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  • Paige Smathers

37: Ways to Work Through Problematic Self-Talk


Episode 8 in the Body Image Series on NMP is all about how to develop positive self-talk. So often, one negative thought leads to a cascade of choices and thoughts that lead us to a place of despair, discouragement and shame. Christy Maloney, RDN, LDN, CPT is a registered dietitian who works with people who are in recovery from an eating disorder and has tons of experience helping people work through negative self-talk. In this episode, 5 filters mental filters are discussed in detail helping you develop practical ways to work through problematic thinking.

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Full transcript:

Paige: Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of Nutrition Matters Podcast. My name is Paige, your host and this is episode 37 of Nutrition Matters Podcast and episode 8 of the body image series. So, I think it’s incredibly important to talk about self-talk as it relates to body image. So, that’s what we’re going to be doing today with my guest. Let me introduce my guest with you today and we’ll get started. So, just a heads up, I have a lot of Christy’s coming in the line up. Today is no different. We have Christy Maloney who is a registered dietician that has a history of working in acute care, long term care, food service management, community health and outpatient and currently she is now a nutrition therapist for the RENFREW center in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was hoping I was saying that right, Christy.

Christy: Yeah, that’s correct.

Paige: She works with high level outpatient programs where she oversees meals, group therapy and individual nutrition sessions for patients and partial hospitalization program, or PHP. Christy has an undergraduate degree in Psychology followed by a degree in Human Nutrition. She did her dietetic internship with Winthrop University in South Carolina and two years ago, Christy became a certified personal trainer through NASM. Christy lives just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, her nine month old daughter, Stella and her dog, Stu. So, Christy, welcome to Nutrition Matters!

Christy: Hi, Paige! Thank you so much for having me, I appreciate it.

Paige: Oh, I’m so glad. So, I had a whirlwind of people contacting me and I’m trying to remember. You contacted me saying, you’d love to be on, is that right? Am I remembering that right?

Christy: That is correct. I am a fan of the podcast and I had sent you a facebook message letting you know how much I enjoyed it and I let my patients know about your podcast because it’s really the message that we try to put out here at RENFREW Center and let you know if you needed any help, or if I could be of any help in any way that I’d be glad to join. So, I’m so glad you extended the invitation.

Paige: Well, I’m always looking for great guests, so I’m really glad and loving it when people will reach out like you did. So, thank you, Christy.

So, we talked about in your introduction that you have a really well rounded balanced experience in the world of nutrition, but you’re loving your current role in working with folks with eating disorders, is that right? Have you found your little niche?

Christy: I have found my niche. I believe, truly, this is home. With an undergraduate degree in Psychology and then in Nutrition it really just combines the two pieces. Because we know that often times with eating disorders anxiety and depression and other things can kind of come along with that so, it’s really a nice mirror of the two degrees and it’s really where I love and what I enjoy and where I hope to stay for a really long time.

Paige: Yeah, awesome. So, with that background, I was trying to think of something you and I could talk about that would be along your expertise and I really wanted to chat with you about how we can help the people that we work with and how we as community members and friends and family; how can we help each other develop the ability to talk positively in our own heads? This is a struggle. I don’t care who you are, right?

Christy: Absolutely! Absolutely it is, for sure.

Paige: Yeah, I’ve gone through times in my life where I’ve been not as kind and it makes a big difference in your quality of life and in your decisions and in your ability to succeed. So, I’m excited to have this conversation because it’s far reaching and meaningful within the world of nutrition and eating disorders and disordered eating and then also just, hopefully expanding it out to just in general; talking positively in our own heads. I’m excited that you have that dual background in Psychology and also in Nutrition to be able to marry those worlds as we talk about this.

