How to Stop Negative Thoughts From Triggering Overeating | TMOHP Episode 126

Self-criticism, negative self-talk, frustration with yourself, and overeating have a complicated, tangled relationship. The myth that diet culture perpetuates is: if only you could achieve your goal with your eating habits and your weight, your inner critic would finally be satisfied. I think deep down, we all know this is a lie. The truth is, negative thoughts and self-criticism trigger cycles of overeating, bingeing, and emotional eating. I’ll share a bunch of examples of how this works in this podcast episode. 

More importantly, I’m covering what you can do to stop fighting with your inner critic and how to stop negative thoughts from triggering overeating. It’s a two-step process, and the steps I’m sharing probably aren’t the steps that you’ve been trying so hard to implement.

In this episode:

  • How your inner critic and negative thoughts sabotage your work to create freedom from overeating
  • The two steps to take to stop fighting with your inner critic
  • What your inner critic and a door-to-door salesperson have in common
  • A simple way to feel more confident

Resources in this episode:

  • Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and find out how to start tackling the root of your overeating.
  • Your Missing Peace  is the program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Enrollment is open and NOW is the perfect time to join us! Go here to learn more
  • Private Coaching for Emotional Eating and Overeating: I have openings in my schedule to work with about twelve women a year and openings are filled as space becomes available. Private coaching meetings are scheduled via Zoom or phone and we can connect from anywhere in the world. Private coaching is customized to you and your goals and we'll work together for a minimum of six months. Learn more and apply here.
  • Visit for more tips and resources to create peace with food and overcome overeating and emotional eating

Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody welcome back to the podcast. Today I want to talk with you about your inner critic and self-criticism and negative self-talk and how it gets you into trouble and also what you can do about it. So quite simply negative self-talk and being hard on yourself and criticism can absolutely fuel emotional eating and overeating.

I mean, imagine you have had a challenging, awful, frustrating day at work and that little inner voice starts saying things like, "well, you should have done this" and "you're not good enough and you always mess things up." Or it starts in on all the things that you supposedly should have said or remembered or followed through on.

When you have these kinds of thoughts, which we all do, they can then trigger emotions like frustration or sadness or even guilt and shame. And then because you're busy and tired and stressed and trying to cope with these negative emotions. You might easily ditch the plans that you made for dinner and order a pizza as a way to comfort yourself or something else. Or something in addition. Because eating provides a temporary distraction and that in the moment sense of feeling good of pleasure. It gets you away from everything your inner critic just made worse.

Here's another example, say you have an inner critic who is constantly on your back. Constantly on your back for not meeting certain standards. That little voice inside your head tells you, you don't look the way you should, or your pants don't fit the way you should, or you didn't do well enough on something. It's constantly on you. 

And then that leads to stress. That leads to anxiety and diving into the pantry can easily become a coping mechanism to numb or to get away from all that negativity. Right? It's thinking like, "Oh, I messed up again because my inner critic told me I did." What is the point of not eating the cake? What is the point of not doing the eating that I don't want to do because it's all ruined anyway? 

There's nothing weird about you that you have an inner critic and we need to be honest that she’s not very pleasant to live with. Your inner critic can be a great little drill sergeant berating you for every step that’s less than perfect. Pointing out every single thing and telling you things like you're weak or you don't have enough willpower or you should have, could have, needed to fill in the blank. Right?

And the guilt and shame that this can trigger then can easily drive you right to the refrigerator. There's one final reason that I want to talk to you about how to deal with your inner critic, and I'm going to keep underlining this. Yes, you have an inner critic, and we all have one. There is nothing inherently wrong with you that you have one. It's just a part of how we operate. 

But there's one final reason that it's really important to deal with her, and that's that inner critics are mean. And insensitive. If you could download the soundtrack of your inner critic talking to you, if you could listen purely to that soundtrack on your worst days. You would probably be shocked at the harshness with which she talks to you, the harsh words that she uses, the labels that she throws at you. Like, it's just absolutely normal. 

