How to Talk About Your Diet in a Positive Way?

By Ali Luke
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If you’re on a diet – or if you just try to eat healthily and exercise regularly – then take a few moments to consider how you talk about it. You might think that the way you describe your diet to friends, colleagues and yourself doesn’t really matter, but changing the way you talk about your diet can alter your outlook completely – and set you up for success.

Avoiding “shoulds” and “oughts”

Have you used any phrases like these in connection with your diet?

  • “I ought to lose weight.”
  • “I shouldn’t eat that.”
  • “I’m not allowed to have fries, I’m on a diet.”
  • “I should go for a jog after work.”

If you talk like this, you’ll feel deprived whilst dieting – you’ll see your diet in terms of being “forbidden” certain foods, and you might diet because you think you “ought to” rather than because you want to. Feeling deprived and pressured into a diet you don’t want won’t do anything for your motivation levels, so try changing the things you say:

  • “I am losing weight” or “I want to lose weight”
  • “I’m choosing not to eat that at the moment.”
  • “I’m not having fries today” or “I don’t want fries today.”
  • “I will go for a jog after work.”

Can you see the pattern? Switching from “I should do this” to “I will do this” takes away the value judgement – you’re simply making a statement of fact, not trying to bully or guilt yourself into something. And saying that “I want to…” makes it your choice rather than something forced upon you.

Avoiding “needs” and “musts”

Sometimes, we make excuses to eat things we know we’d be better off avoiding:

  • “I need chocolate.”
  • “I must have some of that cake.”
  • “I can’t resist trying one.”

If you say things like this, you’ll feel that you can’t be held responsible for your diet. You’ll give in to cravings, “break” your diet at any excuse, and feel bad afterwards because you think you’ll never succeed. But you don’t truly need chocolate – you’ll survive just fine without it! Try changing the way you talk:

  • “I want chocolate” or “I’m craving chocolate”
  • “I’m tempted by that cake.”
  • “I’d like to try one but I can resist!”

Recognising and admitting that you’re craving something, or that you’re tempted, is fine. It’s easy to beat a craving just by waiting it out – twenty minutes is usually long enough. And you can resist temptation: if eating a bag of chips was going to cost you $20, you’d probably resist just fine.

Do you find yourself talking about your diet in a negative way, or justifying your eating habits by the language you use? Have you come up with a great way to talk about your healthy habits in positive terms? Let us know in the comments…

28 Comments

  1. Derek

    Positive self-talk is such an important part of a successful diet. As I read your article, I kept a mental checklist of what I am doing as I am losing 150 pounds. I almost said “try to lose 150 pounds”. Anyway, 38.5 pounds down. Thanks for the helpful reminder!

    Reply
  2. weight loss kate

    I do find it hard when I think I need something – filtering out the cravings and believing that you don’t NEED things and changing it to a choice that you would like something makes it easier to say no I want to lose weight so I don’t need the chocolate I just would like it.

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  3. Gabrielle

    Mentality is so important to weight loss, it cannot be understated. Just within our clinic, the difference between the people who have a positive attitude towards there goals and those who have a negative attitude is obvious from there progress

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  4. The Baroness

    Wow. This is a very good point. Just the other day a friend asked me, “How are you losing all this weight?” and I launched into this whole thing about how horrible, time consuming and obsessive my calorie counting and workout regimen is. That’s bound to have an effect on my motivation.

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  5. Lila

    I TOTALLY AGREE! I’ve been on 453 diets. No exaggeration. I’ve done everything from Atkins – Zone. I hate it. I’ve stopped dieting. It’s much better now. I’ve being doing hypnosis lately and so now I’m all about positive self talk and allowing myself what I want with love. When I chose to feed myself with love, it changes my portion sizes and my food choices. It’s kind of amazing what that brain shift will do.

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  6. Spectra

    So true. I always avoid telling people that I’m on a “diet”. I just tell people that I like to eat healthy and work out. Instead of telling people that “I should eat more veggies” or whatever, I tell people that I LIKE my veggies and fruits…it shouldn’t feel like a chore. I also LIKE working out and make it pretty obvious to people that I do…I NEVER say “I should work out” or “I run, but I hate it…I just do it to get the results”, which is what pretty much all my friends say.

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  7. Angie

    I feel that when people make excuses for not working out or eating right, it is because they are not ready to lose weight. I mean, sure, they want to be thinner. They just aren’t ready for the process. In my opinion it does no good to lecture people about how to change their health. Most people know how to do it, but will think of reasons not to until they are ready.

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  8. Talli van Sunder, DPT

    After the birth of my son I had to lose 30 pounds to get back to my original weight. To lose that weight I decreased my portion size, exercised daily and thought positively. I didn’t go on any fad diets, all I did was eat healthy. I also had a food journal, that I would write everything down. I had a goal and I was determined to get there. If I was tempted I would think twice about eating that item, because I had to write it down on my journal. Keeping a journal made me think about what I was eating before I ate it. I knew it would be hard to lose that weight, but I also knew the end result would be worth it.

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  9. Austin

    This is really interesting and powerful! I personally believe that the language and words we choose can have significant impact on self and those around us. I’m no expert in this field, but folks in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and neurolinguistics might be able to comment. Austin
    http://drughealth.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  10. Cecilia

    I understand the need to stay positive, but sometimes, I really do need chocolate. It’s those three days every month when I really and truly think that I might die without chocolate, and other than that, I don’t even like the taste.

