Self Talk - i.e. Calling Out Your Own Bullshit and Owning Your Decisions

For my coaching clients who need help with nutrition, I often use weekly, or even daily email check-ins. 

For instance, if they're having trouble with evening snacking, we touch base in the evening to see how they're doing.

I have a specific client who's nutrition is very consistent during the week. 

But during the weekends, it's a different story! 

Now, if this person was satisfied with above average fitness and a bodyfat % in the mid-to-high teens, he could keep it up. 

But, he wants to take it to the next level. That will require more consistency. 

After reviewing his food journal from the first weekend, we decided to work on two things:


1. Food Journaling

Right off the bat he said:

Wow writing this makes me sound and feel really bad.

That goal wasn't to embarrass anyone or to make someone "feel bad". Shame and moral judgement shouldn't come into play. 

But, food journaling can raise awareness. It gives us an honest look at what we're really eating vs. what we think we've been eating. Often there are major discrepancies. We forget about the handful of M&M's at our morning staff meeting, and just how many "fun-size" chocolate bars we popped into our mouths throughout the day. 

It can also increase accountability. And having to send the journal to your coach every day/week, helps too.


2. Self Talk

The second thing we worked on was challenging the little justifications we give ourselves.

This was one of his comments from one of our first emails:

I ended up chatting with the artist and I couldn’t say no to a small glass of red wine. More discussion followed and our group and the artist ended up at a Chinese food restaurant. There I tried to stick only to protein. I had things like Pecking Duck, BBQ Pork and some Beef however when the General Tao chicken came I had to have a bite.

When we challenged those statements - all of which indicated a total lack of choice and responsibility - they were obviously false.

What excuses and justifications do you use to give yourself permission for behaviours that aren't aligned with your long-term goals?.

The first step is to identify them. Second, challenge them.

I like to call this the "DIE" Test. Sounds like something from a James Bond villain, right? It's a lot more friendly, I assure you.

  1. D for Die. Were you or anyone else going to die?
  2. I for Injured. Were you or anyone else going to get serious injured?
  3. E for Emaciated. Were you at risk of becoming emaciated/nutrient deficient?

If the answer was "no" to all of the above questions, then you DID have a choice. It really is that simple.

Now look, I'm not here to take a hard line and lecture that you should never eat "junk food" and that you always need to be perfect. 

Whether or not you "should" have an unhealthy treat or not is totally up to you and there's no judgement about that. You just need to find the balance between enjoying treats/your lifestyle vs being healthy and knowing the trade-offs. 

Even when you are trying to eat healthy, real life gets in the way and sometimes.

When that happens, you just have to make the best of the situation you're in. Let's say you're at the hospital all day helping your grandmother get treatment and you didn't make time to prepare lunch. You might just have to find the best option from the gross hospital food that's available. Or you could decide to skip lunch and have a bigger dinner when you can.

Sometimes your options are legitimately limited because of the situation you're in, but you always have a choice. 

But if you're lying to yourself and creating a false set of choices that aren't real, then that's the real problem. It sets you up for self-defeat.

When you can be 100% honest with yourself about your actions, you can own them and take responsibility for your decisions. Then you can put yourself in a position to move forward with clarity, and in ways that reaffirm the real reasons that drive you.

The bottom line is this:

  1. Think about the most common excuses and justifications you tell yourself.
  2. Catch yourself next time, and rephrase what you're saying in your head. Instead of allowing yourself to say "I had no choice but to drink those four glasses of wine", say "I had total power over that decision and I chose to drink four glasses of wine knowing the trade-offs."