Negative Thinking and Weight: Why Your Negative Self Talk Prevents Weight Loss Success

by Marsha Hudnall MS, RDN, CD

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Tip to Prevent Negative Thinking and Negative Self-Talk:

The Thought Stopping Technique

How negative self-talk affect weight loss | Weight gain due to negative thinking

Try the proven technique of thought stopping to end persistent negative thoughts about yourself, which can decrease self esteem and lead to feelings of hopelessness, doubt and discouragement.


“You look awful stuffed into those jeans. You’re really hopeless, you know. You should have just stayed home.”

Sound familiar? Are these thoughts coming from you? Many women who struggle with their weight have persistent negative thoughts about themselves. These thoughts decrease our self esteem and can lead to feelings of hopelessness, doubt and discouragement.

What is a negative thought? “It’s a runaway mind. It’s ruminating, obsessing, thinking — NOT problem solving,” says Darla Breckenridge, M.Ed and staff psychologist at Green Mountain at Fox Run. “The idea is putting yourself in charge of your thinking instead of having your thinking be in charge of you,” says Breckenridge. “It’s a process of deciding where you want to put your energy.” It’s a simple technique that you can use many times a day to bring yourself back to a nurturing place.


The Thought Stopping Technique

  • When you catch yourself in a cycle of worry, yell really loudly in your head “STOP!”
  • Then say to yourself: “It doesn’t do me any good to think about this now.”
  • Create a relaxing scene in your mind — the more vivid the better — and stay there for as long as you can, even if it’s only a millisecond.
  • Work to develop a healthier voice. A supportive voice. A voice that challenges negativity. If you can’t focus on positive self talk, focus on neutral talk. It’s not a cheerleader voice — that’s too easy to discount, says Breckenridge — but a reasonable, healthy voice.
  • If the same or other intrusive thoughts returns, repeat the steps again.


In order to effectively practice the technique, you need to have awareness that you’re being critical. One of the ways you can recognize negative self talk or persistent anxiety is to tune into how you’re feeling. Maybe you’re feeling low or anxious or have a knot in your stomach. Check in with yourself and ask: What am I thinking about? “Usually our bodies know, and that can be a clue,” says Breckenridge.

Simply by interrupting the cycle and giving yourself a moment, you start taking charge of your mind and begin to realize how much thinking influences your mood and your being. At Green Mountain we know that permanent, healthy weight loss isn’t just about nutrition and exercise. It’s about a different way of thinking and living. Consider how negative self talk prevents weight loss success and use thought stopping as a simple strategy to help you feel positive and stay motivated to continue your healthy living efforts.

For more information on negative thinking and weight, see our primers on identifying negative self talk and achieving weight loss success by changing negative self talk.