The Power of Positive Self-Talk & Weight Management - Ascension Wisconsin

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Published on January 17, 2017

I Think I Can: The Power of Positive Self-Talk & Weight Management

By: Jessica Behagen, LMFT

Have you ever stopped to think about the way you talk to yourself? No, it’s not crazy and yes, everyone talks to themselves. Self-talk is the running dialogue of thoughts in the mind that occur throughout the day. From early morning thoughts; “I don’t want to get up today”, “I wish I had better clothes to wear to work” and ongoing throughout the day, we have internal conversations. The question is how aware are we of what we are saying to ourselves and the impact it can have on our actions and behaviors?

Self-talk can be positive or negative in nature. Negative self-talk such as “I can’t do this”, “I’ll never be successful”, “this day is ruined”, “everything is going wrong”, can serve to increase stress levels and lead to undesired behaviors in response. On the other hand, positive self-talk can serve to calm and reduce stress. Research continues to link positive self-talk as a key factor in successful weight loss and maintenance (Reyes, Oliver, Koltz, et al, 2012). In addition to many other factors, positive self-talk plays a key role in weight management. Think about your own common thoughts that might get in the way of feeling positive about lifestyle change. For example, how often do thoughts like; “I am never going to lose weight so why even bother trying”, “I can’t control myself around food”, “I never stick with anything” surface when thinking about weight?

4 Ways to Integrate Positive Thoughts

Once aware of the negative self-talk, the key to success is finding some positive self-talk to replace or alter the unhelpful thoughts. Here are a few key factors to keep in mind when finding positive thoughts to integrate into the day (Whitborne, S., 2013):

  1. Stay in the present. Think about the things that are positive right now or something that is being done well. Think “I am” phrasing; for example, “I am working on changing my diet” or “I am doing better at exercising more often.”
  2. Keep it personal. Focus on the things that you are doing and resist the urge to compare to other people or what “should” be going on. “I am doing the best I can”, “I have things that I want to change, but I am doing something about it”. Think about what you are doing rather than not doing.
  3. Find the positive side. This can be easier said than done. Retraining from negative to positive can be difficult, but think about what you are saying and whether it is constructive, helpful, and something you would say to someone else. Calling yourself an idiot doesn’t give you any idea of what to do in the future and you probably wouldn’t say that to a friend or coworker.
  4. Practice makes perfect. Repeat whatever positive phrases work for you multiple times a day. Thoughts directly affect emotions; the more positive feedback, the more confidence in abilities. The more often positive self-talk is practiced, the more likely it will be adopted into a habitual way of thinking.

There is a clear link between positive self-talk and improved mood, performance on tasks, and confidence. Incorporating more positive self-talk on a regular basis can be another effective tool in maintaining healthy lifestyle changes.


Reyes NR1 , Oliver TL, Klotz AA, Lagrotte CA, Vander Veur SS, Virus A, Bailer BA, Foster GD. Similarities and differences between weight loss maintainers and regainers: a qualitative analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Apr;112(4):499-505

Whitbourne, S. (2013, September 10). Make Your Self-Talk Work for You. Retrieved August 4, 2015, from

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The Power of Positive Self-Talk & Weight Management