic when she whispers in my ear and tell her to go home.

When my old critic appears, and she does, she always will, I used to hear her words and thought they were truth. I kept putting my focus on them, constantly double checking to see if she was right. I’d have a thought pop up and then indulge in it by constantly putting my focus back on it.

Please don’t feel defensive when you see that word “indulge” – this isn’t a blame thing. While we can’t control what thoughts pop into our head in the first place, we do have control over what we do with those thoughts, how much attention we pay to them – and we pay a ton of attention to these awful and cruel thoughts. It’s become really easy to go there because we have programmed ourselves to go to that place. But we can also unprogram ourselves. It takes time and practice, but it can be done.

To illustrate how we “indulge” our thoughts, think about the biggest crush you had when you were in school. You might have passed him or her in the hallway, brushed elbows with them or maybe say hi and where did your brain go for the rest of the day? You would find yourself thinking about them over and over again. You’d be on the school bus thinking about them. You’d be laying in bed, thinking about them. You’d have this person on your brain all the time, even if you barely saw them that day. Running into them caused the first thought about them, but it was your brain, and the reward it received thinking about them that made your attention go back again and again. Even though it felt like some otherworldly cause was pulling your attention to it it was actually a choice you made because there was a benefit to it. You wanted to think about them because it felt good (you got all tingly and hopeful!) and so you purposely put your brain to work by indulging in thoughts about that person. Believe it or not, there is or was a benefit at some time to you thinking these terrible thoughts about your body – you may have started doing it because you thought it would protect you in some way or it would help you reach goals that would make your body more accepted by others. It may not be helpful now (and probably has done more harm than anything else), but it’s origination was probably out of love or protection.

We have thousands of thoughts each day and most pass on through with barely a notice but the ones we deem important show up again and again. It’s not really that your brain knows your mortgage needs to be paid or that a doctor’s appointment needs to be remembered that makes it something you remember to do. It’s that you’ve put your attention on it time and time again and now your brain knows that this is something it has to focus on. We do this with our worries, with our fears, dreams, daydreams and even with love (yes those crushes develop because we see/interact with someone over and over). We choose to think loving thoughts about people over and over again. For a lot of us this is an unconscious action, but make no mistake about it, the repetition is an action. This is good news though because that means once we become conscious that this is how our thoughts work, we can take different actions.

Remember when I said we can reprogram our brains?

One of the first steps to accepting your body is to reduce the amount of air time the inner critic gets. When thoughts come up that you don’t want to indulge in, you don’t want to give more power to, gently tell your inner critic her to keep her opinion to herself, that you don’t appreciate or agree with that information and then actually visualize sending her home, visualize closing the door behind her as she leaves. Visualize yourself locking the door with a key and then put the key in your pocket.

The next time she arrives, she will have to knock first and you can decide if you want to take that key out and let her in.

You may find that she has other ways in, maybe she sneaks in through a window or someone else who lives in the house let her in. She’s a crafty one. But if you keep asking her to keep her opinion to herself and continue to escort her out. She will show up less and less and she will have less power over you when she does.

Please know that this isn’t a one time or two time thing you can do and have it work. We have to be just as vigilant in trying to change as we are with our indulging in thoughts. If you previously thought about how gross your thighs or belly were 15 times a day, be prepared to show your critic out the door 20 times a day, every day for awhile. Don’t give up. Notice how many times a day your thoughts try to go there. Write it down if you have to to help keep you conscious. How long it will take to reduce the frequency is different for everyone and this is just one step of many that you can take to feel more loving towards your body.

But I know you are getting to the place where you want that more than you want whatever it is your critic is trying to get you to change. Keep remembering that.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this series next week!


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Realization: I Still Try to Make Others Laugh at My Body

I've always made my body the joke to protect myself.

I’ve always made my body the joke to protect myself.

Earlier this summer I arrived at a family cookout and one of my relatives said to me “Oh, look at your nice figure”. I was wearing a long fitted henley sun dress. Instead of just saying “Thank you.” I said “oh, it’s because I’m wearing too tight clothes! haha.” I cringed the second it came out of my mouth. The dress isn’t even too tight. It fits me perfectly and I love wearing that dress.

