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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Royal Fatfighting Tools-- #5: Managing Thoughts

As if it weren't hard enough to manage food and manage time and manage movement, one thing that can't be left out of the fatfighting arsenal is...managing thoughts.

I don't know about you--I can only guess!--but I know that I can have a slew of pessimistic, defeatist thoughts.

"I never finish anything, I won't finish this."

"I'm weak."

"This is too much to handle."

"I can't resist pizza!"

"I hate exercising."

"I don't have the energy to do this."

"I want X. I want X. I want X. I gotta have X."

But to win at losing, managing thoughts is the only way to manage actions, because all actions begin with a desire, and all desires find form in some thought, no matter how basic. Even if it's only a mental "yes" to something to which we need to give a mental "no."

Ultimately, we are what we think and think and think again. So, to become who we want to become, managing thoughts is essential, whether it's about one's spiritual path, one's marital unity, one's artistic endeavors, one's politics, one's relationships...or one's weight loss success or failure:

Identify self-sabotaging thoughts. Pay attention to your negative thinking. Are you saying to yourself "This is too difficult," "I'll never be able to lose this much weight," or "I'm too tired." Remember, the goal is to MANAGE these thoughts when they pop up.
--from Life Coach Lorri Molinari

To defeat my fat, I have to defeat my fat thinking.

I'm getting slowly, slowly better at it. I do notice that I talk more positively to myself (a big difference than in times past). And as a result, I feel more positive these days. When I make bad choices, I don't spend the rest of the day in a funk, telling myself off in nasty terms. I forgive myself and say, "I'm not giving up. My next choice will be better."

It's a hard process to change the internal thoughtscape. It's really hard when one is middle-aged and has spent a life with a lot of self-criticism and even self-loathing.

But it's happening. Little by little, I'm thinking differently. I'm befriending my brain and spirit. I'm being kinder to myself, and I'm taking a new perspective as a habit.

It's still not automatic.

I do think I will invest in professional cognitive behavioral therapy. Right now, I'm spending so much on good, organic food and personal exercise training, that there's no moolah for therapy. But it's on my agenda for, I hope, next year. I have to find a good, solid practitioner and have the focus for it, but I do believe it's a necessary next step for my own healing of habits.

I don't want to lose a significant amount of weight only to regain it because I didn't learn the skills necessary for long-term success:

It is widely recognized that the development of behavioral and cognitive skills learned during weight loss is critical to successful maintenance. Indeed, lacking coping and problem-solving skills appear to be important factors in weight regain after a loss.
--from the Weight Watchers article "Mind Skills for Lasting Weight Loss."

One of the thoughts I'm "losing" is the, "Oh, well, I pigged out already today, so might as well have whatever I want. The day is shot."

That's defeatist. That's a bad mental habit.

Another thought I'm working on losing: "I feel low. I feel blue. I need to feel better. Pizza makes me feel better. I deserve a pizza."

That's self-indulgent. That's a bad mental habit.

When I feel blue (as I have had periodic depressions since childhood), I need to replace eating with exercise (which elevates mood) or singing (which gets oxygen in there and can elevate mood) or calling a sister or praying or reading an escapist novel or anything that's not fattening and can help me through the blues.

But the thought must come first: "No, eating will make me feel better for a little while, but going for a walk or doing some Pilates moves will make me feel better all day." or "No, eating will only add to my problems, not solve them. I need to do something creative with my blues. I'm gonna write a poem. I'm gonna write a song. I'm gonna express my feeling with a collage."

It takes time to learn new rituals of thought, healthful ones. It's worth it, no?

Identify your self-sabotaging thoughts and stop them from entering your head. The best way to do this is to stop being overly critical of yourself. When you think you can not do something, you probably will give up before you even try. If you do not think you can do 30 sit-ups, then do 10 and feel good that you did 10. You can probably do one extra sit-up each day until you reach 30. Identifying why something makes you feel bad can help prevent those situations in the future.
--from "7 Methods to Lose Weight by Thinking Yourself Thin"

Pay attention to your thinking today. Have you said unkind things to yourself? Have you been harsh? Have you been self-indulgent? Have you fueled your tempting thoughts? Or have you been positive? Have you used mental strategies to avert overeating today? Have you used mental affirmations to get your body moving? Did you congratulate yourself heartily when you chose well?

How are you managing your thoughts today?


JC said...

Great post. Good advice. Another way to life your mood is to laugh. A merry heart does good like a medicine that is somewhere in Proverbs. You can't laugh without smiling. Grace and blessing to you.

spunkysuzi said...

I admit i'm so bad with the oh i've blown it now so i may as well start over tomorrow!! So that every little thing that i may have blown it turns into an entire days overeating.
I'm really going to try to start with the attitude that it's only one small thing and yes i can do better next time!
Thanks for this well timed post!

Heather said...

great post! I used to beleive I would fail, and surprise! I always did. I would start something and think, it will never work. and it never did. I would think I messed up a day because I overate, so I would overeat the rest of the day. Needless to say, I never got very far. Its not always easy to believe in yourself and what you can do, but it is so necessary to being successful. It sounds like you are on the right path to losing these negative thoughts and believing in yourself.

Lyn said...

I loved reading this today. I never thought about these thoughts being self-indulgent and "bad mental habits." Good point there.

Something I have done is positive imagery at bedtime. Sometimes I worry a lot and can't sleep, so I lie there with my eyes closed and imagine myself thin, healthy, and strong. I try and get very vivid with the imagination... walking along the beach, feeling the sand between my toes, feeling the muscles I have developed, being happy. Like you said we become what we think, so I like doing this and turning my brain around a bit!

MizFit said...

I was rereading CONFESSIONS OF A CARB QUEEN yesterday.
have you read that?

man, she echos what youve said here...


Chrissie said...

Managing my thoughts is a challenge for me. I always have some sort of doubtful thought in my head and tend to very negative. I am trying to be a little bit more positive lately though.

Roni said...


new*me said...

really positive stuff here. I am trying to recognize the bad patterns when they occur. Most of the time, I embrace the inner voice to do something positive like exercise rather than making 33 dozen cookies and eating them :) It's a learning process!

Vickie said...

I agree - really good posting.

I didn't realize that my thoughts were running away with me - all the time - until I started yoga - several years ago.

Being alone on my yoga mat - with my mind - was deafening.

It took time to learn the poses. It took more time to learn to quiet my mind.

In my first yoga classes the instructor explained the process as acknowledging thoughts - but not thinking them - sort of poofing them out of your mind - like gently blowing away a small floating cloud.

And as these thoughts leave your mind you turn again and again to your breath - keeping your mind relaxed and present.

Yoga has been as much a part of my "process" as my therapist.

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Harmie said...

Oh yes, I say such terrible things about myself. Things no one who knows me would say. I get away with it most of the time, because it's internal.

When I externalize, my hubby usually squishes my negativity with his positivity and adoration. (Adoration is awesome.)

Oh, and by the way... YOU CAN DO IT! (Well, you are doing it.) And health is an incredible prize to be shooting for.