Episode 23: Self-Talk and Affirmations
This episode explores self-talk, affirmations, and how you can make them something you can believe. Learn to pick a quality you aspire to have and phrase it in a way that will be real for you to understand and strive towards. Learn to ladder your affirmations in much the same way you did in Episode 18 on the principle of Kaisen. Exploring the mistakes we make shows us the importance of catching ourselves in the loop of negative self-talk when it happens, and more importantly, how to get out of this loop. Your actionable COACHING ADVICE this week helps you find your moments of negative self-talk, and shows you how to make positive replacements. An interesting "history lesson"' about Émile Coué, shows the power of auto-suggestion.
1:12. Personal story
3:57. What is Self-Talk?
8:25. What are affirmations?
10:47. Pick a quality that you aspire to have
16:27. Émile Coué
20:14. What mistakes are we making?
20:51. Why are we making these mistakes?
22:15. What is the cost of making these mistakes?
22:55. Calling out a new way
24:05. This week's actionable COACHING ADVICE
26:06. This week's VFO (Valuable Free Offer)
27:04. Episode 24, coming up
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Book
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Course
THIS WEEK'S VFO: Learn To Work Through Urges
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Facebook page
Roadmap To Diet Success Instagram
ACCESS Transcript Here
Episode #: 23. Self-Talk and Affirmations
You’re Listening to the Roadmap to Diet Success, Episode #23, Self-Talk and Affirmations.
Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Breaking Free From Diet Prison, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl!
Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or services, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!
1:12 Personal Story
In my book, Language of the Dance – Belly Dance with Amira Jamal, I have a worksheet entitled STOP THAT NEGATIVE SELF-TALK. It was one of the most important lessons in my classes and it is probably one of the most important things you need to learn to have a successful journey with whatever you are doing.
I found that part of getting rid of this negative self-talk is doing “mirror work” which I do daily. I look at myself in my bathroom or bedroom mirror and I tell myself that I am looking good for where I am in my weight loss journey, I am capable and worthwhile. I am a great mother, grandma and wife. I know what I’m doing. I love my life and, if this in the morning, I always add that it is a new day and that I am grateful for another chance to get it right. I am not trying to convince anyone. I only have to believe myself, or, as I talked about my lesson on Dancing in Episode 12, I only have to act as if I believe myself. True believing will eventually come. Even when I have nothing nice to say myself because believing is too far in left field, it is always easy to say “Thank you. You may not have tried your best yesterday, but here you are, and today will be better.”
I find that with my mirroring exercises, I feel best when I ladder my thoughts. I talked about laddering in Episode 18, where you take many gentle steps to get to the top goal. This means I would not say, “Your belly is really flat today.” What I might say is, “Wow, you don’t look bloated today.” In other words I find that with this mirroring exercise, I get a better result acknowledging what is, and how I am working towards improvement. When I go a little too afar of my comfort zone, I find that the mirror reflects my feelings back to me, and when I wince, or just really don’t believe what I am saying, that I know that is an area to work on. Let’s say I have areas to work on!
The Coué method that I will talk about later in this episode, encourages affirmations that reflect that you are getting better every day, and not flat-out affirmations of telling yourself that you have already reached where you would like to see yourself in the future.
3:57 What is Self-Talk?
Self-talk is your inner voice. It is what you are telling yourself all day long as your day unfolds. It can be positive, giving you confidence, encouragement, compliments, optimism, directions, and motivation. It can be negative, fostering discouragement, pointing out your faults and shortcomings, giving you the pessimistic side of things, and totally derailing any hopes, dreams, and goals you may have had. It is not unusual or uncommon to have some of your thoughts be negative – after all, there is research, or at least speculation, that we have tens of thousands of thoughts per day. Some are in a continuous loop and some are random or in reaction to something specific. No matter the number, it cannot be expected to be all positive and wonderful. However, there is no reason to make them all negative and awful, either. Negative self-talk is not helpful. As matter of fact it can be damaging not only in our self-esteem, but it may cause some of us to turn to food which is exactly what we are trying to change. When you have a negative thought stop and ask yourself, “Is this true?”
You need to talk to yourself the way you would to a friend. Be kind and have compassion. A friend comes to you and says, “I am so stupid and lazy. I am trying to follow Granny Keto Transitions Program and I can’t even get through Step 1. Every morning I wake up and say I am not going to have sugar today. By the time my head hits the pillow I have “blown it” again. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
Okay, so you are this person’s friend. Are you going to say, “Yes, you are really stupid and lazy. You are worthless. Don’t even bother”? Or, are you going to say, “This is a really big life change that involves a lot of steps to see it through. Maybe you have to break it up into even smaller steps than you have been doing. How about having a water bottle or even some gum handy, and the next time you want that cookie, reach for the alternative.
