Weight Management: Stop Negative Thoughts


When you are working on getting to a weight that's healthy for you, having negative thoughts about weight and your body or habits can make it harder to succeed. Our thoughts have a lot to do with how we feel and what we do.

Changing negative thought patterns may not be easy. But our minds can be trained to be stronger and healthier—just like a muscle. A technique called thought reframing can help.

Thought reframing is the process of replacing negative thoughts with more helpful thoughts. It's a skill taught in a type of counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There are also books and apps that can help you learn thought reframing on your own.

With practice, you can get better at choosing healthier thoughts to replace negative thoughts.

How can you use healthy thinking to reach a healthy weight?

Thoughts, emotions, and feelings can affect your motivation. But with practice, you can shift negative thoughts to become more positive. That can help you better achieve your goals. Here are some tips to get started.

  • Watch for common types of discouraging thoughts.

    When you know the common types, it's easier to spot them when they happen. Here are a few to watch out for.

    • Ignoring the positive. This occurs when you filter out the good and focus only on the bad. For example, you may think, "I failed because I only lost half a pound this week," rather than, "I am having success because I'm closer to my goal."
    • The "should." Thinking that you or other people "should" or "have to" do something is a sign of this type of thinking. For example, "I have to exercise 3 times this week or I'll get off track."
    • Overgeneralizing. This means taking one example and saying it's true for everything. Watch for words such as "never" and "always." For example, "This is hard for me, and it's never going to get easier."
    • All-or-nothing thinking. This is also called black-or-white thinking. It means that you think of things as either all good or all bad—with no options in between. For example, "I didn't follow my eating plan today, so the rest of the week is ruined."
  • Practice reframing your thoughts.
    • Notice the thought. Negative thoughts can pop up sometimes before you can stop them. But learning to recognize them can help you shift them.
    • Question the thought. Ask yourself whether it's helpful or true. Your answers can help you find more accurate ways to think about the situation.
    • Replace the thought. Ask yourself "What's something that's true and more helpful?" Use your answer to replace the discouraging thought. Here's an example:
      • You might first think: "I can't believe I ate one of those donuts in the break room. I'm so weak. This is why I'll never get to my goal weight."
      • You can replace your thought with: "I enjoyed the doughnut I ate this morning. And I know it won't get in the way of my larger goal, because I have the tools to keep making progress."
  • Use a thought diary.

    Write down negative thoughts throughout the day. Then rewrite them to be more encouraging. Over time, choosing more positive thoughts in the moment will get easier.


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