Session 12

Talk Back to Negative Thinking

We all have negative thoughts from time to time but they can stand in the way of our progress, especially when we are trying to make significant changes in our lives. They can cause us to lose hope and may lead to more harmful behaviors but we can learn to replace them and respond in ways that will help to keep us motivated.

Stopping the Negative Thought Pattern

We become upset with ourselves for something as simple as eating a piece of cake or not going for a walk. Don’t let a slip lead to a harmful behavior chain.
A slip ⇒ negative thought or feeling ⇒ harmful behavior

Emma’s Story

Emma

Emma is at risk for type 2 diabetes so she’s trying to eat well and be active. She comes home after a hard day at work and thinks to herself, “I am tired of working so hard. I am tired of this program. I can never eat what I want.”

This negative thought leads to her eat some potato chips, which is her comfort food but then she thinks, “I did it again. I will never lose weight.” She goes on to finish the entire bag of chips. Does this sound familiar?

We’ve all done this, so please don’t give up just because you ate one or two unhealthy items.
If you begin to lose hope because of this chain of thoughts and unhealthy actions, take a deep breath and start again.
You are worth it!

The Habit of Negative Thinking

Negative thinking can become a habit. For many of us, negative thoughts occur automatically. We tend to believe and act on our negative thoughts without being aware that we are doing so. One goal of this program is to help you recognize negative thoughts as they occur and to teach you to talk back to them so they don’t interfere with your progress.

Modify Your Thoughts

We can talk back to negative thoughts:
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Catch yourself.

Think, “I am being negative about myself.”
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Say "Stop!" to yourself.

You may want to picture a red stop sign or say “This isn’t helping”.
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Modify the message you are telling yourself with a positive thought.

Here are some ways to replace different types of harmful thoughts with helpful ones:

Type of harmful thinking Instead of thinking... Tell yourself...
All or Nothing
You see only the extremes. You don’t see anything in between.
I can’t eat ice cream ever again. ● I can have ice cream once in a while.
● When I do have ice cream, I’ll measure it. That way, I won’t have too much.
Exercise is boring. ● I haven’t found an activity that I enjoy yet.
● I’ll keep trying new activities until I find one that I like.
Making Excuses
You blame situations or other people for your mistakes.
It’s too hot/wet outside to go for a walk. ● I will dress for the weather and walk anyway.
● I will work out indoors.
I have to buy these cookies just in case kids come over. ● I can find healthier treats for them and they will also learn better habits.
Filtering
You ignore the good and focus on the bad.
No one else supports my healthy lifestyle. ● My friend Shelly supports it.
● I will ask for more support.
I haven’t stuck to my diet at all this week. ● I stuck to my diet four out of seven days.
● I have a plan for how to stay on track in the future.
Self-Labeling
You call yourself something bad.
I’m such a weakling. ● I can climb the stairs without getting out of breath now.
● I’ll be a little more active each week.
I’m the world’s worst cook. ● My daughter liked the stir-fry I made last night.
● I’ll keep learning more about cooking.
Comparing
You compare yourself with other people and find yourself lacking.
Teo has lost so much more weight than I have. ● My weight loss has slowed down.
● I’ll ask Teo for some tips.
Stella is so much stronger than I am. ● I’d like to be stronger.
● I’ll try using a resistance band.
Gloom and Doom Thinking
You assume the worst.
This program is too hard. I might as well forget it. ● I’ve learned something about what is hard for me I will try something different next time.
I just know I’m going to get type 2 diabetes, since both of my parents had it. ● I know a lot more about how to prevent type 2 diabetes than my parents did.
● I’ll do what I can to prevent type 2 diabetes.
“Should” Thinking
You expect to always make the right choice.
I should have eaten less dessert. ● I can cut back on something else during the day.
● A slip-up is not the end of the world. I can get back on track.

Improve your chances:

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Make an Action Plan that is realistic, do-able, specific, and flexible.

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Have a sense of humor.

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Take care of yourself: manage stress, get enough sleep, eat right, and stay active.

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Keep things in perspective.

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Be around people who practice positive thinking.

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Celebrate and reward your progress.

What Emma is doing now…

Emma decides to replace one of her common harmful thoughts with a helpful one: “I’m tired now but I know I’ll feel energized after my walk and if I still want some chips when I get home I’ll measure out one serving. As long as I stay within my calorie goal, no food is forbidden”

Create A Positive Action Plan

Negative thinking can interfere with your progress. Practice catching yourself when you are thinking negatively and modify those thoughts so they help you instead of interfering with your success. Make sure your Action Plan is realistic, doable, specific, and flexible. But if it doesn’t work as you plan, don’t let it get you down, try something else.
During the week, I will:
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Identify one common negative thought that relates to your healthy lifestyle goal.

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Come up with ways to modify the thought and what you can say to yourself to promote healthier behavior.

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Keep track of my weight, calories, and physical activity