As I’m sitting here, watching football and reading my RSS feed of fitness related articles, I noticed one extremely well written and insightful article by Kelly Coffey of www.strongcoffey.com about fat shaming. After coaching for the past few years, especially after joining forces with my husband and launching our business, I have realized how often negative self talk, poor self image (including distorted body image/ body dysmorphic disorder), and low self esteem cause a downward spiral into an abyss. The “I just can’t” or “I’ll never be good enough” inner banter that causes the cycle of undesirable habits to prevail even with the best of intentions is a very real obstacle to success and overall happiness.
This is a common issue today- all it takes is a quick glance at any magazine, tv show, poster, advertisement to see an image of perfection. James Patrick wrote a great article in Fitness Rx about retouching and photoshop that I gladly offered one of our images up for- read the full article HERE. These standards of perfection are not achievable but we have adopted them as goals for ourselves.
How can we change the way we view ourselves? How can we treat our bodies with love, care, and respect and stop the mental warfare we have with ourselves day in and day out?
We can challenge our way of thinking by asking ourselves 4 types of questions as found in an article on Psych Central that include reality testing, looking for alternate explanations, putting things in perspective and the one I feel is most related to negative self talk regarding body image, goal directed thinking:
“Using goal-directed thinking:
▪Is thinking this way helping me to feel good or to achieve my goals?
▪What can I do that will help me solve the problem?
▪Is there something I can learn from this situation, to help me do it better next time?”
When you find yourself talking in a negative way, asking yourself if this talk is helpful, if this will help you solve the “problem”, and how can you do better next time can easily change the direction of the conversation before it spirals out of control.
I will use myself as an example.
I get dressed one morning and am bothered by my level of leanness. I start poking and prodding my body telling myself I haven’t been sticking to my diet, that I look soft all over and I don’t have any commitment or willpower, “I can’t believe I ate those cookies last night and went over my macros- I always do that crap no wonder I don’t look like I used to.”
If I stop in the middle of this nasty self talk and ask myself how poking around for my perceived soft spots and punishing myself for not adhering to my diet is helping me reaching my goal I will quickly see that it ISN’T. Then asking what can I do to solve the problem I would decide to try my best today, to focus on the positive aspects of the situation, realize I’m not perfect, and remember the qualities about my physique that I am happy with (you have to have something, even if you are the most negative person on planet earth).
Changing the direction of this talk leads to minimizing self sabotage and over time will help the habit of positive self talk, of self acceptance and grace, to be your new baseline.
Calling these thoughts out can change how frequently they appear, but they are sure to appear from time to time anyways. It is also possible to simply observe these feelings, make a note that they are there, understanding you are “being hard on yourself”, and move on. “Here I go again, cutting myself down, interesting- what is making me feel this way about myself today?” Take mental note and continue on with an active effort to not let your entire day revolve around crappy thoughts.
Lastly, distract yourself. If you know you are having “one of those days” with body image issues and self talk- don’t sit there on social media pining after other people’s physiques or seemingly (key word) perfect lives. Get out and do something- read an interesting book, call a friend, listen to a new podcast, check out a movie, or just get outside for some fresh air. Usually just interrupting the thought pattern with another activity and refusing to dwell on it can be enough to snap things back into the positive.
Being aware of negative thinking is the first step. Love yourself enough to put some of these actions into play when you are being less than your own best friend then sit back and watch it change your life.
If you are seeking help with your nutrition and fitness and would like some of the psychological aspects of adopting a new lifestyle address, I would love to help you www.northingtonfitnessandnutrition.com/online-coaching/