Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice & Stick to Your Diet
If your critical inner voice beats you up because you didn’t stick to your diet, you can feel better right away and get healthier too.
I’ve watched tears drip from the corners of patients’ eyes struggling to keep their voices steady while telling me about their latest diet failings. Too many cookies, didn’t follow through on meal planning, succumbed to greasy takeout and Ben and Jerry’s in the same day. The shame, desperation, and self-loathing are real.
“I’ll never lose weight!”
“Diabetes will beat me.”
“I’m so weak.”
The emotions aren’t proportional to the mistakes, but my clients don’t see that. I’ve been there myself, but fortunately it was eons ago. These days my critical inner voice doesn’t tear me down over what I ate or because I didn’t workout. But I hear some nasties inside my head when I’m impatient with my husband, a telemarketer or my dog Benny. I’ve beaten myself up when I’ve been left out of something I wanted to join. It must be my fault, right?
The technique to feel better and quiet your critical inner voice
Rick Hanson, Ph.D, author of Resilient, says to put together a caring committee. Yep, sounds weird, but I love it.
Here are a few of my committee members and what they’ve said to me when I was down, confused or hard on myself.
- Emily (my younger daughter): “You got this Mom!” (I’m capable.)
- Erin (my older daughter): “Oh Mamma, I’m so proud of you.” (I’m worthy.)
- A close friend: “I’m not surprised you’d feel that way.” (I’m understood.)
- Benny: “You’re the best person in the whole world. You’re the best. You’re the best. You’re the very, very best.” Anyone else give dialogue to their four-legged best friends? (I’m loved.)
- Gloria Vanderbilt: “Follow your bliss.” Apparently, her son Anderson Cooper credits her with saying this to him when he wrestled with options after college. I always wanted someone to tell me this, so I let Gloria Vanderbilt say it inside my head. My committee member is actually a cross between Gloria Vanderbilt and Carol Brady (from the Brady Bunch): Mrs. Brady always encouraged 6 very different kids to pursue their interests. (“Follow your bliss” tells me that my happiness is worth some risk.)
My committee meets inside my brain when my own inner wisdom isn’t enough. Other committee members are my husband, my doctor, a therapist, my friend Karen, Dr. Julia Ogden from the Murdoch Mysteries, and assorted other real and fictional people. Yep, I’m putting myself out there today, aren’t I? These are the people who validate me, tell me I’m worthy and capable, and bring me back to reality when I’m not able to do it myself.
Why silencing your inner critic will help you stick to your diet plan
I’ve always helped my patients and readers speak to themselves with the same voice and words they would use with others. You would never tell someone “you’re a pig and will never lose weight” or “you’ll never stick to your diet,” would you? So why would you tolerate those words from yourself? I love Hanson’s ideas about a caring committee to help you self nurture and tone down your critical inner voice. Imagine someone supportive and wise talking to you. Those are the words and tone you should hear.
Being hard on yourself will not help you accomplish your goals. Being hypercritical hinders success, in part, because of the way it shapes your identity. If you want to jog regularly, telling yourself you’re too lazy to get into the jogging habit reinforces that you’re not a jogger and probably never will be. And telling yourself you’ll never stick to your diet practically guarantees that you won’t stick to your diet plan long term.
Who is on your caring committee?
Who will remind you that lazy is the wrong word because lazy people don’t do all the demanding things you do? Who will help you brainstorm ways to get into the jogging habit? And who makes you feel better and brings you back to reality when your critical inner voice makes you feel like you’ll never lose weight, eat right, exercise regularly or manage your diabetes?
Lots of folks need more help. Seek out the expert care of a trained therapist if you’re overwhelmed with negative feelings.
Build and rebuild your caring committee as often as necessary.
6 steps to silence your critical inner voice
(my interpretation from Resilient)
- Fight that obnoxious voice. Assume your inner critic is wrong until proven otherwise.
- Argue with your inner critic’s nasty comments. For example, if you hear “you’re too weak to ever pass up baked goods,” respond with believable and truthful rebuttals such as “I didn’t eat cake at the office party last week,” “I didn’t order dessert at the restaurant last night,” and “there are so many times I could have eaten dessert but I didn’t!”
- Imagine various committee members standing up for you. Listen to their words as they defend you against your inner critic. Let the meaning of their words sink in with you. Recognize the feelings of being defended and supported.
- Speak to yourself honestly. Acknowledge the grain of truth, and notice the exaggerated parts of that mean inner dialogue.
- Stand firm that the exaggerated critical parts are untrue. Acknowledge that the words and the feelings they bring up do not help you.
- Separate yourself from your inner critic. Notice the good feelings of reassurance and encouragement. Allow those feelings and the feelings of worthiness, strength, confidence, and truthfulness to overpower the feelings of inadequacy and shame.
Remind yourself that succumbing to the call of greasy takeout and Ben and Jerry’s in the same day proves nothing about tomorrow. It proves nothing about right now.
For more on mindset, self-talk and emotional eating, give these a read.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.