Christy: Yeah! Absolutely

Paige: So, I thought we’d maybe start out with the Mindful Eating Manifesto from Dr. Susan Albers. So, let me just read this mindful eating manifesto and then we’ll kind of just go from there and talking about positive self talk. So, the Mindful Eating Manifesto, here it goes. Being nourished and well fed is critical to being your best. Focus, create, innovate, authentically create and simply be the most amazing you. The first step to healthy eating is to focus more on how you eat than what you eat. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy delicious food in a mindful way. When prepared well, healthy food is stunningly delicious, filling to the belly and exposes junk food as the highly processed, pumped with artificial fluff that it is. The comfort food brings is disappointingly fleeting, hunger can be deceptive. Mindfulness can help distinguish emotional from true physical hunger. Whether you eat, snack, munch, dine or take just one bite, always, always keep your mindful inner light switched on. So, sorry if I read that a little bit funny, this is an infographic where there’s different fonts and different colors

Christy: Yeah, I have the same one.

Paige: Oh, you have that one too?

Christy: Yeah

Paige: It’s a little hard to read it in a flowing way. I just really like that. I thought that was really applicable to our discussion. So, tell me, what are your reactions to that. What do you like about it? Or not like about it?

Christy: When I think about being nourished and well fed as being your best, I think that’s 100% true. When I meet with clients that are not nourished they’re not at their best. They can’t think clearly. We know that carbohydrate intake impacts serotonin levels, which can link to depression and anxiety. They’ve kind of rerouted themselves and their neural pathways to be wired up for anxiety and not eating and that kind of thing. So, when I think about being nourished and well fed, the thing that I go do is my brain is well fed. I can think clearly. I have my personality as it truly is. I’m not a show of myself. I have a big life versus a small life that’s all about food. I was just talking about that today in a group. When you get so focused on food and your internal dialogue is,”What am I going to eat? I should eat, I shouldn't eat…” all those things, it makes your life very small. So, when I think about mindful eating it is to fuel your best life and to be your best self. “It’s okay to enjoy delicious food in a mindful way” … love that. Absolutely. I definitely come from all foods fit kind of standpoint. So, we don’t exclude cookies and cake just like we don’t exclude salad and steamed veggies. We need a little bit of everything to be mentally and physically well. I would say the one thing I maybe take slight issue with in this is saying that “healthy food is stunningly delicious, filling to the belly and exposes junk food is highly processed and pumped with artificial fluff.” I agree. Healthy food is delicious and filling to the belly, I love it. I think I really come of a place of “good food bad food” mentality; we don’t go there. I don’t think that’s really helpful for anybody. So, my concern is someone reading that thinking, “Oh, if I have a poptart then I’m eating something processed that’s awful” and I believe there’s room in life for poptarts. Outside of that, I really agree with the message here in terms of you want to distinguish emotional and physical hunger and you want to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full and enjoy what you’re eating and use that to live your best life, which is, hopefully, the goal for everybody.

Paige: Yeah, I had that same sort of cringing reaction when I read that part. I wanted to read it in it’s entirety just because I think it’s important for us to talk about it, even if it’s a little bit negative. I think we can take that too far .I think we can take that idea of this isn’t nourishing or it’s the artificial fluff, or whatever it was that she said. I think we can take that and make that extreme and turn that into an issue. Actually, this correlates with what we’re talking about here today is your self talk.

Christy: Absolutely

Paige: So, I think what you mentioned about all foods can fit, even a poptart and I think I agree. I don’t think I agree, I DO agree. I just think that we need to talk about that and work on what we’re saying in our own head about ourselves. So, do you have any other ways to correlate that manifesto into this conversation here?

Christy: No, I think just what you’re saying if someone were to read that and have that impact self talk I think that can happen in a number of ways. You read the first sentence and it says be nourished and well fed. That can really lead to some really positive self talk. “I need to be nourished. I need to be well fed. I’m feeding my body the things I need to get through the day and to live my best life” I think what you hit on is that the flip side of that of this is junk food, this is processed, pumped artificial fluff then that leads to the negative self talk which can perpetuate eating disorders and disordered eating. If someone were to have a poptart and then think about how they ate “junk food” then that leads to the negative self talk in terms of hearing over and over, “I shouldn’t have done that. I screwed up. I’m such a bad person” leading into, “I’m never going to have the body I want, I’m never going to have the life I want. No one’s going to love me” and it just spirals and spirals out of control. It’s kind of eye opening that one line or one simple phrase, “ I eat junk food” can lead to, “I’m going to be alone forever, nobody loves me and my body’s terrible”, but that’s the way it goes. It really does.