"Better yet, put a pack of gum and a small water bottle where you keep the cookies for the kids. Stop and count to 10 and decide which one to reach for. Each and every time you don’t put something sweet in your mouth stop and compliment yourself and realize you have taken a big step. Be kind to yourself. You are not a loser and you are not lazy. Just the fact that you are looking for a better life shows that you are not.”?
Now, imagine that you are that friend. Speak kindly to yourself. Speak positively to yourself. Speak encouragingly to yourself. Mother Theresa said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” You don’t have to have long speeches with yourself. When your hand shoots back from the cookies and picks up the gum just say, “Good job.”
Furthermore, nothing good ever comes of hatred. Some of you might really hate yourselves – either because of your weight or your inability to follow through with a goal. Indulge me with another Mother Theresa quote: “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.”
Drop the negative self-talk as much as you can and have a peace rally with yourself: “You can do this. You are smart and capable. You just haven’t figured it out yet. That little step of reaching for the gum instead of the cookie was a great accomplishment. I’ve got your back. I love you.”
8:25 What are affirmations?
Affirmations are positive statements that reflect that you are already where you would like to be. Examples would be, “I only eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full;” “I am at my ideal weight;” “I never overeat;” “I don’t argue with my partner;” or something like, “I always adore my kids no matter what they do.” Okay, it’s okay to have wishful thinking, where would we be without it? But sometimes these statements are so far away from the truth of your life, you can’t talk yourself into believing them.
Our affirmations are the pep talks, personal compliments, or mantras we say to ourselves to prove ourselves and the beliefs we have about our behavior and identity. There is nothing wrong with affirmations, and even I ask that you set some up in Episode 4, when you construct your WHYs. But the important part is to make the journey believable even if you can’t picture the destination as being true.
What I mean by this, is that you can say, “I am at my ideal weight and looking good.” Some days that affirmation works, and you believe it. You step out with a spring in your step. If you believe it, you more likely go through the day making good food choices, resisting urges, and maybe even exercising. It is true that we are the things that we tell ourselves. If you believe that you are a person who is at her ideal weight and looking good, you will act in a way that supports that.
But, what happens when you don’t believe it? Well in that case, you might tell yourself that you are a liar. But it doesn’t stop there. You tell yourself that
o you are no good and that you will never be at your ideal weight,
o you will never eat in a way that supports weight loss,
o you will never resist urges,
o you look terrible and
o what is this affirmation crap anyway?
Okay let’s not go there. Instead let’s learn to ladder our affirmations.
10:47 Pick a quality that you aspire to have.
Let’s say, “I am good at resisting urges.” If your mind won’t let you accept that learn to move toward it.
· Keep it short. This sentence has six words. Perfect! Don’t let your affirmation get too long. About 7 words is good.
· Start with “I” or “My.” You want to be present in your own affirmation. You want to own it.
· Use the present tense in your affirmation. The past is gone and the future hasn’t happened. There is nothing to be gained from saying something like, “I used to not resist urges but now I will.” Make it a present experience. “I AM good at resisting urges.”
· Don’t use wishful thinking. Stay away from “I would like…” or “I wish…” Make a bold and definitive statement.
· Don’t use negatives. There is some research that shows that your brain only needs the action words. Don’t clutter it with the negative. For instance, don’t say, “I no longer give in to urges,” or “I am not the kind of person who gives into urges.” Plain and simple, no negative: “I am good at resisting urges.”
· Add a tagline of gratitude, such as, “…and I am so grateful I have become that type of person.”
· If you need some laddering even with this simple affirmation, pull it apart and see where you can make it smaller.
o Maybe you don’t believe for a minute that you are a person who is good at resisting urges.
o Instead make it, “Today I am going to resist my usual urge to get a muffin with my coffee.”
o There… no need to be a person who resists urges until you fall into bed at night.
o Just resist this one urge.
o Pick a small one.
o Do it every day until you don’t even have to tell yourself to do it anymore.
o Then one morning you may move on to say, “Today am going to resist the urge I always have to eat a snack in the afternoon.”
o You might enhance that with, “I know I what real hunger is. I am going to resist that habit.”
· It is important to know and acknowledge when you need a ladder. Make the affirmations positive and the direction where you would like to head, but make them doable and believable.
