Dietary Self-Talk
September 14, 2008 2:01 PM   Subscribe

What's some successful self talk to help me reach my weight loss goals?

I am on a doctor-recommended diet after overeating for years. When I’m stressed by life’s normal little burdens, I find it very difficult to stick to the diet. It’s almost like the rational part of my brain shuts down, and the rest of it says “Eat! Eat! Stuff yourself!”

So I’d like to counteract that with some statements that other dieters have found helpful. Not so much “a minute on the lips, forever on the hips” and more “if I eat this, it will be harder to reach my goal, so I should drink water instead.”

The diet is an excellent one, with lots of fruit and unlimited vegetables, so I don’t need recommendations in that area. Unfortunately, when I’m cranky, I aim straight for pasta or bread beyond what I’m allowed. However, I’m open to other suggestions. Remember, my problem is not about knowing what to do. I know what to do. It’s about maintaining the consistent discipline to do it, and maintaining the discipline past hungry o'clock.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth, is a very helpful book. I hear good things about a newer book on the topic: Shrink Yourself: Break Free from Emotional Eating Forever by Roger Gould, but haven't read that personally.

Good luck in your quest to learn healthier eating habits!
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:12 PM on September 14, 2008

Whenever I feel like blowing my diet, it's usually b/c I crave a certain food, or a miss how somethign tastes. (This week, for instance, I was driving myself crazy with a longing for chinese take-out). When this happens, I try to think about my meals of the previous weeks. Honestly, do I remember them? Did I have fun eating them?

If there's no long-term memorable experience (it's not a friend's birthday at a fancy restaurant, it's not thanksgiving, etc.), and it's just me by myself being an idiot, then what's the point? I'd rather save the yummy, "bad" meals for a memorable occasion.

Also, I prep almost all my meals in advance. I already have monday and tuesday's meals ready to go. This helps me avoid the "well, a little mayo on my sandwich right now won't hurt" mentality.
posted by unexpected at 2:13 PM on September 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

I trained myself out of a terrible habit of compulsive overeating. The thing that worked the best for me was to notice I was hungry and that I wanted something particularly high calorie and tasty that I would stuff myself with, I would have something low calorie and satisfying on hand, at all times. So I would tell myself -- okay, you can get yourself some French Fries if you are still hungry after eating a bowl of soup and drinking a glass of water. That would almost always do the trick, even if I was still hungry after just the bowl of soup, the edge was off enough that I could resist the stuff I really shouldn't have been eating.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:19 PM on September 14, 2008

"There's nothing that tastes as good as being skinny feels."

Good luck!
posted by sharkfu at 2:35 PM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

A friend of mine uses a "if you don't put it in your mouth later, you won't have to take it off your butt later" mantra.

I do what pazageek does, and just snack on fruit.
posted by orange swan at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2008

Should have read: A friend of mine uses a "if you don't put it in your mouth now, you won't have to take it off your butt later" mantra.
posted by orange swan at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"There's nothing that tastes as good as being skinny feels."

I think that that kind of thinking is what leads many people into yo-yo dieting, actually.

Having been way underweight, thanks to compulsive dieting, and way overweight and out of shape, thanks to emotional eating, I think that getting away from that mindset is necessary for creating lasting healthy eating and exercise habits.

"Being skinny" doesn't necessarily feel good. Being healthy and fit feels amazing, but it's not the same thing as being skinny.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:07 PM on September 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

In my untrained opinion, the target feeling for being on a diet is a feeling of slight hunger. A sort of, "Yeah, I could eat," without being ravenously hungry. If you are ravenously hungry then you should eat something sensible and not try to talk yourself out of it. Otherwise you should view this slight hunger with pride, as a sign that you are disciplined and that your mind can control your body. Once you start to enjoy the sensation of hunger (as a sign of discipline), it will be easier to reject the urge to overindulge. You can view that urge as an opportunity to demonstrate your strength of will, and then take pride in yourself when you overcome it.