Paige: Right. That’s so true. So, let’s talk about what self talk is. If someone’s never really thought about this or heard about this idea, let’s talk about what it is and what it isn’t.

Christy: Yeah. So, for me, I really define self talk as an inner dialogue. It’s that tape that’s playing in your head at all times. Just to have a specific definition and we can branch off on that. I looked it up at dictionary.com, what do they define self talk as. And then I’ll talk about how I apply that. So, their definition is “The act or practice of talking to oneself either aloud or silently and mentally” It’s a running tape. So, it can be aloud, it can be things you say out loud to yourself, but for our purposes I really think abou that mental tape, the mental messages that are constantly going through your head. The voice in your head. What you hear, what you think all the time definitely impacts your life, your ability to enjoy life, your ability to enjoy food, all those things. It’s spirals quickly, kind of like what we were talking about positive self talk and “I feel good today, I look good, things are going well for me, I feel really motivated today”, that’s positive self talk and that’s an example of how it can fuel you to do good and great things, but when we talk about negative self talk that’s going to be the one, “I had a poptart” and it spirals into, “Nobody’s going to love me because I had a poptart” and it just really drives the continued eating disorder/disordered eating cycle as it applies to that. I like that you can take ideas of things, parts of things that you like and can apply and be able to, with a critical eye really look at that and I like that.

Paige: Yeah. So, Christy, let’s talk about where does negative self talk come from? How does someone get into that example we’ve been talking about with, “I ate a poptart, so I’m a worthless human being”. How does somebody… that doesn’t just happen one day, how do we get there?

Christy: A lot of times, it’s societal messages that we get and a lot of times it’s messages we get from our family. We get struck with a lot of food rules early in life, the “I should eat this” “I shouldn’t eat that” “I’m “good” if I eat a grilled chicken salad, but I’m “bad” if I have chocolate cake” We really begin to apply that and I think the self talk really starts to happen especially negatively and around food when we begin to make food moral. That morality associated with food and the development of eating disorders can be very complicated. It can often times begin with trauma or bullying, body image kind of stuff, but either way we apply those messages we get, we apply our disordered relationship with food and that becomes internal dialogue in our head of “I’m good if I eat this, I’m bad if I eat this, I’m good if I don’t eat that” and it just becomes a way to control. So, if we stray away from our very strict rules and our small world eating habits, that’s when the negative self talk begins. “I’ve created these rules for myself, they’re very deep and ingrained and if I don’t do that, something bad is going to happen” So, the negative self talk kind of evolves from there. And keep in mind, there’s messages and thoughts can be formed over years. I agree with you that it doesn’t necessarily happen quickly, it takes some time, but when they are there, they are there and they are strong.

Paige: I’m thinking back in my life and I’m thinking about how negative self talk came up. I think a lot of my negative self talk came from coaches. If I’m really being honest I think a lot of times the negative tape playing in my mind was stuff I had heard coaches say to me because I was really competitive and really wanted to be the best and really wanted to perform the way that everybody expected me to.

Christy: Yeah! So taking the negative self talk and trying to make it propel you to be better.

Paige: Right, right. So, I wonder if that makes it difficult for someone who sees positive things coming out of it. What do you say about that?

Christy: I agree with that. I agree on the level of someone being a coach, a trusted adult so why in the world wouldn't you trust him. This negative dialogue they’re creating in my head makes sense to me. They’re a trusted coach, I need to do what they’re telling me, I need to be better so yeah, it does feel like it’s serving you in some way. I think any kind of negative self talk, especially as I’ve seen it in the world of eating disorders; people cling to that and feel like it’s making them feel better and without this [they] have no rules, [they] have no control. [They’re] sort of free falling, spiraling and [they’re] not going to be good enough for anybody or anything without this negative self talk that’s driving [them] to be better in some way.

Paige: Is it a lie that it helps you be better? I’m just wondering is that premise faulty in and of itself? Does it really help us be better to be negative in our heads?