I have a tough time accepting a compliment without making a joke about my body or me. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done.

But it’s kind of a problem since I, you know, work with women who have emotional eating struggles and because I’ve come so far with my own. I’ve changed a ton but from time to time behaviors come to my attention that make me go “whoa! what is this?”

I’ve learned so much about myself the last couple of years. I finally feel like I’ve figured out how I can eat normally, how to not overeat, which foods work for me (and which ones don’t), how to move my body with exercise that I enjoy (instead of just whatever will burn the most calories).

I’ve become hyper aware of all the routines and habits I had created that kept me stuck in the same cycle of overeating and dieting. I no longer try to go as long as I can on as few calories as I can so I can eat a ton at night. I can sit comfortably with uncomfortable feelings without needing to eat to comfort myself. The negative self talk about my body that used to be a never-ending commentary in the background hardly ever shows up at all anymore. It’s quiet now.

I feel more confident in my body.  Enough so that I find myself doing things like taking off a sweat drenched tank top in the middle of a busy NH state park parking lot after a hike, and switching it out for a clean one, without worrying who might see me in my bra or might see my belly. That probably doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you’ve spent most of your life changing in shower stalls or bathrooms so you didn’t have to have your body seen naked in public view it’s a big deal. A really huge accomplishment. I can go to the beach now and wear a bathing suit and not worry about my pale thighs or belly rolls. I’m there to have fun, not to look like a model. I’m sure some of that comfortableness comes with getting older and just not giving a fuck but I know a lot of it comes from the work I’ve done in coaching.

All of this isn’t to say, wow, look at me, I’m doing so well. This is so easy! Everyone can repair their relationship with food on their own! No. All of this stuff is awesome and I feel great but, what I’ve noticed, is that as far as I have come, and as more “real” as this feels as any of my previous attempts at a normal life with food and my body, is that sometimes shit I thought was behind me still comes up from time to time.

Occasionally eating more food than I needed? Not a big deal, especially when it’s an incredible meal at a restaurant that I’ve been dying to check out. Occasionally choosing to eat foods that don’t have any nutritional value? Really not a big deal, especially when I’m choosing to eat it because I really want it (and not because I need to hide from some feelings).

Something I thought I was over, that keeps popping up is saying negative stuff about my own body to other people!

If I see someone I haven’t seen in awhile and they tell me I look great, I tend to wave it off by saying “oh, thanks, but I’ve actually gained a couple of pounds.” If someone tells me I look like I’ve lost more weight, “thanks, but I’ve really been slacking lately!”. I’ll whine about clothing stores having weird sizing and billowy styles and how at Lucky Jeans I have to buy a size Small shirt, even though there’s no way I’m a Small! If someone tells me I’m getting skinny, I say things like “Nah, I weigh about 157 lbs!” (as if it would be impossible for someone at that weight to be slender or fit looking).

In my head, I feel good about my body. I wear clothes that I feel comfortable in. I think I look pretty fit.  And I’m at a sustainable and healthy weight. But outwardly, I find myself projecting the thoughts that I may no longer consciously be having, but were a part of my repertoire for decades. Like tree ring patterns, the ways I navigated through my world have left a record of my history that can’t be washed away so easily.

I’ve always had a self-deprecating humor and made fat or ugly jokes about myself. When I was a kid, people would make jokes about my size in my presence and it stung, a lot. I remember playing the game “Taboo” once with my sisters and some of my cousins. Taboo was a game where you had to use words to get the other players to name a word on the card without using the 4 or 5 other synonym or related words on the card. Sort of like a riff on charades or pictionary but with without acting or drawing.

One of my cousins was trying to get us to say “fat” or “chubby” or something like that. I don’t remember what the actual word was. He was struggling to come up with words to give us hints because things like “obesity”, “overweight”, “large” were off limits. So, what he finally said was “Andrea”. My sister’s and cousin’s looked confused and shouted out things like “blonde?”, “girl?” and then finally someone said “fat!” and my cousin said “ding ding! That’s it!”. I was totally mortified (and pissed! This cousin had a bit of a weight issue at the time himself.). It certainly wasn’t the first time someone in my family had referred to me as fat but it was the first time it became clear to me that that was how most people would see me. That was how they would describe me. It was what I was leading with, even if that’s not who I saw myself as.

