I love to learn new things, and I love to share them with my Beyond Diet family when I think you will benefit from them. I had heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known as CBT), but I didn' know that much about it until I did some research. Apparently, it's a super-popular form of therapy that can help you defeat negative thinking, and I belive that everyone walking the planet could benefit from practicing its principles.
According to the Mayo Clinic, CBT is a form of psychological counseling that helps you "become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking" by allowing you to "view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way." The basic premise is that if you can change the way you think, you can change the way you feel and act.
I'll take some of that, please!
Unfortunately, mental-health issues still carry some stigma in our society. My personal take on counseling is pretty simple and carries over to every other area in my life: If you are struggling with something (your diet, your relationship, your career, etc.), do some research and use any and all available resources to educate and empower yourself to make a change for the better.
That is exactly what I did when I was creating Beyond Diet. After years of worrying about my weight, self-confidence, and diet, I researched the best ways to eat and fuel my body, and I transformed my life. (The good news for you is that, when it comes to weight loss, I have already done all the research for you!)
After learning about CBT, a light bulb went off in my head: I think CBT exercises would be especially helpful for dieters in our community who are struggling with acceptance, self-confidence, worthiness, and any other negative feelings related to their weight or body.
The most helpful information I found on CBT - and the information I am going to share with you - comes from a clinical psychiatrist, Dr. David Burns, in one of his books, The Feeling Good Handbook. Dr. Burns says that we create our own moods, so we are ultimately in control of changing how we feel.
But how do we accomplish that? Well, the first step is to recognize where our negative thoughts come from. Dr. Burns says that negative thoughts usually fall into one or more of the following 10 categories:
- All-or-Nothing Thinking - Seeing things in black and white; if something isn't perfect then it must be a failure.
Example: "I just had a meal at a restaurant and I didn't follow the Beyond Diet principles. I might as well quit my diet now."
- Overgeneralization - When we experience one setback and declare that things always go wrong for us or that we'll never lose weight.
Example: "I knew this was going to happen. I didn't lose enough weight this week and I'm never going to."
- Mental Filter - When we receive one negative comment and dwell on it, even though there may be many more positive comments.
Example: "Everyone at work keeps telling me how great I look, but my husband said he can't tell a difference in my weight and that my thighs actually look bigger. This diet isn't working."
- Discounting the Positive - When someone says something nice about us or something good happens, but we downplay its significance.
Example: "Thanks, Isabel, for noticing my weight loss, but 20 pounds isn't really that much. I think these jeans just make me look thinner."
- Jumping to Conclusions - You assume everything anyone says is negative, even when there isn't any evidence to support that!
Example: "I bet my two colleagues over there are talking about me and my weight. Everyone must think I look terrible."
- Magnification - Just like it sounds, you blow things out of proportion.
Example: "My 'skinny' jeans still aren't fitting me. They probably won't ever fit me again. I give up."
- Emotional Reasoning - In this type of negative thinking, you transfer your negative emotions to reality.
Example: "I am frustrated that I have so much weight to lose. I must really be a loser to have let myself get in this predicament."
- Labeling - This is taking all-or-nothing thinking to the next level. Instead of telling yourself that you are doing the best you can, you label yourself a failure whenever you make a mistake.
Example: "I completely messed up that new chicken recipe! I am the worst cook in the world."
"Should" Statements - "Should" statements are when you think to yourself, "I should have done this," or "I shouldn't have done that." (I've heard this referred to as "shoulding" all over yourself. Ha! Get it?)
Example: "I should have gone to the gym six times this week, and I only went four. I can't do anything right."
Personalization and Blame - Sometimes we even blame ourselves when things happen that we don't have any control over.
Example: "I've been so successful on Beyond Diet, but I feel like a failure because I introduced it to my sister and she isn't sold on the idea."
Do you recognize yourself in any of these statements? I sure do!
The good news is that once you have a general understanding of the 10 categories of negative thinking, you are on your way to ridding yourself of them. Grab a notebook or journal and label each page with three columns:
- Negative Thought
- Rational Response
Carry your notebook with you all the time, and write down your negative thoughts as soon as they occur. For each negative thought, pick a distortion from the 10 I outlined above. In the last column, write your rational response, or healthier thinking. For example (yours will be in column form):
- Negative Thought: "Even though several people have mentioned how healthy I look lately, I bet they were just saying that to be nice. They probably don't really think I have lost any weight."
- Distortion: Discounting the Positive.
- Rational Response: "Wow, I feel so happy that people are starting to notice my weight loss and efforts to live a healthier lifestyle. In no time at all I will knock their socks off and lose even more weight!"
This method can work wonders - Dr. Burns says the only problem is that people often don't take the time to write their thoughts down! But it's so easy to do once you commit to it, and you will feel much better once you stop letting those negative thoughts control you. So, write it down and don't give up!