Most of our self-talk about food and everything else is so ingrained that we don’t realize what we’re thinking or saying to ourselves. Self-talk comes in the way of directives or judgments and truly can be a silent killer (of self-esteem and positive motivation) or a life saver. Feelings and actions don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They spring from what we think and tell ourselves which leads to experiencing and doing this rather than that.
I know that you have words, phrases and ideas lodged in your brain learned a long time ago which are damaging your attempts to be a “normal” eater and feel compassionate about your body at any size. But the fact that I know this doesn’t help you unless you know it as well. Moreover, you not only need to be aware of damaging things you say to yourself around food and about your body, you must intentionally develop thoughts and use self-talk that will get and keep you mentally and physically healthy.
Here's an exercise that will help you hear yourself think, which is called being reflective or noticing that you have thoughts that inform your emotions and behaviors. Take some time to think back and go through family situations that will tweak your memory. Answer these questions and mull over the answers:
- What did each of your family members say about your food and eating? Include Mom, Dad, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.
- What did they say about their own eating?
- What did each of your family members say about your weight? Include Mom, Dad, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.
- What did they say about their own weight?
Now think about what you say to yourself about food, eating or weight/size. Does it sound suspiciously like them? Or have you gone in the opposite direction? For example, if they said, “You shouldn’t eat that,” do you tell yourself “I can eat whatever I feel like eating”? If Dad called himself “bad” for eating certain foods, do you do the same? Consider how much of your self-talk comes from what you heard growing up.
For all your self-talk that comes from what you absorbed in childhood, develop new words and images to help you eat “normally” and feel better about your body. You can’t change history, but you can toss out what’s not working and replace it with thoughts and words of compassion and encouragement. What do you want to say when you have a mindless craving, have overeaten, are hungry but feel unentitled to eat, or are looking at your body? Without healthy self-talk, you’ll never have a healthy mind and body.