Christy: I don’t think that it does because, I think with any sort of self talk, like we talked about with that self talk spiral that tends to happen. Eventually, it’s going to overpower you. Eventually, I don’t think there is going to be any positive coming out of it because eventually you’re just seeing so much negative. I think on some level it can appear to be a good thing at first, because if I’m a swimmer and I need to be faster and I think, “Gosh, I should practice another hour today because I need to be faster and better and stronger” yeah, it looks like it’s serving you, but then it turns to, “If I practice another hour today then maybe I can practice two more hours today, or three more hours today” and then you get the spiral, the self talk spiral and then the behavioral spiral where it’s no longer serving you. And it’s really hard to define where that spiral begins and put a break in that gray area.

Paige: So, you mentioned the negative self-talk spiral, that I think we’ve defined then you also mentioned a negative behavior spiral so, talk about what that might look like.

Christy: Yeah, so, that’s when the self-talk is pushing you to be better and pushing you to be better at whatever it is. It might be sports, it might even to be better at your eating disorder and then the behavior spirals out of control and suddenly in order to be better and feel better I have to one up myself. I have to do more today than I did yesterday and while that can sound okay on a surface when you apply it at especially eating disorders and disordered eating that begins to spiral into that heavily restrict or binge or purge or overexercise. The behavior spiral comes after that because the thoughts keep getting louder and bigger.

Paige: Yeah and I always talk about this with my eating disorder clients, one on one. Just the idea that sometimes you’re quieting down the eating disorder by giving in to what it’s telling you to do, whether it’s to restrict or to over exercise or the things you mentioned. But in reality that just makes it louder and louder. That just makes that thought in your brain have more power. Wouldn’t you agree?

Christy: Absolutely! When someone comes into treatment with me, I always tell them if your eating disorder isn’t screaming at you, then I’m not not poking the bear and doing my job because when someone has an eating disorder and they acquiesce to those thoughts and they’re doing what the eating disorder tells them to, I think they feel like they’re peaceful and in control, but in reality that’s when the extreme out of control is happening. That negative self-talk is propelling them further and further in their eating disorder. The behaviors become worse and worse. The way to get through that talk in your head of “I must restrict breakfast” or “I must run ‘x’ amount of hours today” or “I must purge after dinner” the way to get through that is to really challenge that eating disorder. At the RENFREW Center we talk about reappraising those thoughts. Beginning to think I’m seeing my thought pattern here and it’s negative and it’s not serving me, so how do I begin to look at this differently? How do I create a different pattern for myself?

Paige: Or even binging, or even that urge to binge.

Christy: Even that, any of the array of symptoms. You look at how do I change my thought process and do things differently now. And just being aware of that internal tape.

Paige: For sure, and to be aware that maybe that’s… actually we’ll talk about it, I’m getting ahead of myself here. So, that’s a good segway into battling it. So, I think the first step is probably recognizing what’s going on and recognizing and taking a non judgemental, like we talk about in this podcast just being curious about those thoughts and taking a bit of an inventory of total thoughts throughout the day and what is it on average? Are they positive? Are they self-defeating? Are they negative? Are they encouraging? Are they helpful? Just get an idea of where your thoughts are and if after doing and you notice that you are really really struggling with negativity and negative self-talk, let’s talk about some tactics for working through that. I think, first of all, it’s important for us to just say right out that it’s normal to struggle and part of negative self-talk might be a little bit helpful where it helps you look internally and maybe say, “Wow, I really do need to improve on that” or whatever, but if it gets out of balance and it’s just constant, just tearing yourself down and leading to, like you said, those behavior spirals then you know that you might need to take a look. So, any thoughts before we get into the meat of this?

Christy: Yes, so tactics on changing that, I really like what you said, taking a thoughts inventory. Really looking at how much, like you said, are my thoughts positive, how much are negative and then really thinking on, “So out of my hours of the day, out of my waking hours how much are my negative thoughts taking up my life? How small has my life gotten? And what has been excluded from my life due to these negative thoughts? What have I cut out? What’s gone away? How’s my life gotten smaller and been impacted?” I think when you identify that, one: you become more aware of your thoughts. You see where your thoughts are going. Just that awareness can begin to really work toward change. But then two: when you see what it’s taken away from you, how it’s impacting you, that becomes real motivation to change the way you’re talking to yourself, which then, of course, in turn changes the way you’re doing things in your actions.