I think this is really the best way to do it, rather than try to trick your body by eating celery when you really want a cupcake, for example.
posted by skallagrim at 3:20 PM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

@Sidhedevil: well, it helped me lose my weight and keep it off, but my concept of skinny already involves "healthy skinny" as a part of it. obviously, if you're prone to compulsive dieting you could substitute the word "healthy" for "skinny" (and definitely get therapy to work on the compulsive part).

What dietary self-talk do you suggest for the original poster?
posted by sharkfu at 3:36 PM on September 14, 2008

I think the phrase to look for is mantra. Here are some I just googled up.
I can lose weight.
I deserve to stick to my diet.
I am confident that I can lose weight.

I think that choosing to consider these statements above might be helpful in returning to rational thought.
posted by b33j at 3:55 PM on September 14, 2008

I don't buy the stuff about counting calories at all. My body has a metabolism, and not an open flame heating water degree by degree. I understand the logic of the calorie counting set, but experience has demonstrated to me otherwise. I don't think that the biological system of the body uses the same math.

I have been losing weight steadily for a many weeks now at around 1.5 to 2 pounds a week. My weight loss has been from 330 lbs in January '08, to 290 lbs as of last Thursday, September 11, '08. The first part of the weight loss I was using a weird strategy that was more inconsistent. Then I changed over to eating differently and my weight loss has been consistent.

One major thing that seems strange to me is fat, I used to avoid it, but now I don't, it fills me up and keeps me going for a long time. I do not avoid carbohydrates, I just get them from sources that are not explicitly carbohydrates. Some foods just seem to be more steady and even, fat is one, protein is another, and vegetables, however they work. When I eat breads and cereals, I can tell when they wear out, I get grouchy or almost kind of paranoid, or my hands shake and I feel weird, there is definitely some up and down. If I just eat nuts and salad and meat, even bacon, everything is just kind of steady, and not the up and down that keeps me eating with the carb heavy foods.

I am commenting with this information, even though it seems indirect to the topic, because I have noticed something really strange that I have not experienced before eating this way. The strange thing is, that the motivational mind game is almost not there. I am weighed on Thursdays and many times I get anxious because I have not felt like I am actually trying to lose weight, with the effort of willpower and restriction, but somehow, the scales keep showing me lower numbers.

It strikes me how weird it is to hear people talk about weight loss. Some foods are impossible to find without the weight loss marketing attached. It is almost like we are all repressed in this psychological manner. It seems like we avoid taboo foods like bacon almost like the people used to think womens ankles needed to be covered so people wouldn't lust. I ate two pounds of bacon last week, and lost 2.25 lbs, this does not even address how many nuts I ate too. I did not exercise either.

I realize that discipline is an issue, but self control is a limited resource. It is better to minimize the amount of motivational head show and find something that doesn't clog the mind with some manner of internal goading or flagellation. If you need discipline that involves holding back what is natural and good, you might try something different, as it will be harder to discipline yourself for life than it will be to have fulfilling habits.

So, to give the self talk thing.


Nuts, Bacon, Salad, & Meat, Vegetables , Fruit and Cheese are to eat.
posted by Vague_Blur at 4:01 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Choose Better" works wonders for me because it breaks down "dieting" or "getting healthy" or "losing weight" into much more manageable chunks, very small decisions, that over time, have a big impact.
posted by SoulOnIce at 4:31 PM on September 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

If I'm tempted by food, I think carefully about how the second or third bite is going to taste and usually decide it's not worth it. The flip side of this is accepting that I will eat those things that pass the second-bite test and not letting those occasions derail my overall plan.
posted by backupjesus at 4:54 PM on September 14, 2008

What dietary self-talk do you suggest for the original poster?

I don't recommend any "dietary" self talk, because I don't believe in diets.

The books I recommended upthread are about how to retrain yourself to avoid emotional eating. This appears to be the core issue the OP is dealing with.

I like SoulOnIce's "Choose Better" idea, too!
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:55 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is one that often works for me:

I never regret eating well, but I always regret giving in to bad eating. I apply this to exercise, as well. I never regret going to the gym, but I always regret not going. I'd like to live my life with as few regrets as possible, and I never regret doing the right thing in terms of health. The converse is not true.

