How To Change Our Thinking To Stay On Track With Weight Loss…

By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES

Many of us feel like we hear voices in our heads when it comes to food, like there’s a battle between the dieting devil and the healthy eating angel in our minds. The dieting devil whispers, “Oh, just eat it. What difference is it going to make?” and gives us permission every time we feel tempted.

These are what experts call “permission thoughts.” These thoughts give us all kinds of good reasons why eating a little more won’t really matter until we give into a craving.  The way to manage permission thoughts is by using “restraint thoughts,” positive messages that help you stay focused on what REALLY matters to you in the long-run. Restraint thoughts can really help you fight back against permission thoughts. Here’s how to use them:

  • Notice that you’re having a permission thought and identify it as a permission thought.

  • Ask yourself, will giving into the permission thought really give me what I want in the long-run? (And don’t forget to tell yourself the “full story” which looks like asking yourself a few more questions like,”OK, I might feel good for a little while, but how will I feel in a couple of hours? What about tomorrow morning?”)

  • Center yourself.  Remember your long-term goal (losing weight, feeling better, etc.) and use a restraint thought to counter-balance the permission thought.

A few other tips to help:

  • Plan ahead and practice.  Think of the situations you may find yourself in over the next week where you might face challenging food choices. Plan ahead and decide if you’ll be choosing just a small sample or passing it up all together. Practice what you might say and do.

  • Remind yourself why you’re doing this. Losing weight can be hard work. Perhaps it would help to put some motivational reminders on the refrigerator like a photo of your grandchild, or places you’d like to travel and explore. When you feel tempted, remind yourself of the bigger picture to get back on track.

  • Be kind to yourself. It really is true that positive thoughts lead to positive actions. If you think negatively about yourself and put yourself down each time you overeat, you’ll have a much harder time sticking with a healthy eating plan.  Negative self-talk and self-blame is not allowed! 🙂

Changing Permission Thoughts to Restraint Thoughts

When you hear a little voice in you saying:

Try changing the conversation to….

I had a stressful day at work – I deserve to go out for happy hour with my friends.

I’ve been working hard on my weight loss.  I can absolutely go out with my friends and enjoy myself, but overindulging will not make me feel the best. I will order a drink & food I like, eat until I’m full, and not overdo it.

It’s been a horrible day—having this piece of cake will really make me feel better. I deserve a little happiness…

Eating this may make me feel better for a few minutes, but I won’t feel very good later on. I want to wake up tomorrow morning feeling good— what can I do right now that will relax me but doesn’t involve food? 

Everyone else at the party is eating dessert, I don’t want to hurt the host’s feelings by not having some too.

The dessert looks delicious and I’ll compliment the chef. At the same time, I’ll let her know that instead of a usual size piece, I’ll have a bit of a smaller portion because I’m trying to eat less sugar.

I’m going to end up eating this whole bag of chips sometime – what does it matter if I eat it all now?

I will pull out 15 chips for my portion for right now. I’ll make small snack bags and have one each day until they are done. I will not deprive myself, but I do want to set reasonable limits.

I’m just a failure at this. What’s the point?  Might as well eat something I enjoy.

Changes take time. Weight management takes time. I can’t expect to see the scale change immediately.  I will keep at it, remembering all foods in balance. I can do it!


Diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to help many people reach a healthier weight. Medical treatments are needed to address the biological changes happening in our bodies that can drive weight regain. To find a physician near you who specializes in weight management, click here.

To sign up for our free online class that covers the basics of how to reach a healthier weight, click here.

This article was sponsored by Novo Nordisk Canada. All content is created independently by My Weight – What To Know with no influence from Novo Nordisk.

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