The work of weight loss begins with changing what you put in your mouth. Lasting success is the result of learning positive self-talk and changing what you put in your head.
Some time ago, I read an interview – Beth Aldrich’s Real Moms’ Strategy: Love Food & Lose Weight. She helps her new clients create lists of healthy things they love to keep on hand while reshaping their diets. By keeping a physical reminder close by, her clients can spend more time focused on what they “get to” enjoy and less on what they “have to” avoid.
Aldrich’s approach reminded me of a technique my Weight Watcher’s leader, Pam, taught us that really helped me re-frame my thoughts and emotions about weight loss and beyond. Pam was a huge advocate for positive self-talk. She taught me the importance of addressing emotional and mental health with weight loss.
Pam regularly encouraged us to identify “have to’s” and “get to’s.” Pointing out how easy it is to complain about all the things we “have to” do when we could be focusing on all the available choices.
“Have to” vs. “Get to”
Stripped down to the true essentials, life has very few “have to’s.” In order to exist we “have to” breathe, ingest some nourishment, and sleep from time to time. That’s about it. After fulfilling those primitive requirements, all the other things we fill our days with are “get to” activities.
This extreme simplification is where the work of mental re-framing and positive self-talk begins. Pam proposed that we spend a week replacing every thought or utterance of “have to” with “get to.” This is not an easy exercise. It is so easy to feel like we are stuck in our “season of life.” How often do we say we “have to” do something when what we really mean is “I don’t want to! I don’t want to! I don’t want to!”
Change the Record!
Purposefully switching to positive self-talk can help you loosen your grip on the emotional baggage that comes from feeling stuck in your circumstances. If we start thinking about tasks and obligations as opportunities and privileges it puts them into a more positive light, it may even foster a sense of gratitude. Becoming more positive about these activities makes them seem less daunting, mundane, or menial.
Certainly, there are circumstances out of our control. However, letting life “happen” day after day is exhausting. A woe-is-me attitude bleeds into all the areas of our lives – hello comfort eating on the couch! And, you better believe that your kids are learning from your actions and attitude.
Positive Self-Talk = Empowerment
Influenced by Pam, I have been using this exercise for several years. Over time, my attitude toward uncomfortable tasks has changed. Where I used to feel helpless or put upon, I now look for a way to feel empowered.
Combine Beth’s advice with Pam’s and find a way to turn the “have to’s” into things you love. If you have to go to a social obligation you can do it in your favorite outfit. If you have to have to eat healthy – spice it up – make your meal look beautiful on the plate. If you have to exercise, get your heart pumping with an activity love or a friend at your side. If you have to be everything to everyone, start and end your day with five minutes of quite reflection.
Remember: You have to breathe but, you get to stop and smell the roses.
Your Turn! Spend a week substituting every “have to” with a “get to” both in your internal monologue and spoken words. If you need a reminder put little notes up in your home, car, and office. At the end of the week take an emotional inventory and see if anything feels different. Repeat as needed or desired.
Interestingly, in addition to leading a weekly Weight Watchers meeting, Pam volunteered at a local prison where she helped inmates see beyond their circumstances and take responsibility for their choices. The settings were different but both groups had more than a little in common. She taught both groups the importance of replacing “have to” with “get to”.
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