· Your affirmation works only to the extent that the idea is within the realm of possibility. In other words, maybe you can’t affirm, “Someday I will be a point guard for a great basketball team” if you are only 5 feet tall. But you can affirm, “Someday my life will revolve around basketball,” and maybe you will be a sports writer or newscaster, or a sports physical therapist with basketball players as your clients.
· I know I am going a little out of the way here, but I want to make the point that something may not be within the realm of possibility for you, and so such an affirmation is not helpful, and might even be destructive if you get depressed about the inability to reach a dream goal.
· If you really have your heart set on something, be honest about it. You absolutely can, and must, have dreams and dream goals, but you also need to acknowledge the physical reality of having them. You can, however, live in the sphere of that dream goal, just maybe not as you had imagined.
· Moving it to what might be your goal, let me use myself as an example.
o Sure, I would like to have the body I had when I was 20.
o First of all, not gonna happen without surgery – both skin and plastic, near starvation and extremely bad eyesight so I can’t see what is really in the mirror!
o Even if I were to reach some imaginary weight goal, this 70-year old body is not going to look like anyone’s 20-year old body.
o I can dream and I can wish, but the physical reality of it is not possible.
o How about, instead, I have the goal of being a healthy weight for my height and age, and the goal of being as fit as I can be with two knee replacements, a hip replacement and shoulder issues.
o How about if I have the goal of being happy with myself and my life, no matter where I am on that spectrum?
o Hey wait – I am happy with myself and my life.
o Heavens to Betsy – does anyone say that anymore? Heavens to Betsy I’ve reached my dream goal. I’m happy. A few pounds lost here and there or walking a little faster and farther would be nice, but I’m happy.
o What better, more realistic goal than that?
16:27 Émile Coué
Émile Coué, born in 1857, was a French psychologist and pharmacist who introduced optimistic autosuggestion into the realms of psychotherapy and self-improvement. His method evolved over several decades of meticulous observation, theoretical speculation, in-the-field testing, incremental adjustment, and step-by-step transformation. This auto-suggesting technique is what is behind the placebo effect, where a person’s symptoms may improve or the patient might have side effects of the treatment, even though no real drug was used.
Do any of you remember the M*A*S*H* episode where they were dealing with contaminated morphine? The nurses gave the patients something with no drug abilities, telling them that they had a great new drug, and that their pain would disappear in a few minutes, and that they would be feeling comfortable and sleepy? I looked it up and it is Season 6 Episode 24. It made a lasting impression on me, and is part of the reason I am so intrigued with Émile Coué’s work.
Coué’s method for autosuggestion is to say, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” There couldn’t be a better ladder than this. You don’t even have to be specific about resisting urges, having a flat belly, being kind to your kids, or finishing work projects. Just tell yourself – several times a day, and some of those in the mirror - “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
This is positive thinking, which has gotten a bad rap. To keep it out of bad-rap territory, pair your positive thinking and affirmations with reality, or at least the bubble of the reality you would like to have. And make sure you define that reality.
My sister-in-law recently said something that shook my world. I was telling her that I would like to lose a certain amount of weight. She said, “What if you are already at the weight you are meant to be?” She went on to say, “You have been this weight for the past 10 years; you are healthy; you dress well; your life is incredible.” Now my daily affirmations are not, “I weight 50 pounds less than I do now;” “I follow my diet plan;” or “My belly is flat.” My affirmation now is, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” This means that I acknowledge that maybe although I could weigh 50 pounds less, my belly could be flatter or I could be following an eating plan or eating style better than I am, it’s enough to just be better than I was yesterday. Maybe I don’t follow an urge to have a muffin with coffee, maybe I do take a short walk after breakfast, or maybe I do some meal planning. It’s enough just to not be stagnant and to move towards being better than I was yesterday.
A direct link to more information on Émile Coué is in the show notes and transcript.
20:14 What mistakes are we making?
· We make the mistake of not realizing the importance of catching ourselves in that loop of negative self-talk.
· We make the mistake of not even questioning whether the thoughts are true or not.
· We make the mistake of not laddering our affirmations so that they are something we can believe.
· We make the mistake of not talking kindly to ourselves. We know the words. We have them for friends, family and even strangers. Why not ourselves?
20:51 Why are we making these mistakes?
· We make these mistakes because we do not have a level of awareness that makes us pay attention to our own thoughts and we don’t realize that eventually, in most cases, we become what we think.
· We make these mistakes because we don’t take the split second necessary to ask whether the thoughts even hold water. If we take that split second asking whether something is true or not and the answer is that the thought is not true, then we don’t take the time to explore why we think this way.
· We don’t realize that the expression “Biting off more than you can chew” has more to do than just with the physical. We don’t realize that our minds sometimes bite off more than it can chew and that is why affirmations and positive self-talk seem so unreal and unattainable. It is just that we must take smaller bites.
