When you haven’t succeeded in reaching your eating (or other) goals, does that mean you’ve failed? Does not succeeding signify that you’re at the end of a process or in the middle of one? Does it mean that you’ve tried your hardest and should give up or that you’re simply not there yet? How you answer these questions will predict your success.

People who’ve tired for decades to develop a healthy relationship with food or to lose weight or keep it off often complain, “I’m a failure,” “This won’t work,” or “I’ll never be a ‘normal’ eater.” Although it’s crucial to be honest and not deny or minimize reality, believing you’re a failure lays the ground work for it because it stops you from trying. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to totally eliminate the high-voltage word failure from your vocabulary because it so easily can trigger negative feelings about yourself.

When I began my journey to “normal” eating half a lifetime ago, I didn’t think about failing. Sure, I was often frustrated and hopeless, but I didn’t tell myself I would fail just because I hadn’t yet succeeded. Instead, I took the stance that I had to work harder, didn’t know enough, hadn’t had practice enough making appropriate food choices, lacked adequate skills or proficiency in them to tune into my appetite effectively, and hadn’t been doing “normal” eating long enough for it to take hold 24/7. Success was always out there as an option, as a reasonable, achievable goal.

Winston Churchill, author of an all-time favorite quote, says that “Success means going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Okay, he used the “f” word here—failure—but that’s okay because his meaning is indelibly clear: keep your chin and your spirits high, remain upbeat, and keep soldiering on. Another quote (whose origins I can’t identify) goes something like this: Success is nothing more than standing on a pile of failures. Yup, there’s the “f” word again, but once more it’s used in such a way that it reframes failure in a positive light—failure is nothing less than a precursor to success.

Why are you so attached to saying and believing you’ve failed? What would you give up if you deleted “failure” from your vocabulary? What would happen if you rethought the struggle you’re going through with food and weight and simply viewed yourself as on the road to success, but not there yet? As far as I’m concerned, saying you’ve failed or (even worse!) that you are a failure is a cop-out. The word is infused with the belief that you’re a victim and can’t do anything about it. Do you want to be and act like a victim? If not, then (right now, this minute) stop thinking and sounding like one.