I think I started to make the jokes myself with the idea being that if I made sure everyone around me knew that I knew that I was fat, anything they may say or think about my weight couldn’t hurt me. That rational didn’t work out so well, it still hurt, but I adopted the practice as a form of armor. If they’re going to laugh at me, I’m going to be in on the joke dammit! They’re not going to laugh behind my back – they’re going to laugh with me!

Making these jokes about my body, in response to anything and everything was just how I operated. It became a part of my personality in a way. So much so that most of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it. It’s just “me” now.

The summer after my junior year in college I worked for the University’s department of housing. It was a physically demanding job – we worked long hours in sweltering heat painting dorm rooms and carrying heavy furniture up and down many flights of stairs. I remember a few of the other kids always wanting to be my partner in carrying furniture. I was strong and I made carrying steel bedframes feel easy for the other person, because as a “fat” person, I thought it was my duty to take on more of the weight, more of the work. I could handle it. Even the guys would rush to carry with me. And it felt good to be wanted. It felt good to be seen as useful and valuable. For once my fatness was a positive, not a negative. I made jokes about being built like a “brick shithouse” or I’d hold flex my biceps and say “Have you seen these guns?” and everyone would laugh. They thought I was so funny and down to earth and “real” (something that seemed rare on a college campus). I said what everyone else was already thinking. My roommates and I became regular hosts of parties at our apartment that summer for our coworkers. My fatness was valuable at work and the humor I used to detract from myself also made me a riot and people loved to party with me. I could drink almost everyone under the table. It was a joke but also a sense of pride that I took at the time being able to pound 12 beers with the guys on my work crew. I may be fat, but I can party! The fat strong funny girl was a party animal too. The more attention I got, the more the jokes came. I couldn’t stop.

I’m not that girl anymore. My life is really different from my college partying days. I can’t drink anyone under the table anymore (and nor do I want to). I’m still strong but you can bet I’ll let others do their share of the hard work (but I’ll still ask that you admire my biceps). I still make jokes, about my body, but also about really morbid stuff. I have a really dark sense of humor. I’m step over the line a lot. But I don’t want to be that person who makes negative remarks about their body all the time.

She’s still there.

And it’s really annoying because the negative self-talk about my body isn’t there so much anymore. I can walk by the bathroom mirror naked and look at myself and not think much of anything, other than “that’s me”. I don’t recoil in disgust.

In general, I don’t necessarily want to change things that are part of my core personality. I know that a lot of that stuff is what makes me “me”. It’s even part of how some people know me. Who am I without this stuff? Who am I if I don’t make these kind of jokes? Could I be someone who just says “thank you” to a compliment?

I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say with this post.

I guess just that even as far as I’ve come, there are still things that come out sometimes that surprise me. I thought this was behind me. I thought I was healthy enough to not crap on my appearance publicly and regularly. I have clients who get upset sometimes at old behaviors that they still find themselves doing sometimes and to them I say “I know how you feel”. I feel like a failure when this stuff pops up. How can I preach “self-love” and body acceptance when the moment you complement me I have to make a joke about the size or shape of my body? Ug. That’s horrifying.

I have come really far and I don’t see myself ever going back to the unhealthy place I was in in the past but there are still some things I’ll need to keep my eye on.

I have to work at doing this differently. Knowing that I have this behavior isn’t enough to change it. Awareness is a start but I have to keep going and do more. This was something I actually forgot that I did. And now that it’s on my radar, it’s my job to actively work to do better.

If this hits home for you, here are a few questions to explore for yourself. I’d love to hear some of your answers if you want to share them with me:

  • Is there something that you’ve discovered about your personality or behavior that you believe is a result of your history with your weight or eating struggles? How does it impact your life? How does it impact how you view yourself?
  • Why do you think you developed this trait or habit?
  • Would you like to respond differently? If so, what would that look like?

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