It is almost impossible... In fact, I think it is impossible to cultivate self-compassion and self-kindness when you are constantly being berated by that kind of negativity. And when you don't have self-compassion, then it's really hard to prioritize your needs and your wellbeing and taking care of yourself. And then going and getting something to eat can become a way to fill that gap. Right? The things that you're not getting the self-care, the kindness, the rewards, the recognition. 

Overeating can become a way to fill that gap. The gap that's created by the lack of self-love and self-kindness and not honoring your own needs and your desires. And that gap got created by the way your inner critic is talking to you and the kind of beliefs that your inner critic is laying down.

Negative thoughts about yourself and about what you're capable of and about what the outcome is going to be create things like procrastination and guilt and shame and a whole lot of stress. And all of these things can be triggers or they can be the last straw that leads you to eat things that you don't want to eat, that you hadn't planned to eat, that you aren't hungry for. Overeating and emotional eating. 

Your inner critic creates a situation that can lead to binges and overeating, and feelings and thoughts that keep you up at night. And create a vicious cycle that can lead to more binges and overeating and nervous eating and stress eating. Your inner critic can leave you cranky and irritable and full of self-doubt. And can be responsible for getting you way off track with things that are important to you.

And anyone who's tried to tell themselves to just knock it off knows that that doesn't work very well. So inner criticism is a real thing. It can hook you big time. Let's talk about what you do about the self-doubt and the negative thoughts so they don't sabotage you. And honestly the last reason I think this is really important because they are incredibly unpleasant.

Here's the first thing you have to be really honest about. If you are like me, your inner critic and your negative thinking about yourself has probably led you down the same path for years. You know the script by heart. It gets recited by heart. You think these thoughts by heart. In fact, you might be so familiar with the things your inner critic tells you that you recite that script that negativity as easily as breathing. You might be so familiar and used to living with that voice in your head, which by the way, you generate that. It just happens that you don't even know it's there. 

It might just feel like what it's like to be you. That's not true. You are not the thoughts and the beliefs and the words that that inner critic generates. If you haven't done so in a while, or if you haven't done so ever, take a day or so and just practice tuning in and paying attention to how you're talking to yourself.

You won't do it all the time. You'll forget. You'll go back on autopilot with your thinking, but just every once in a while, ask yourself, what's the voice in my head saying? And catch your tone. Catch the words in your head. Ask yourself, would you talk to a friend that way? Would you talk to your child that way or somebody that you love? Would you ever have that harshness or use those words or throw those labels out so casually the way your inner critic does? 

It's not pleasant to really tune in and to really listen, but it is important. Because you can't address something that you're not aware of. So practice tuning in. Ask yourself, how am I talking to yourself?

Catch yourself. Sometimes it is very powerful when you hear yourself saying something to yourself like, "Oh, you're so stupid", or "I can't believe you did that." To just say, Ouch! Ow! I don't deserve that. 

Okay, recognition is the first step. Paying attention is the first step. It's always the first step. But then what? You can say things like, ouch, you can decide that you don't deserve this way of talking to yourself and you might become gentler with yourself over time. That's an incredibly valuable skill to cultivate. 

But when something activates your negative thinking or your inner critic, unfortunately, because you are a human being, it's usually the same old dance. You and the inner critic, you know it really well. Your inner critic doesn't just say, Oh. Okay, goodbye. I'm done with you. She always seems to be there in the background. And again, that's not because there's something wrong with you. This is a very human dynamic. 

Fighting with your inner critic and your negative thoughts hardly ever gets you anywhere. So many people say to me, Okay, so how do I get rid of the negative thoughts? How do I stop thinking them? Trying to not do something is isn't very effective. And if you've ever tried, like I said before, you are probably nodding your head in agreement. 

Most of the time, if not all of the time, trying to banish or get rid of your inner critic is just an exhausting waste of energy. And it can leave you feeling worse than when you started. You might not expect a psychologist like me to tell you that, but it is true. So I am not making this podcast episode to be the voice of doom. Let's talk about what a smart woman can do about this. 

