“Is it true?” Carry these three words with you everywhere you go.
They can interrupt your thoughts and short circuit an episode of bingeing, depression, or even panic. One of our participants weighed 425 pounds when he first joined The Daniel Plan. When one of the doctors asked him about his weight, he said that he had no control over his appetite. That was his automatic response, “I have no control.”
“Is it true?” the doctor asked. “You really have NO control over your eating?”
The man paused then said, “No. That really isn’t true, I do have some control.”
“But just by thinking that you have no control, you have just given yourself permission to eat anything you want at any time you want,” the doctor replied. It is the little lies that you tell yourself—such as “I have no control” or “It is my genetics”—that steal your health.
One of the most important steps in getting healthy in a lasting way is to get control of your mind. Whenever you feel anxious, sad, obsessive, or out of control, write down the thoughts that are going through your head. Recording thoughts helps to get them out of your head. Then ask yourself if the thoughts make sense or are really true.
For example, if you hear yourself thinking, I have no control, write that down. Then ask yourself, “Is it true? Is that thought really true?” If not, replace that negative, false thought with correct information.
When you stop believing these lies and replace them with accurate thinking and God’s truth and promises, your response to life events will shift, and you will feel less stressed and more hopeful. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, you can linger on truths such as Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
How We Distort Our Thoughts
Over the years, therapists have identified a number of negative thoughts that keep people stuck in bad habits:
1. Overgeneralization. This usually involves thoughts with words, such as always, never, every time, or everyone and makes a situation out to be worse than it really is. Here are some examples:
I have always been fat; it will never change.
Every time I get stressed, I have to eat something.
I don’t like any of the foods that are good for me.
Overgeneralizations creep into your mind and have an immediate, negative effect on your mood. Overgeneralizations make you believe you have no control over your actions and behaviors and that you are incapable of changing them.
2. Thinking with your feelings. These negative thoughts occur when you have a feeling about something and you assume your feeling is correct. Feelings are complex and are often rooted in powerful memories from the past. Feelings, like thoughts, can lie too. These thoughts usually begin with the words “I feel.” For example:
I feel like a failure.
I feel God has abandoned me.
I feel hungry and must eat or I will get sick.
Whenever you have a strong negative feeling, check it out. Look for the evidence behind the feeling. Is it based on events or experiences from the past?
3. Predicting the future. Predicting the worst in a situation causes an immediate sense of anxiety, which can trigger cravings for sugar or refined carbs and make you feel that you need to eat to calm your nerves. What makes future-telling thoughts so toxic is that your mind tends to make happen what it sees.
Healthy food will be expensive, taste like cardboard, and won’t fill me up.
I can’t change my habits for the long term.
My spouse or my kids will never do this with me.
4. Blame. When you blame something or someone else for the problems in your life, you become a victim of circumstances, as though you can’t do anything to change your situation. Blaming thoughts can keep you unhealthy and unhappy. Be honest and ask yourself if you have a tendency to say things such as …
“It’s your fault I’m out of shape because you won’t exercise with me.”
“It’s not my fault I eat too much; my mom taught me to clean my plate.”
“If restaurants didn’t give such big servings, I wouldn’t be so overweight.”
One of the participants of The Daniel Plan said he was fat because everyone in his family was overweight. It was just his genetics. “Is that true?” we asked. “This really doesn’t have anything to do with how much you eat?” He paused and said, “No, it’s really not true. In fact, not all my siblings are overweight.”
Whenever you begin a sentence with “It’s your fault that I …,” it can ruin your life. These thoughts make you a victim. And when you’re a victim, you become powerless to change your behavior.
5. Denial. These thoughts prevent you from seeing the truth.
I have plenty of time to work on getting healthy.
If I don’t buy sugar cereals, my kids won’t eat breakfast in the morning.
I can stop alcohol anytime I want. I just don’t want to quit.
I only overeat when I’m stressed, not every day.
Now it’s time to learn how to develop a little mental discipline and turn your negative thinking patterns into positive, accurate, healthy thinking, similar to how we encouraged you with spiritual discipline in chapter 3. We want you to learn how to discipline your thoughts to be honest and helpful. A 2010 study found that a twelve-week program designed to change thinking patterns helps binge eaters stop their negative eating behaviors.
6. Focusing on the negative. Many people are masterful in finding something negative to say about any situation. This negative cognition takes a positive experience and taints it.
I wanted to lose thirty pounds in ten weeks, but I have only lost eight pounds. I’m a complete failure.
I went to the gym and did a hard workout, but the guy on the bike next to me was talking the whole time, so I’m never going back there.
I started eating two servings of vegetables a day, but I should be eating five for optimal health, so why bother?
Putting a positive spin on your thoughts leads to positive changes in your brain that will help you stick with healthier choices. For example, here’s how you could think about these same situations:
I have already lost eight pounds and have changed my lifestyle, so I will continue to lose weight until I reach my goal of losing thirty pounds.
After working out, I had a lot more energy for the rest of the day.
Eating two servings of vegetables a day is better than none.
Whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous, or out of control, identify which of the ten types of the negative thoughts you are engaging in. Challenge the negative thoughts by finding and stating the truth. This takes away their power and gives you control over your thoughts, moods, and behaviors.