Paige: Especially when you align that with what your values are and what you really want out of life. If you see what it’s taking away and you see what you really want it’s becomes a pretty clear equation.

Christy: Absolutely. And definitely if I see someone, I’ll just use an example of maybe someone in college that’s struggling with being at a low weight and with anorexia and having to drop out of college. We’ll talk about if [their] goal is to graduate from college and get a job and maybe [their] goal one day is to get married and have children, if [they] can’t be well enough to get through college, [their] not going to get the job you want. And if [they] can’t be well enough to function a relationship, [they’re] not going to find that partner [they] want in life and if [their] body isn’t well enough to carry a baby, if that’s a goal for [them], that’s another dream that’s taken away. So, then we really talk about, “Is that worth it to you?” That’s a question I ask my patients all the time when we identify this is what I had, these are my dreams and this is what it’s taken away from me, I just simply ask, is this worth it to you? And sometimes the sad part is in that moment it might still be because the negative self-talk is there. The eating disorder is still really loud, but often times you’ll see a shift where people will say, “I’m not willing to give that up anymore and I want to fight. I want to fight to change my thought patterns and my behaviors”.

Paige: Yeah, awesome! So, do you have a preference on where we start with ideas for battling negative self-talk? Or do you want me to just go through this little outline that we’ve generated?

Christy: Yeah, we’ll just go with the outline, that’d be great.

Paige: Okay! So, the first one I wanted to talk about was reality testing. So, go ahead and I’ll just let you elaborate on that one.

Christy: Yes, so reality testing is you’re looking at, “Is my thinking evidence based?” I really like to call that fact checking. So, if someone comes to me and they say, “Oh, goodness, I’ve gained ‘x’ amount of pounds and none of my clothes and my life is just out of control and I’m never going to find a relationship” we have the negative self-talk spiral going on. So, we want to step back to, “Alright, have you gained weight? Has anything physically changed? If it has physically changed, is that for the better? Is this the goal we’re working toward?” And at RENFREW we really talk about looking at reappraisals of thoughts. So, if I feel like I’ve gained weight and my life is out of control so reappraising that. Maybe I’m in weight restoration and I need to gain weight to be healthy. Really looking at the thought that is the negative component and maybe is the starting spiral and just asking yourself, is there another way I can look at this? Is there another reality that could possibly be the situation that isn’t this extreme negative to where I’ve taken it. Often times when I start looking at that then we can really identify the core; the original thought that started the spiral and we can begin to kind of attack that and think well this is where it started and how can I look at that thought differently. It’s not necessarily about pushing the thought away and saying, “No, that’s wrong, I shouldn’t be thinking that”, but it’s just, “The thought is here, this is what it lead to, is there another way that I could possibly see this? Is there another way to reappraise this and put myself on the positive self-talk path. Just simply put, looking at it that way. That kind of bounces into “Are my thoughts factual? Or are they just the interpretations? Is what I’m thinking is actual fact or is it fear based? Is it eating disorder based? Is it my eating disorder filter on my thought that’s spinning this negative self-talk out of control?” And jumping to negative conclusions. Thinking about am I jumping to, “Well, I feel this way, I feel a certain way that might not be the most positive? Have I taken it just to the extreme and how this is going to impact my life? And how do I recognize and deal with those distortions?” They’re probably not true, so you’re beginning to recognize the negative thought and stop it before it becomes a distortion. Before you’ve taken it so far that it’s not longer even a viable possibility.

Paige: I really liked what you said about how we’re not trying to push these thoughts away and say don’t ever have that thought. That’s a bad thought, don’t think about it because that’s just not necessarily reality and not really feasible.