    I think this is a great post, though. I have a friend who always keeps going on about how she wants to go jogging and she never can find the time. What it should really be changed to is “I’m going to go jogging” or something, and say it to people you know, that way you feel obligated to actually do it. It worked for me. I told my family and friends that I was going to join a gym, and after two weeks someone asked me about it so I finally went out and joined.

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  11. NeoVitin

    This is an interesting topic, and frankly one that I never thought about. It seems that there are so many little things that can help or hinder a diet, and the only way to use them to your advantage is to know about them. Like I said, I’ve never thought about this before, but I can definitely see validity to these ideas.

    Reply
  12. SCal

    Oh no I just should all over the place!

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  13. nodietneeded

    Nicely said. I also believe that if you choose to do something, you will hold yourself more accountable for your actions. ‘Need’, ‘should’, ‘must’ can be easily followed by a third party ‘but’. However, if you choose to do something and you don’t, you are pretty much alone in the ‘guilty’ list.

    Reply
  14. Blake

    I’m always trying to stay positive when i talk about my eating habits and my exercise habits. I think it’s important to always stay positive with the healthy changes we try to make in our lives.

    Reply
  15. Alan

    Avoid saying ‘I’m on a diet’.

    Say ‘I have changed my diet’ – and make it a permanent change

    Reply
  16. Pat W

    I know for me that I’ve used ‘can’t’ a lot when I’m counting calories and watching my weight. I’ve also mentioned to others that I was watching my weight which is a mistake. When someone knows I’m watching my weight, they monitor everything I eat (as if they know what’s best for me!) I also know that when I’m ‘watching my weight’ that I tend to think about food a lot of the time. I’d like to have a relaxed attitude toward food and use it as fuel and still lose then maintain a healthy weight.

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  17. musajen

    What a great reminder! Awesome post. Reminds me of this quote:

    “Don’t Should on Yourself.”

    Reply
  18. Lilbet

    Isn’t it true that if we speak this way about any aspect of our lives that we find more success.

    Excellent topic, very well put!

    Reply
  19. Kami Gray

    I like the idea of applying “musts” over “needs” in other areas of your life. When it comes to diet, I think this can work too, but I’m curious why you have to talk about your diet? I can understand if this is positive self talk. That makes sense. Others around you though don’t need an explanation as to why you’re eating certain things or why you aren’t. That’s your business. I’m a very strict (healthy) eater and I eat catered meals around other people at work. Quite often, I get questioned about my choices…”you’re not having the scalloped potatoes?” or “having dessert?” Nope. I’m not. I see you are. Okay then.

    I think it’s weird we talk about food so much and focus on it and maybe even obsess about it. Food is fuel to me and I don’t find it that particularly interesting. I do have a question for the last nosy coworker who couldn’t believe I wasn’t trying one of the white chocolate brownies, “What’s up with exposing so much of your d├ęcolletage (chest) at work?” That I was curious about!

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  20. israel

    I have in the past used the should, can’t, need, etc. Now that I think about it I have naturally and gradually taken on the more affirmative am and will.

    Very good post that makes you think.

    Reply
  21. Kami Gray

    I like the idea of applying “musts” over “needs” in other areas of your life. When it comes to diet, I think this can work too, but I’m curious why you have to talk about your diet? I can understand if this is positive self talk. That makes sense. Others around you though don’t need an explanation as to why you’re eating certain things or why you aren’t. That’s your business. I’m a very strict (healthy) eater and I eat catered meals around other people at work. Quite often, I get questioned about my choices…”you’re not having the scalloped potatoes?” or “having dessert?” Nope. I’m not. I see you are. Okay then.

    I think it’s weird we talk about food so much and focus on it and maybe even obsess about it. Food is fuel to me and I don’t find it that particularly interesting. I do have a question for the last nosy coworker who couldn’t believe I wasn’t trying one of the white chocolate brownies, “What’s up with exposing so much of your d├ęcolletage (chest) at work?” That I was curious about!

    http://blog.thelistbykamigray.com/

    Reply
  22. Mike H.

    Great post! Language is more important than we think IMHO. We have the power to choose.

    Reply
  23. staci

    i’ve always been a firm believer in “mind over matter”; is it not the same concept of thinking of workinging out while working out and burn more calories?

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  24. Roe

    I saw an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis once about “musts” and “have tos”. She decided it war portraying a negative perspective of grown-up life to her children. So instead she’d say “Mommy gets to go to work now, and when I get back we’ll go to the park.” I like it.

    “I get to make choices which affect the way I look and feel.”
    “I get to say no to fries, and yes to feeling light and attractive today.”

    Reply
  25. Ali Hale

    Good point, Mark. Obviously just saying “I will go for a run” isn’t enough — you do need to actually make good on that and DO IT! But it’s definitely easier to take action once we’re in a positive frame of mind.

    Reply
  26. MizFit

    SO TRUE.

    I did a video post on STOPPING MUSTurbating and it surprised me how many people lead lives restricted by shoulds and musts—–even though intellectually I realized.

    Reply
  27. Mark

    I suppose talking in a negative was isn’t a good idea about what you want to do, but bad habits do need to be replaced with good ones, self talk alone won’t cut it other wise more people would be thinner.

    Reply
  28. Lauren

    This is so true.
    Talking about dieting in general makes you think about it all day. Making your diet routine boosts your ability to avoid temptations.
    As you guys know, psychology is a big factor in dieting, and by dealing with it the right way, you can reach better results. When we feel like we “have to do” something, like Ali mentioned above, we aren’t taking responsibility for our actions.

    Reply