Is Saying “I Can’t Stick to a Diet” Destroying Your Diet?

Saying “I can’t stick to a diet,” may be the reason you can’t stick to your diet. The words we say to ourselves influence our thinking and behavior. Learn 6 things to stop saying about eating and diets, so you can finally stick to your diet.


Kicking yourself over what you ate last night? Been there. Done that.

What does it feel like when you hear yourself saying your own version of these:

“I can’t eat that.”

“I can’t stick to a diet.”

“I’ll never lose weight.”

Really. What does it feel like?

I remember how it felt for me. I felt weak, like a loser. Shame filled my entire being. I was certain I was doomed to a future of blubber and poor health.

Negative thoughts hold you back!

Whatever your own internal condemnatory scripts are, I’m pretty sure they aren’t helping you move forward. It’s hard (impossible?) to be successful when you berate yourself.

People change better when they feel better about themselves.

Even if it’s only in your head, words have power. Choose them carefully.

Lots of folks tell me they’re purposefully hard on themselves to get motivated for healthy eating, exercise or other changes. They call it tough love. Only thing is, it doesn’t work. Even if you’re not fully aware of your negative thoughts, they influence how you view yourself, the world and the leftover pizza in the fridge.

leftover pizza

How do you view the leftover pizza in the fridge? © Can Stock Photo / stevanovicigor

“I can’t stick to a diet” and 5 other things to stop saying

Good news: negative self-talk can be unlearned. And when that burden is gone, eating and living a healthy lifestyle are so much easier and way more fun!

Hint: A lot of these harmful sentences have negative words in them like “never,” “can’t” and “shouldn’t.”

  1. Stop saying: “I can’t stick to a diet.” Stop right there. Thoughts are not facts. Not being successful now isn’t a guarantee of what’s to come. Likewise, “I’ll never lose weight,” or “I’ll never get my blood sugar in control,” are not facts. They are ugly thoughts in your head. I can’t think of anyone (self included) who permanently lost weight without several attempts.
    • Instead say: “I’m still figuring out this healthy eating stuff.” And that’s the truth, isn’t it?
  2.  Stop saying: “I can’t eat that.” Unless you’re allergic or otherwise intolerant, of course, you can eat that cookie, pizza or chocolate-covered cricket (I passed on the cricket, by the way). By forbidding yourself to eat something you want, you set yourself up for feeling deprived. And that often leads to a terrible cycle of eat-regret-repeat.
    • Instead say: “I choose not to eat that because it doesn’t fit with my goals. Alternatively, you can learn to enjoy your favorite foods in reasonable amounts. Check out How to Manage Food Cravings.
  3. Stop saying: “But others can do it, so I should be able to also.” Social comparisons often backfire. No one is just like you. No one has your body, genetics, preferences, schedule, obligations, life experiences and so on.
    • Instead say: “I’d like to figure out how to do that too.” Then make a plan. If your goal is to pack your lunch, your plan might involve asking for help, creating a menu, cooking extra for dinner to carry leftovers, prepping foods on the weekends, starting a lunch club at work or any number of things. Whatever your goal, you’re more likely to celebrate success if you have strategies rather than just working harder, relying on unreliable willpower, or shaming yourself for not being like others.
  4. Stop saying: “I’ll start my diet over tomorrow (or Monday). If you faltered on your healthy eating plan today, acknowledge it and move on – right now. Not tomorrow. And certainly not Monday. One meal or one day doesn’t make your diet a disaster – any more than it could make your diet terrific. And the damage of one day is likely very little. Waiting to get back on track just takes you farther from your goals. This is the all-or-nothing mindset in action. Check out Your Brain’s Autopilot is Destroying Your Diet.
    • Instead say: “Yikes, I did not behave in my best interest. Let me shake that off, and get right back on track. Then forgive your mistake, recognize that there’s no need for it to have a lasting effect, and make the next choice a healthy choice. Here are 5 things to do after overeating.
  5. Stop saying: “I’ll make up for that bad food with more exercise.” Goodness gracious, exercise is not a form of punishment for misbehavior, and eating something unplanned and undesirable is no reason to be punished anyway. Go for a run, head to the gym or swirl with a hula hoop for all the reasons exercise is awesome. Don’t try to sweat away extra calories or the sins of overindulgence. Take a look at What You Need to Know about Exercise for Weight Loss.
    • Instead say: “Those fried chicken wings didn’t do my health any good, so I’m back on track right now.” And mean it.
  6. Stop saying: “I deserve to eat this because I’ve had a hard week.” What you eat and how hard life has been lately are unrelated. What you do deserve is good health and good times. It’s okay to treat yourself, but call it a treat. Don’t justify it.
    • Instead say: “I’m going to treat myself with just a little something extra tonight.”

You can learn to stop those ugly scripts on repeat in your head

cookies on a platter may lead to emotional eating

These yummy toffee cookies are a treat (not a cheat).

Try this 4-step process. And by the way, I’ve got a worksheet for you at the bottom of this post.

1.  Notice the hurtful self-talk. What we choose to say to ourselves can empower us or take our power away. Listen for negative self-talk and write it down. Putting it in writing helps you clarify your thoughts and take ownership of them. Write down the trigger that caused your negative self-talk also.

And this makes you feel uncomfortable, good. It means it’s working.

2.  Ask if your words are kind. If you wouldn’t say them to a friend, don’t say them to yourself. Speak to yourself from a place of kindness and truth. Remember, thoughts are not facts.

3.  Identify the words and phrases to lose. Get rid of the negative language: can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t. Statements like “I shouldn’t eat in that restaurant” or “I can’t keep ice cream in the house without pigging out” make you out as weak or a victim. Be empowered with “I choose not to eat in that restaurant” or “I haven’t yet mastered managing portions when I have ice cream in the freezer.”

“Yet” is a wonderful word when you struggle with changing your behaviors. Use it often.

4.  Find replacement scripts. With kindness, speak the truth. Something like: “I’m still figuring out this healthy eating stuff.”

Imagine viewing that leftover pizza as leftovers rather than a diet minefield.

Get your FREE 2-page worksheet to stop the negative thoughts holding you back from  health eating success

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Jill-Weisenberger_about-image-2
Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

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1 Comment

  1. Jenday on August 13, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    This is very motivating!

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Welcome to my Blog

Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.

Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

And I believe willpower is way overrated.

Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.

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