Christy: And I think it perpetuates the negative self-talk cycle. If you think about, I had this thought, it’s bad, I shouldn’t think that; well then you’re caught in I’m a bad person for even having the thought. That sort of secondary reaction that sends you down that path. The more you try to push away the more feel like a bad person and the more you make it worse.

Paige: Well, and the more you try not to think about something, the more you do think about it, in reality.

Christy: Every time!

Paige: So, I think that’s an important distinction is that we’re not saying don’t ever think about negative things, but to frame it in a way that it’s kind of more like what do we pay attention to? Do we pay attention to every little thought? Or do we naturally have hundreds and thousands of thoughts every day that come in and out of our brain without much thought, right? So, I think it’s not necessarily getting rid of these thoughts, but you do decrease the volume of them by #1: not paying attention to them, and then #2: trying to start, maybe it’s like a positive mantra that you do. Maybe it’s reality testing like we’ve just been talking about, but it’s definitely not us saying, don’t ever think that. Because that’s just not what works.

Christy” No, that’s not going to work any time and I always talk about those thoughts are going to come. They will, the negative thoughts are going to come, hopefully, fewer and farther between, but they will and it’s more about what do you do with it? I had a negative thought am I going to let this impact me? Am I going to search for the reason I had that, the antecedent to the situation? Or am I going to let myself go down the negativity spiral and have a pity party for one and just get fully immersed in that negativity? The thoughts may come, but what are you going to do with it?

Paige: Yeah, for sure. Okay, so one idea is just simply testing the reality of the thought. So, good example is: you put on a pair of jeans and they’re a little bit tighter than usual and then you think, “Oh my gosh, I am getting so fat! None of my clothes fit. No one’s ever going to love me, blah blah blah.” on and on and on, right?

Christy: Right! That’s the spiral, yep!

Paige: So, what if before it goes anywhere past these jeans fitting a little bit tighter, what if you look at, “Okay, well, are these jeans a smaller pair of jeans than the ones I normally wear? Are these jeans, freshly out of the dryer? Are they just a little bit tighter because that is what it is? Is it really true that none of my clothes fit? Or what did I do last night? Did I eat a really big dinner? Do I just kind of feel a little bit bloated this morning? Am I about to start my period?” What is going on here? And I think testing the reality can stop that spiral from continuing onward and stopping it right in the beginning when it’s still in that innocent phase, is that a fair way of saying it?

Christy: I think so. I think so. I think that’s a common example. I think everyone’s had that experience of you put something on and it’s like, “Aww, that doesn't feel like remember.” And you go through the list, “What's going on here?” And I think I would even add to that list, “So, physically, did any of these things change?” But I also would look at the emotional aspect too. “Am I having a day where I just don’t feel as good about myself? Is there any cognitive distortions there? Do they actually fit tighter? So, I’ve looked through my physical stuff, if none of that remains to be true, then how am I feeling about myself today? Is there something going on that precedes this?” Just going there with the emotions because the emotions are going to cause a multitude of thoughts, a number of physical sensations in your body, pants feel tighter, that sort of stuff. So just really looking at that as well.

Paige: Here’s what I just thought of, Christy, is I think the key with this conversation about self-talk is recognizing when you do when you thought like “Wow these jeans don’t fit like they normally do”. Recognizing what it is and calling it what it is, which is definitely has the potential to lead you down a negative spiral and just assessing it at that point and recognizing that this is a thought that could send [you] off, what are [you] going to do about it? Because there’s nothing wrong with that thought. It might even be true that your jeans fit differently and maybe that’s good and maybe that’s not great, but, I think what happens for so many people is they get 5 to 10 to 15 thoughts down the line or behaviors down the line from that initial one and just have no idea how they got to where they are, right?

Christy: Right, exactly.

Paige: They’re sitting there eating an entire gallon of ice cream and they’re like, what is even going on? And if they trace it back they realize that morning they put on a pair of jeans that just didn’t fit like they normally do and there they are, you know? So, I think it’s important to identity if it in that infancy stage of the thought process.

