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  • Julia Axelbaum

Emotional Eating Makeover: How Your Thoughts Can Affect Your Weight

A Special Series on Making Over Parts of Your Life to Eat Better and Lose Weight - Part 2


When we think about makeovers, we usually think about our style or clothes—but not today. Today, I’d like you to talk about a different kind of makeover—a mindset makeover. For this makeover, we’re going to work with a very busy part of our body—the brain. The brain makes somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 decisions a day including what, when and how you eat! 


So, let’s get started with the mindset makeover and put the brain to work.


Think positively. A big part of this makeover is reframing your thoughts to think positively. This doesn’t mean smiling all the time or pretending to be in a good mood (everyone has a bad day once in a while). It means acknowledging your accomplishments no matter how small and congratulating yourself. When you decide to eat fruit instead of opening a bag of chips or when you decide to take a walk on a chilly morning instead of hitting snooze… know that you’ve acted to help yourself and enjoy this accomplishment.  This helps build momentum to being aware and in tune with your feelings and will be incredibly important in your journey toward a healthy body. It will take a little practice and a little time, but the benefits are monumental to create lasting change.


Think about your thoughts. Yes, paying attention to how you’re thinking and what you’re thinking about is incredibly important. Say you skipped a workout because you were busy or finished a tub of ice cream when you were upset or angry, take a step back and check in on your thoughts. When we feel we have lost control over our plans, it’s easy to spiral into negative space. Instead, force yourself to pause and simply notice the negative thoughts (such as guilt or shame) without judgment. Try to visualize the thoughts drifting in front of you and watch them float away as you remind yourself that this is all normal- negative thoughts will come and go all the time and that’s okay. Remind yourself that no one is perfect 100% of the time. Actively stop allowing your brain to continue on with those punishing thoughts and pick up right where you left off.   


Think differently. When we reframe our thoughts, we change our actions. For example, when you think, “I’m never going to lose weight.”, first start by noticing the thought without judgement. Next, think about the reason for this thought - what triggered me to think this way and how could I avoid it next time? Then, try to find evidence to both support and contradict that thought. Support: “I did not fit into a pair of pants after a whole month of rigorous workouts and strict diet.” Contradict: “I’ve lost X pounds in the past and I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing to get to my goals.” Now, take all of this information into account and reframe the negative thought in a more realistic and balanced way. Try to imagine what your best friend would respond. Reframe: “Even though the scale has not gone down this month, I know from experience that there are always going to be scale fluctuations throughout this process. If I continue to focus on healthy habits, and stay consistent in my routine, I will continue to see results.”


Change your vocabulary. Change your mindset. This makeover is about your thoughts and it’s also about your words. When you say “won’t”, “can’t” or “don’t”, catch yourself and think and speak differently. Go from “I won’t be able to resist desserts” to “I will pick one dessert I love and enjoy every bite”. Instead of “I can’t run for 5 long miles” try “I can run for 2”. During this makeover, we’re tossing out those negative words that are holding you back.


Here are a few more things you need to help make this mindset makeover a success:


Practice patience and forgiveness: Don’t expect perfection from yourself. Realize that a slip up or two is part of the process. Know that change takes time. 


Ask for support: Brunches, lunches, happy hours… enjoying food is always about family and friends. So ask for their support. Explain why losing weight is important to you and specify ways in which they can be supportive. 


Remind yourself you’re in charge: Always remember that you make the choices. Decide what’s best for you, think about what you want for yourself—prove your inner strength.


Lose the excuse: When you start making excuses, stop and start counting backwards from five in your head. By the time you get down to one, force yourself to physically move in the direction of what you want to be doing. Getting off the couch, putting on your sneakers…


Remember, it’s our thoughts that drive us to make food choices, to be motivated (or not) to exercise, to cheer or criticize, to persist or to quit… This mindset makeover is about retraining the brain so you can think and act in ways that help you eat better, feel better and live a healthy life.


Next up on our special 3-part makeover series, The Metabolism Makeover— exploring the factors that affect metabolism and how to speed it up. Catch up on Part 1 of the series—the Kitchen Makeover, and until next time, eat healthy and be well.

 
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