This one is also huge for me: I remind myself that the crappy feeling of junk food withdrawal does not last forever. I think we often give up because we think that long term healthy living is about suffering permanently, while we deprive ourselves. If we think this is true, there's no way we'll hold out when cravings hit. But the wonderful truth is that when we stick to healthy living, cravings eventually get reprogrammed to prefer better foods. When you desire to reach for what you can't have, view it through a lens of temporary discomfort, not permanent suffering. You'll be surprised how soon down the road you'll prefer fruit and vegis over things that aren't good for you.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:51 PM on September 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I eat when I'm upset/I'm bored. Eating to solve this problem is like scratching my arm when my nose itches."
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:19 PM on September 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

"Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels," incidentally, is a popular saying in pro-ana communities and gives me the willies. Your goal should be physical and mental health, not skinniness.

What helps me is a version of SoulOnIce's idea. I will tell myself things like "I can make the right choice" or "I choose not to eat that candy." Framing my thoughts so that I'm aware that I have a conscious choice, in that very moment, helps me a lot.

Quicker and more succinct: "I can do this."

When you feel the need to reach for the things you crave, ask yourself questions such as "Am I hungry? Will I feel better an hour after I eat this? Why do I want to eat this? Is there something else I can do that will make me feel satisfied?" and so on.

Good luck!
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:25 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I try and focus on calories, and effort required to compensate for it.

`Hey, a chocolate bar!... wait, I'd need to walk for... forty five minutes to get rid of that. No thanks'.
posted by tomble at 9:33 PM on September 14, 2008

Whether or not you feed it, the craving will pass. (I read this here.)
posted by inactivist at 11:34 PM on September 14, 2008

I have been doing (albeit more slowly than the program initially recommends - I'm on exercise week 8, but program week 4) the One Hundred Push Ups exercise program.

It's been an interesting ride so far, and the reason I bring it up is that the program is, while partly about physical training, also quite a bit about mental/emotional training. It's true that my arms/shoulders/back have to get stronger for me to do this, but it's also true that I have to learn to move though discomfort/pain and get to my goal.

In setting reasonably increasing goals along the way, the idea is to get to a point where I can do one hundred push ups in one "set", which for me means one session of being face-down on the floor, but can accommodate some short rests (a few breaths long) as needed.

I do exercises on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and sometimes a spot test on the weekend to see how I'm doing with the 100 push ups goal (my initial test was 10, I'm now at 45 - probably higher since I haven't tested in a few weeks). Every day hurts, and the pushing through the actual exercise that day involves, for me, getting up a half hour early and then a feat of will to get all the way to the end. (the middle set of 5 sets is invariably the most difficult for me). There's almost always a point in the exercise morning where I consider just quitting.

I think a couple of things help me not quit:
- I have an exercise partner. We don't always exercise together, but we do talk about the program and where we're at with it.
- I am stubborn as a mule, and the thought of quitting usually ends up driving me toward overachieving.
- I have friends and family (and I think I believe this too) who believe that (exercise) pain is our friend. Not only is there a buzzy little endorphine high, but pain is evidence that you are alive. Some discomfort is okay, and it usually doesn't last.
- There are no excuses. If I quit, it would because I quit. There wouldn't be an injury involved or some nicety to explain it all away. I did once injure an arm so I skipped a day, but that was it. I'm wired so that quitting is much worse to me than hurting a little (and getting stronger/fitter) in the morning.

Maybe this will help you?
posted by kalessin at 4:39 AM on September 15, 2008

It's got its faults (being horribly gynocentric and yet sexist at the same time), but Stop Stuffing Yourself is not a bad source for these kinds of techniques.
posted by WCityMike at 3:15 PM on September 16, 2008

The book "Fat is a feminist issue" has many useful (mental) exercises to counter bingeing and get to a healthier and more intuitive way of eating.
posted by meijusa at 9:57 AM on September 18, 2008

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