· We make the mistake of not being kind to ourselves because we are our own worse critic. We think that we can whip ourselves into shape by pointing out our faults and shortcomings. Not so. We can gently change by being kind and showing ourselves that we are worth the effort.
22:15 What is the cost of making these mistakes?
· I think the cost here is apparent.
· We never get the change we want in ourselves because we can’t really see the change we want in ourselves.
· Because we don’t ladder our affirmations and speak kindly to ourselves nothing really changes.
· There is truth to the expression: “It’s not that you will believe it when you see it. It is that you will see it when you believe it.”
· We think less of ourselves because we don’t see the change. But first we must believe that we are worthy and capable of it.
22:55 I want to call out a new way of doing things
· Catch your thinking and self-talk as much as you can.
· If you catch yourself thinking something like, “Idiot. You just ate that cookie,” counter it with, “You have turned to food all your life either mindlessly or to avoid something or to feel better. You are not an idiot. You are doing what you know to do. That’s actually pretty smart! BUT – it’s time to learn something new to do. I love you.” Often this conversation is just a clip or even something that floats by in your thoughts. But it is important to start acknowledging the other side of things.
· Decide what you want to see in yourself and peel back the layers until you get to something you can believe. Make that your affirmation and slowly work your way back up to your ultimate goal or quality. Don’t dismiss an affirmation out of hand because it is something you cannot believe about yourself at that moment.
24:05 HERE IS YOUR ACTIONABLE COACHING ADVICE FOR THIS WEEK:
· Make yourself a worksheet in your journal or on a piece of paper.
· Make two columns: “Negative Thoughts” and “Positive Replacements”
· Either make it a dedicated “exercise” or just jot down your thoughts when you are aware of them. As a matter of fact, I strongly suggest that you catch these thoughts and make replacement thoughts as soon as they come up.
· If you are driving or otherwise engaged when the negative thoughts come up, it’s okay. Just acknowledge them.
· Remember the 10,000 thoughts per day and the endless loops going nowhere. If you can just catch a negative thought, you will get so far ahead in this process.
· As a matter of fact, try this affirmation on for size: “I am getting really good at catching my negative thoughts.” Go further: “I am getting really good at catching my negative thoughts and I am getting really good at asking myself, IS THIS TRUE?”
· I am not asking you to fend off every negative thought. I just want you to catch yourself, and put a pause while you ask, “Is this true?”
· Here is an example of a Negative Thoughts/Positive Replacements worksheet. You will also find it in the transcript.
· Think of how to script some of your positive replacements into realistic affirmations.
| Negative Thoughts | Positive Replacements
| I’m so lazy I don’t even go for a walk. | Start with just around the block. I bet after you are walking for a little while you will look
forward to longer walks.
| I’m so stupid. I was “good” all day and
ate a box of cookies before going to bed. | Well, you are not stupid. You are usually tired
and anxious by the end of the day, very fertile
conditions for overeating. Tomorrow night just
stop and try to sit with your anxiety a few
minutes and also try to go to bed a little earlier if
| I can’t do this. | Yes, you can. There is a lot that is going well.
You have been making meal plans – maybe you
just have to make them more “realistic” so that
they are easier to follow. AND you passed that
box of cookies in the grocery store today!
26:06 This week’s VFO (Valuable Free Offer)
This week’s VFO is “Break Out of Diet Prison: Learn to Work Through Urges.” Start there with your affirmations. Take the section “Forget the Bubble Baths” and add “Can I Just…” to each suggestion. For instance, can you just close your eyes and breathe? Great. Then this week’s ladder affirmation for “I am able to ignore my urges to eat” can be “I am able to close my eyes and breathe every time I get an urge to eat.” A lot of our overeating comes from urges, cravings and binges. Use this booklet to help you start laddering positive affirmations around these.
27:04 Next week’s episode
Next week’s episode is locus of control, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. I know… too sciencey and not what you signed up for, but believe me, you will want to listen to this one. Remember in last week’s coaching advice I talked about it being time to start writing your own roadmap? These three concepts will give you incredible insight into knowing your own character, and what it will take to make you successful while being in the driver’s seat, not in the passenger seat of the latest greatest promises.
So go share the show with your friends, let them know that’s coming up in the next episode, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Roadmap to Diet Success.
And, if you like what you hear, please like and subscribe, and remember to leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps other people find the show. Also, don’t be a stranger. Come on over to my Facebook page, Breaking Free from Diet Prison, and let me know if there is anything you would like to see on the show.
Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.