Friday, January 18, 2013

Mental Scolding vs. Negative Self-Talk

This morning I read Diane's post: Stumbles Can Really Trip You Up, and in my comment I wrote something that I wanted to pursue a bit further.

I've had a bit of trouble finding my footing since I came down with bronchitis earlier this month. For 3-4 days I hardly ate anything. As I started to get better, my appetite started to return. I wasn't eating junk food, but I wasn't eating nearly as clean as I should have been eating. Bread has been my biggest issue. Although having 2 slices of bread may not seem like much, I knew that it wasn't what I wanted to eat or should be eating - especially given that I know how NOT eating bread feels so much better.

The main problem was that I had the food in the house. I know that I've written many times before - both in my blogs and in comments - about not buying unhealthy foods (unhealthy to any degree and at any level) in the first place. As I said in a previous post, the foods were in the house for other people. It's the reality, and it's also the excuse I used to let go and lose my focus.

I wish I had exercised more self-control and discipline. However, I didn't. I ate. I wasn't mindful. I wasn't vigilant.

Out here in the blogging world there are many people who write about setbacks and binges. There are many words and phrases - accountability, honesty, guilt, being forgiving of myself - that are expressed when describing these setbacks.

We all look at these occurrences from our own perspective. Some people are really tough on themselves - so tough that they eat even more to cope. Others are lenient with themselves and convince themselves that 'one doesn't matter.' A few are mean towards themselves and really criticize their 'failings.' I could go on.

Whenever I'd binge in the past, this is the commentary that would happen in my head:

'You're disgusting. Have you no self-control? You're such a loser. You're useless. You're so fat and ugly. You should be ashamed of yourself. You're pathetic.'

I knew I had done something silly, something that was not helping me work towards reaching my goals at all ... but my negative self-talk didn't help either. It just made me feel worse. It made me feel like there was no way I was going to come out of this abyss. Not only was I useless, but the situation that I was in was hopeless as well. That's when the 'might as well ...' statements started going through my head - just to make things worse!

I'm still irritated at myself for the Doritos incident from Tuesday. I'm annoyed that I'm feeling so hungry and that all I want to do is eat. I'm worried and fearful about losing complete control.

I am aware of all these thoughts and feelings ... and now the dialogue in my head goes like this:

'You need to stop. You need to be careful. It's ok to be hungry, just don't eat crap. Think about all the progress you have made. Do you really want that hard work to go to waste? Eat to fuel your body. Eat to enjoy the flavors of foods that are good for you. You are strong. You are in control. Do not let an inanimate object have power over you. You talk about discipline and focus - now practice it. Be smart. As yourself - are you really hungry? If you are - EAT. Do not be afraid of food, but watch yourself. Do not be stupid. Do not hurt yourself because you deserve better.'

I've noticed a really big change in my tone. While my previous self was really, really harsh and didn't help at all, my current self is still angry, but not in a way that shoves me deeper into a hole. I think it's important to be careful, aware, and strict with yourself. For me, mindless eating is not okay. I don't need to make myself suicidal over it (which used to be the case sometimes), but I do need to be stern with myself.

Some people may see this as a bit extreme. Again, this is just my reaction to the choices that I have made.

Yesterday when I was sitting outside, having some green tea, and waiting for a friend, all I could think was 'I really want a chocolate chip cookie.' That's when I stopped myself and said - eat if you're hungry, but don't eat crap.

I think this is the best advice that I've given to myself. I've gone through so many periods in my life where my fear of eating has led me to starve myself -- which of course only ended up in a binge of junk food ... not smart at all.

Again, to some people having a cheese sandwich may not seem like a big deal. A bag of Doritos (the first time I've eaten chips in who knows how many months - maybe even a year) in the scheme of things may not be a big deal at all. Perhaps it's not. The main thing is that I didn't need it and I really should be more careful.

I do not hate myself for how I've been eating for the past few days, but I do feel disappointed. I know that I can work hard and get back on track RIGHT NOW (not tomorrow or after the next meal or next week) and get over that disappointment. It's so much more uplifting to work with that type of attitude versus one where you just want to continue to hurt yourself in order to somehow escape the self-loathing.

This new perspective - that the reason I should eat well and exercise is because I deserve better - is a huge change for me. I am confident that this rough patch is over (mainly because all that other food is out of the house!!) and that I will continue with the healthy lifestyle that I have been working so hard to cultivate.


  1. I know exactly how you feel, my inner voice has been strikingly similar to yours at times, I'm not sure if I've entirely rid myself of that as you have but it's certainly better. Well done for getting back on track though, it can be very difficult not to slip back into old habits even after just having a few things.

    1. I know. It's especially frustrating because I felt like I finally had a handle on things. Just gotta keep trying!

  2. Ah, those inner voices. We are so hard on ourselves.

    I "try" to remember something I heard a while back when I'm tempted to eat and should not be hungry. If you are hungry, eat an apple. If the apple does not sound good, you are probably not hungry.

    No, I didn't think about that this morning as I was spooning peanut butter out of the jar and into my mouth.

    1. The apple strategy sounds like a good one & very accurate. I'm going to try that!

  3. Hi Plumpetals! I've gotten to the point of thinking about an over-eat as being as small of a thing as possible. I just say to myself, "It's not a big deal." I've stopped chewing myself out or ruminating. As soon as the mind moves on, the eating quickly moves on too--to healthier ways.

    :-) Marion

    1. I'm trying not to let it overwhelm me but I am having trouble letting it go. I guess I still need to work on finding the balance between being aware of my eating and making allowances for how I've eaten.

  4. Great post! I know I mentally harass myself when I feel like I'm wimping out during a workout, but it's not berating myself, it's just shouting down the demons. I no longer hate myself, and so I won't let myself abuse myself anymore!


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