Self-Defeating Thoughts and What To Do About Them

Self-defeating thoughts disrupt your ability to reach healthy lifestyle goals.

It’s time to take back control by controlling your thoughts.


Let’s look at some of the types of self-defeating thoughts

All-Or-Nothing Thinking

“Either I’m perfect on my diet and workouts or I’ve failed completely.”

Everything is black and white. I’m perfect or I’m a failure. I’m on my diet or I’m off my diet. There is no room for being “good enough” or progress.

What to think instead: Making a mistake is not the same as failing.

Jumping to Conclusions

“I already ate chocolate today, so reaching my healthy eating goals is impossible.”

Similar to all-or-nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions fails to see plan B, plan C, and plan D that could still help you reach your goals. Because plan A didn’t work then it’s hopeless.

What to think instead: I don’t have to be perfect to reach my goals. I still make healthy choices most of the time.


“I won’t be able to resist getting drinks when out with friends tonight.”

The event in question hasn’t even happened yet and you already are expecting yourself to make a poor choice! This, then, isn’t even fortunetelling, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy!

What to think instead: No one will force me to drink. I should make a positive action plan in advance.


Discounting the Positive

“I only worked out 3 days this week. I deserve credit only if I reach my goal of 5 days.”

“Only” is one of my least favorite words. Doing ANYTHING is better than doing nothing. Do not lose sight of the forest for the trees, getting caught up in the small details rather than seeing things in the bigger context of life.

What to think instead: I deserve credit for every positive action that I take.

Emotional Reasoning

“Since I feel so hopeless about reading my goals, it must really be hopeless.”

Yes, your goal may seem so far away that it feels impossible right now, but the only time it will actually be impossible is if you quit. As long as you keep going and stay persistent and consistent in your actions, progress will be made.

What to think instead: Everyone gets discouraged from time to time. My goals are unreachable only if I decide to give up.


“I am a failure. I overate today and skipped my workout.”

You are not defined by the weight on the scale, your food choices, or how much weight you can lift. Those are not words that describe you as the wonderful human being that you truly are.

What to think instead: I am not a failure. I am [a mother, a hard worker, an asset to my community, a leader to my church, etc.].

Words Have Power written on chalkboard


“If I eat standing up, it doesn’t count.”

Calories count on your birthday!… and on holidays… and if no one is watching… and if they came off of someone else’s plate… and if you eat in the dark… and no amount of internet articles about “negative calorie foods” will make it true.

What to think instead: All calories count.


“I’m totally out of control with my eating!”

Are you really completely powerless to your actions? Did you lose your free will? Did someone put a gun to your head?

What to think instead: I may have strayed from my plan, but I can get back on track right away.

The next one is a BIG one. Probably more common than the types of self-defeating thoughts already mentioned…


Excuses and Rationalizations

These thoughts give permission to stray from healthy lifestyle behaviors and long-term goals. The more often you give in to such thoughts, the more you strengthen the habit of giving up or giving in.

It’s okay to [eat these less healthful foods, eat more than my body is asking for, skip my workout, get less sleep, skip my Bible study, etc.] because:

  • It’s just one piece
  • It doesn’t matter in the long run
  • It’ll go to waste if I don’t
  • I’ll disappoint someone if I don’t
  • Everyone else is doing it
  • I’ll do it tomorrow
  • It’s a special occasion

Rather than giving yourself permission by making excuses or rationalizing your choice not to move towards better health, confront yourself with the truth, and work towards building a more beneficial habit.

What to think instead: This is a bad habit that I need to break. I need to deal with this situation in a healthier way.


Do You Give Yourself Credit?

In order to reach your healthy lifestyle goals – and to later maintain them long-term – it is important to maintain a positive outlook regarding your behavior change and build on the small wins.


Write down one thing you did right EVERY DAY

Examples: I walked for 30 minutes today! I bought healthy groceries! I tried a new vegetable from the farmer’s market! I parked further away from the front entrance! I had a 5 pound PR on my deadlift!

This will help reinforce your self-confidence and build awareness that you are strong and in control of how you react to the situations you come up against in your life.

What self-defeating thoughts are you telling yourself?


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