Christy: And that’s definitely a learned skill and you have to really make it a priority and a point to focus on tracing it back. Where did this come from? So that you can really begin to detect when that comes up and stop that in the moment. I tell patients all the time when you’re having an eating disorder thought and I think, this could be applied to any negative self-talk, but the first time you recognize it, either mentally or audibly just say, “No! Just no!” Anything that’s going to be break that thought pattern. You can go there with a thought a little bit because we don’t necessarily want to push urges away, but when you see it begin to spiral out of control and you see yourself going down that dark path just say, “no” and then looking at the original trigger of whatever it was that was going on and dealing with that, I think is critical.

Paige: So, I’ve gotten us on a little bit of a tangent, here. Sorry about that; so we started with reality testing as a way to battle this negative self-talk and the second one I want to talk about is looking for alternative explanations, and you touched on this a tiny bit, but the idea of, is there anyway to look at this as a positive? Is there anyway to find meaning in this? Or, is there anything to learn from this? If I were in different state of mind, if I was a little more positive, how could I perceive this situation a little bit differently? Do you have anything else to add to alternative explanations? Or maybe an example of how to apply that?

Christy: I come back to even just the jeans example. You did a really good job of outlining could it be that I ate too much last night? Could it be that I ate a saltier meal? Could it be that I’m bloated? I think that’s a great example of just going through the list of what it could possibly be. I guess another example would be coming back to the poptart. So, if I ate a poptart and I’m going down the negative self-talk road, could it be that in the moment I didn’t have time to make breakfast and I was trying to take care of myself, nutritionally, by having a poptart and having something? Was it that I was feeling kind of down in the moment and that was my first thing that I reached for? And of course that would require some more exploration. Gosh, I’m having trouble thinking of examples.

Paige: That’s okay, it was kind of a hard one. So, yeah just kind of looking for alternate ways to explain something. I know we can think about this in terms of social interactions. An example came to mind that I heard somewhere where you might be walking down the hallway at work and you see some co-workers talking about something and they’re kind of whispering and then you walk up and they stop talking and if you’re being negative, if you’re going into that negative self-talk you can start saying, “Well, clearly they’re talking about me and they hate me and they don’t want me to work here and they’re going to fire me”, you know you can have all those thoughts.

Christy: (giggling) yeah, that’s a perfect example

Paige: But if you’re looking for alternative explanations you could ask yourself, “Are they planning a surprise for me? Are they talking about something that they don’t want me to know about yet? Are they planning a surprise birthday party for me?” I can only think of a surprise, but I’m sure there’s alternate explanations other than that. Or, “Were they talking about something personal between them that had nothing to do with me? That they just wanted to keep private?” Which is fair, you know? That happens

Christy: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Paige: Taht would be, to me, I can’t think of one off the very top of my head with food, but that would be one just kind of socially where we can spiral out of control with that negative self talk or we can look into some alternate explanations. I think it is important to note in this example is something along the lines of a group of friends talking about something and stopping when you walk up doesn’t need to be food related or weight related to send you out of control with your food. Because so many of us are emotional eaters or are struggling with either one end of the pendulum or another where, maybe we binge when we’re sad or feeling lonely or feeling rejected and other times we completely restrict our eating when we’re feeling that way. I think it’s useful to talk about those social examples because of how that can interact with our eating decisions.

Christy: Oh, for sure, absolutely. I think when you think of bringing awareness of another way you could look at a situation, is there another way that you could reappraise this, absolutely can be a way to begin to get out of the eating disorder/disordered eating stuff, because like you said, it’s not an immediate reaction of “I’m not good enough, therefore I need to restrict” or, “I’m not good enough so I should just binge so I can feel better for the instant gratification.” It can lead to a whole host of symptoms and behaviors.

Paige: Yeah. So, let’s move on to the third one, so the third idea for battling negative self-talk is putting it into perspective. One of my favorite things to tell myself or ask myself to put things into perspective when I might be struggling with feeling negative is: Am I trying my best? I really like to just ask myself, “If I’m really trying my best in difficult situations and I’m falling short, at least I know that I’m trying my very best.” In the end, that’s really all you can do. That, personally, helps me put it into perspective. What are some other ideas from you?