Because of course you don't want to live your life being ruled by your mean, nasty inner critic. So, stop fighting with her and invest your energy elsewhere. Here's the way I think about it. When she invites you to the same old dance, you don't have to accept it. It doesn't mean she goes away, but you don't have to dance with her. 

You get to be in control. You are in control of where you invest your thoughts, your energy, and your time. And you don't have to get it perfect, but you can catch yourself. You can notice where you are investing your thoughts and your energy and your time, and then you can decide if this is what you want to continue to do. 

Just because something exists doesn't mean that you need to invest yourself in it. You get to choose your focus. So what does this look like? When your inner critic or your really harsh negative thoughts show up, there are two steps to this.

The first one is to be present enough to recognize that you're actually being incredibly unkind to yourself. And believe it or not, this is a hard step. Well, I think you will probably believe it because I bet so much of the time that soundtrack of your inner critic just operates on autopilot. So practicing being present, like I just talked about, practicing noticing what is the soundtrack in my head? What did I just say to myself? Oh my gosh, that was incredibly mean. 

This is an important step. It's an uncomfortable step. But it puts you in the driver's seat. You can't have power over a situation that you don't know is happening. So you practice becoming aware of the negative voice inside your head.

And then the second step is that you get to decide and you have the power to decide. That this is an inner conversation that isn't helpful. Or these are words that are not helpful, or these are thoughts that are not helpful, and you can choose to put your attention on something else. You can choose to focus your attention in a different direction.

Now, this is not denial or avoidance. This is not a bad thing. This is not pushing something down. I'm pretending it's not there. It is choosing to do something different. It is a choice. I'm not talking about numbing yourself. 

Say that you are trying to change an eating behavior. You're trying to change the way you eat after dinner. And that little inner critic is saying, you know, you won't be able to do this. You're not strong enough to do this. 

You might notice the voice that's happening and say something to yourself, like, okay, I know I have all sorts of beliefs that I'm not good enough or strong enough and that I'm going to fail. But I am choosing not to fuel them right now. I am not going to put my energy into those beliefs. I'm going to focus on something that helps me get one inch more powerful or feel one inch more confident or grateful. Don't feed the negative thinking. 

You might even think about it as cutting off the air supply to the negative thoughts and then ask yourself what you'd like to feel instead. You know how the negative thoughts leave you feeling probably defeated and hopeless, and they probably drain your energy for trying. Right? Ask yourself what you'd like to feel instead, and then find any thought or any memory that helps you move in that direction. 

The feelings that you choose to spend time with are probably the feelings that you will feel more and more of. And the thoughts that you choose to spend time with are the things that are going to fuel the feelings that are going to lead to the actions that you take. So choose carefully. 

I want to tell you. I don't know if this is a story or something that happened for me. Have you ever had an experience of hearing something that you've heard a million times and all of a sudden it hits you in a different way? A while ago, I was listening to something completely unrelated to what we're talking about. And I heard someone refer to whether or not he wanted to entertain a certain thought. He used that phrase, entertain a thought. And out of nowhere, I got this kind of funny image in my mind. And I think it's relevant so that's why I'm telling you this story now. 

Think about choosing to entertain a thought, thoughts, including negative ones. Here's my a little thought that I had are like people who knock on your door. So say you get a knock on a door and it's a salesperson who is selling a product or a belief system that you have absolutely no interest in. So for instance, we can talk about belief systems here. I am perfectly, completely comfortable and happy with my spiritual beliefs.

So when somebody comes to my door. Knocks on my door and wants to take my time and energy, wants to give me literature and talk to me about why I should believe something else or why I might be interested in changing my beliefs. I'm not interested. I'm not angry. I'm not hurt. I'm not anxious. I don't feel a lot of drama. I'm just not interested. 

And I tell them, thank you, but I'm not interested. And they leave. I close the door. I go back to my life. And I go back to thinking and doing whatever it was I was thinking and doing and not a lot changes. Because here's what I don't do. I don't entertain them. When someone with a message or a product that I'm not interested in shows up at my door I don't give away my energy.

