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It can be hard to get to
and stay at a healthy weight. It takes healthy eating and regular exercise.
These can be hard changes to make. But you can help yourself succeed just by
thinking that you can succeed. If you tell yourself negative things—"I can't do
this. Why bother?"—change will be harder. But if you encourage yourself with
thoughts like "I can do this," you can raise your chance of success.
With time and practice, you can change what you say to yourself. You can
learn to think in a healthy way even when you make a mistake.
The first step is to notice and stop your negative thoughts or "self-talk." Self-talk is what you think and believe about
yourself and your experiences. It's like a running commentary in your head.
Your self-talk may be rational and helpful. Or it may be negative and not
The next step is to ask yourself whether your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful. Look at what you're saying to yourself. Does
the evidence support your negative thought? Some of your self-talk may be true.
Or it may be partly true but exaggerated. There are several kinds of irrational
thoughts. Here are a few types:
The next step is to choose an accurate, helpful thought to replace the unhelpful one.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts
is one of the best ways to practice stopping, asking, and choosing your thoughts. It makes you aware of your self-talk. Write down any negative or
unhelpful thoughts you had during the day. If you think you might not remember
them at the end of your day, keep a notepad with you so that you can write down
thoughts as they occur. Then write down helpful messages to correct the
If you do this every day, helpful thoughts will
soon come naturally.
But there may be some truth in some of your
negative thoughts. You may have some things you want to work on. If you didn't
perform as well as you would like on something, write that down. You can work
on a plan to correct or improve that area.
If you want, you also
can write down what kind of irrational thought you had. Your journal entries
might look something like this:
Stop your negative thought
Ask what type of negative thought you had
Choose an accurate, helpful thought
"I ruined my eating plan by
having so much pizza tonight."
"I wish I didn't eat so much pizza. But
it's only one meal. I stayed on my eating plan really well the rest of the
"I should never have pizza or
"Having dessert or pizza now and then is
okay if it's part of my eating plan."
"I can never stick with an
"I've had some problems sticking with an
exercise plan in the past. But that doesn't mean I can't do it in the future.
I've made other changes in my life."
"If I can't lose 10 pounds this
month, then I'm going to give up this eating plan."
All or nothing
"I'm going to try to set a realistic goal.
It may be a smaller goal than before, but I'm still working toward a healthy
Other Works Consulted
Hart SL, Hart TA (2010). The future of cognitive behavioral interventions within behavioral medicine. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 24(4): 344–353.
Layous K et al. (2011). Delivering happiness: Translating positive psychology intervention research for treating major and minor depressive disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(8): 675–683.
Lightsey OR, et al. (2012). Can positive thinking reduce negative affect? A test of potential mediating mechanisms. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26(1): 71–88.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Changing patterns of limited thinking. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 27–45. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Uncovering automatic thoughts. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 15–25. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Newman CF, Beck AT (2009). Cognitive therapy. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol 2., pp. 2857–2873. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
August 3, 2012
Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
& Sue Barton, PhD, PsyD - Behavioral Health
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