Woman looking in the mirror with positive thoughts

Weight Loss: How to Stop Negative Self-Talk

Do you ever walk past a mirror and think, "Ugh, I need to lose weight?" Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our bodies. We're happy if we look a certain way, but the moment we don't fit in a pair of jeans or don't stick to our diet, that inner dialogue turns against us, making it easy to indulge in negative self-talk.

If this feels familiar, you probably think it's normal to have negative thoughts about yourself. But a large body of research suggests that bullying your body to get back on track on your weight loss journey is not the best approach.

So, how do you flip the script on how you talk to yourself? Let's get started.

How does negative self-talk affect your weight?

Frustrated woman standing on the scale

When intense exercise routines and calorie restriction diet plans don't seem to be "working," there's probably a factor you haven't considered: your thoughts. "Mindset is deeply connected with our weight," said Life Extension's Clinical Information Specialist, Riley Carroll, who holds a B.S. in Neuroscience.

Unfortunately, most people don't think their inner critic is to blame for their stunted progress. "Having a negative mindset keeps us in a vicious cycle of inability to lose weight, even when we incorporate exercise and healthy foods in our routines," noted Carroll.

While thoughts may be in your head, your body can still feel what you're thinking. "Negative thoughts put your body in physical stress, creating a metabolic state where losing weight becomes very challenging," explained Life Extension's Educational Specialist, Dr. Crystal M. Gossard, DCN. In addition, negative self-talk about "slipping up" and eating a cookie may lead you to abandon your diet entirely and even overeat (forget exercising after that second slice of pie).

Negative self-talk can affect your gut (and microbiome)

Woman with abdominal paying laying on bed

Your brain and gut are intrinsically connected. As more research emerges, it's clear that a healthy microbiome (which includes trillions of microorganisms that live inside and on you) is essential to maintaining a healthy weight, noted Dr. Gossard.

As Carroll explained, we're increasingly beginning to understand that the gut-brain connection is a two-way street that supports gut, mental and overall health. When we experience challenges with our diet and stress, our gut microbiome changes, creating an imbalance. This gut imbalance makes it even harder to maintain a healthy weight, which negatively influences our outlook in our weight-loss journey.

So, negative thoughts lead to stress and overeating, resulting in regret and guilt-driven exercise that we'll hardly enjoy, and might decide to abandon altogether. The good news is that you can break the cycle and build sustainable daily habits that will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.

How to stop negative self-talk

Happy woman hugging herself with content

While stopping negative talk is easier said than done, adopting a positive outlook is unequivocally valuable to your overall health and quality of life. Remember, it's a life-long journey, not a six-month destination, so it takes time and patience!

Mind over body

A big part of starting this journey is reestablishing the connection with your body and understanding that a healthy weight is more than the number on a scale. It's about feeling good in your own skin and enjoying the foods you eat because they nourish you and fuel your activities—not because they check the boxes on your diet plan, or because they comfort you when you're stressed.

Here are six tips to help you flip the script to positive self-talk.

  • Find your inner dialogue—Learn to recognize when you start having negative thoughts. A great place to start is to ask yourself, "Would I say this to a loved one?" We tend to be kinder to others; extending that same care and compassion to yourself will make it easier to pinpoint your negative thoughts so you can start changing.
  • Meditate—Incorporating meditation into your routine helps you build a space where you can recognize that you have power over your thoughts, not the other way around. Choosing what you pay attention to helps you strengthen your mental muscles, making positive self-talk easier.
  • Counteract negativity—When you have a negative thought about yourself, say (out loud if you dare) three or more positive things about yourself.
  • Take a blood test for weight loss—Find out if there's a health reason hindering your weight-loss journey; if there is, not only can you take steps to address it, but you will know to stop blaming yourself for your weight gain.
  • Write a thank you note to your body—The next time you start bullying yourself because you had ice cream, take a moment to write down a short list of the wonderful things your body does for you and why you're grateful. It will help you focus on what your body can do, rather than how it looks.
  • Move more, think happy—When you exercise, your breath and heartbeat increase, pumping newly oxygenated blood to your brain, which helps you embrace a more positive mentality.

How to stop compulsive eating

Woman eating healthy meal on a sofa

Compulsive eating can frequently be linked to mindless eating. That's why it's important to understand the cause behind these compulsions—identifying the root of what's driving you to binge on cookies while watching Netflix will shine a light on areas where you can make adjustments.

Keep in mind that dealing with this type of compulsion can be difficult to manage on your own. Seeking professional help can be a fantastic option if you're struggling with compulsive eating, noted Carroll.

Here are three tips to help you be more mindful when you eat.

  1. Honor your hunger—Restriction diets tend to backfire. Learn to pick up on what your body is telling you. In other words, take your "hangry" feeling seriously; it's your body telling you it's time to eat.
  2. Cravings matter—Not counting sugary, junk, or processed foods, cravings may sometimes indicate a nutrient deficiency. Try to reach for a healthy snack when the urge hits! Pro tip: You can take a blood test to see if you're low on essential nutrients.
  3. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat—Was your meal satisfying? Do you feel energized, light and ready for your day? Or do you feel sluggish, heavy and demotivated? There is a connection between what foods you ate and how you feel afterwards.

When we are thoughtful about when and what we are eating, we can help mitigate the stress and negative thoughts surrounding diets and food choices. Different studies have shown that those who practice mindful eating or mindfulness can improve stress levels and lose weight, added Carroll.

In time, you'll learn that it's not about eating "good" vs. "bad" foods. It's about choosing foods that nourish and empower you to stay active and be your healthiest version, helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and live a happy, healthy life—especially in the long haul.

About the Author: Jessica Monge has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences & neuroscience and a master's degree in comparative studies and related languages from Florida Atlantic University. She worked as a tutor, freelance writer and editor before joining Life Extension, where she is currently a Digital Content Writer.