Healthy Weight, Healthy Mind: Writing It Down Can Help Improve Your Progress

We are pleased to bring you this regular column by Dr. David Creel, a licensed psychologist, certified clinical exercise physiologist and registered dietitian. He is also credentialed as a certified diabetes educator and the author of A Size That Fits: Lose Weight and Keep it off, One Thought at a Time (NorLightsPress, 2017).

Do you have a weight loss question for Dr. Creel? Email him at [email protected]. He may answer your question in a future column.

As you work on changing your thoughts and “friending” yourself, creating a Thought Log with the ABCDE format will help you analyze events in your life and track progress. You might dedicate a special journal just for this exercise.

  1. When something upsets you, jot down the activating event (A), dysfunctional beliefs (B), and emotional consequences (C) of your thoughts.
  2. Consider what thinking category causes you to feel bad (all or nothing thinking, emotional reasoning, etc.).
  3. Now you can dispute (D) the thought and replace it with a kinder, factual, probable, and useful perspective.
  4. Finally, you can evaluate (E) how strongly you felt the initial emotion. Perhaps in the beginning you felt frustrated at an intensity of 90 on a scale of 1 to 100.
  5. Record the new rating of frustration (1 to 100) after you begin thinking differently.

You may not like keeping a journal with this much structure, and that’s okay. But I do recommend you take time to evaluate how this information affects your life.

Sit down with paper and pen, or at your computer, and write about which fallacies of thought have kept you from losing weight and sustaining that weight loss. You don’t need to write a novel. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar and feel free to use bullet points instead of sentences.

I suggest you start with writing how the environment and your thinking influenced you to regain weight in the past. Suppose you gained weight after a combination of events — you hurt your foot in October, followed by the stress and social events of the holidays, and then you felt discouraged and gave up. What if you changed your interpretation of those events — your thoughts and beliefs? Would the story have a different ending?

Write about how you could have changed the environment to ensure better success. Then try writing how you could change your thoughts if you couldn’t change the environment. How could this situation end with a better outcome? While you’re at it, write about several of those possible good outcomes. This will show you how changing your thoughts could lead to much better results.

This writing exercise will be like a dress rehearsal for similar challenges in the future. Instead of falling into the same traps as before, you’ve prepared yourself to respond in a healthier way. As with anything you practice the right way, you’ll soon develop thinking skills and new confidence to overcome future challenges to maintaining a healthy weight.