And I definitely do not invite them in and entertain them and put on music and offer them beverages and snacks and spend time making polite conversation. Having a thought and entertaining it are two different things. And not entertaining a thought is very different from fighting it or arguing with it.

I do not berate the poor salesperson. I do not come up with a bunch of arguments about why I don't need the thing they're selling or why I don't believe the thing that they are believing. And I certainly don't chase them down the street yelling at the top of my lungs because I don't want what they're selling. That's an image for you. Right? 

I just don't entertain the thought. I don't fight with it. I don't try to push it down. I don't try to make it not exist. I just say, no, thank you. I'm not interested. And I shut the door. And I think the most important part about this image for me is what happens afterward. I don't think about that person who came to my door all day. It doesn't disrupt the next hour or two or six of my life. I just keep moving forward. 

You get to choose what you entertain. You get to choose where you put your energy and with practice, and it does take practice, you can recognize your inner critic at the door and say, no, thank you. You can recognize your inner critic after you've invited them in and said, you know what, this was a mistake. I'm not interested. No, thank you. 

So you and I both have an inner critic and yours may show up and tell you that you're weak and that you'll never stop eating cookies one whole sleeve at a time. And that it's going to be hard to do it. And you can entertain those thoughts. You can feed them by thinking about all the ways this can be true and all the ways it's been true in the past. 

And you can come up with all sorts of ways that it might be hard to change that habit. Or, you can choose not to. You can recognize that this doesn't feel helpful. You can recognize that this is taking you in a direction that you don't want to go. You can recognize, Oh, this is my inner critic. And you can say, you know what? This is not the place I want to focus my mind. 

You notice what's going on. You choose what you are going to not entertain, and then you choose where you want to focus. The feelings that you choose to spend time with, which are created by the thoughts and the beliefs that you choose to spend time with. That's what you are going to create more of. So choose carefully. 

It starts by being present. It starts by noticing. It starts by not entertaining stuff that's not helpful for you. And then, if you want to feel more confident, don't blast yourself because you don't feel confident. Don't go there. Instead, tell yourself something, anything that stretches your belief in yourself. Even if it's that phrase, you remember that children's book, the little engine that could, where the train is trying to go up the hill and it just says, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Right? 

Even if it's something as simple as that, find something that you believe that is either neutral or moves you in a positive direction, but certainly that doesn't make it harder to get up that hill. And focus on that. 

I'm kind of laughing here because we all have to be aware that the very first thing your inner critic is going to do when you try to do this is tell you there isn't anything I've accomplished. There isn't anything that can make me more positive. Ah, you see, you can't do this. 

Remind yourself of something, and if you can't think of something, think smaller. Or think outside of the topic of changing your eating. Remind yourself of something that you've accomplished that was hard. Remind yourself of a time that you've been brave. Remind yourself of a time you didn't listen to that inner voice. When you didn't focus on your self-doubt. 

Or remind yourself of a step that you know you can take. Even if your inner critic tells you it's too small. Remind yourself of something you can do, or you have done, or you feel good about. This is not silly. That's your inner critic talking. This is not silly. It is powerful. 

And I want to challenge you not to entertain the thought that it's not. When your mind wants to convince you that you can't do something. Or that what you're doing isn't working, or that it's never going to work, or that it's going to be too hard, or that it's going to be too painful.

Focus on what you can do. Focus on what you have done. Focus on what you are doing. Practice using your thoughts to encourage you to grow your confidence, to see and focus on the positive, and to move you to a place that feels good. The bottom line is that what you focus on grows. And the thoughts that you choose influence your future thoughts and flavor your feelings.

The feelings that you allow yourself to soak in. Think about it like marinade. Right? The feelings that you allow yourself to soak in. They will impact, they will create your mood and your energy and ultimately your vibrance or your lack of it. 

You do not have to destroy your inner critic. You never will.

You just don't have to invite her in and serve her cold beverages. You just don't have to dance with her. 

So I hope this is helpful and I'll talk to you soon.

Enjoy the show?

If you love this podcast, will you take 30 seconds to leave a review? It makes all the difference in my ability to share this information!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

You may also like