The festive season can be one of the year’s brightest moments, but it can also be a source of worry for some. No, not about missing present deliveries or running out of gravy—but about that post-Christmas weigh-in. Whether you’re anxious about undoing your good work over the year with balanced eating and regular exercise, or worried about falling into the classic trap of overeating during the holiday period, help is at hand. And it comes in a perhaps unexpected form: what we tell ourselves.
The psychology of maintaining our weight focuses mostly on reframing attitudes to how we eat, like making good food choices and figuring out what triggers overeating.1 It may also involve learning to ‘talk nice’ to ourselves. But there’s another twist to this psychology, that takes positive self-talk a step further. And that’s believing that you have what it takes to reach your fitness goals. The thinking goes like this: whatever we tell ourselves about ourselves, we tend to act the part. So by envisioning yourself as a person living a healthy and active lifestyle, you’re more likely to embody that by eating better, getting more exercise and shifting to a more positive self-image.
Of course, positive self-talk and (increased) self-belief alone won’t achieve your fitness or weight goals, but it can be an important piece of the puzzle. So, although what you do is important, how you feel about yourself matters, too. Remember this festive season that it’s about so much more than just the number of calories you’ve eaten during Christmas lunch or how many (or few!) steps you’ve logged. It’s about applying positive self-talk and belief and being your very own cheerleader and accountability coach, rolled into one. With this approach, it’s possible to enjoy the holidays, find a balance between treats and a healthy lifestyle and start the coming year with a great mind-set.
Try out these positive self-talk prompts, based on some common holiday scenarios:
Missed a workout? Instead of “I’m lazy”, positive self-talk says, “I’ll make this a rest day and use the time to plan a great workout for tomorrow.”
Gave in to that second mince pie? Instead of “I’ve already messed up, so I might as well pig out for the rest of the day”, positive self-talk says, “it’s not the end of the end of the world—I’ll enjoy this and then commit to eat light later.”
Gained weight at the last weigh-in? Instead of “I give up. I’ll never reach my target weight, so why bother?”, positive self-talk says, “OK, I’ll set myself a new mini target for the next few weeks and make some better choices so that I reach it.”
Remember, positive self-talk means not beating yourself up if you slip. Instead, use your inner voice to remind you that just because you slipped, it doesn’t mean you have to fall. Here’s to a happy, healthy, positive holiday season.
- Castelnuovo, G., et al., Cognitive behavioral therapy to aid weight loss in obese patients: current perspectives. Psychol Res Behav Manag, 2017. 10: p. 165-173.
- Varkevisser, R.D.M., et al., Determinants of weight loss maintenance: a systematic review. Obes Rev, 2019. 20(2): p. 171-211.
- Sheeran, P., et al., The impact of changing attitudes, norms, and self-efficacy on health-related intentions and behavior: A meta-analysis. Health Psychol, 2016. 35(11): p. 1178-1188.
- Teixeira, P.J., et al., Successful behavior change in obesity interventions in adults: a systematic review of self-regulation mediators. BMC Med, 2015. 13: p. 84.