Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Avoid Labeling

It is important to have realistic standards and a healthy body image. Obtaining a healthy body image and a healthy weight is desirable for everyone. Not letting how you look determine who you are is part of a healthy self-esteem.

In my last blog, I introduced the theory of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that our thoughts influence how we feel and behave. Monitoring the messages we send ourselves can make a difference in our mood and weight loss outcome. This may not be natural at first, and you may have to stop and ask yourself periodically what you are thinking. All-or-Nothing thinking was discussed last time.

Another thought error is Labeling. This is when you focus on a single characteristic but imply that it’s the whole picture. Instead of labeling, be specific and give an accurate description of what you don’t like. For example, replace “I‘m fat,“ with “I’m forty pounds away from my goal weight range, and I‘m making progress.” Also, make your statement more balanced: “My BMI is higher than my goal, but I’m more active now, I look good in my new clothes, and I feel better.“

People of all sizes use fat talk. For example, “I’m so fat, I have nothing to wear today…”. Pay attention to what you tell yourself when you see your reflection in the mirror. A negative comment is self-defeating and will make you feel worse. Even if you have excess weight to lose, use encouraging phrases, such as, “Good job…I’m making an effort…I’m choosing to live healthier.” If you have had successful weight loss surgery, don’t continue to berate yourself. Now that your BMI is lower, what percent of the time do you spend hating or criticizing your body? Communicate something positive to yourself and appreciate how far you’ve come.

Tune into your self-talk and your tendency to use the word fat as a negative label. Also avoid any self-defeating labels, such as “I’m such an idiot/jerk for eating that ___“; “I’m a failure/stupid for giving up my exercise plan again.“ These discouraging thoughts keep you feeling hopeless and stuck. Remember that weight loss is not a quick fix, but a process. Forgive yourself, avoid labeling and keep pursing your goal.

Help to create a supportive environment for a healthier body image and self-concept wherever you are on your weight loss journey. In my next blog, I’ll be giving you a third thought error to avoid setbacks to further weight loss.

Michel Gunn

Michel Gunn

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