I have recently learned about thought distortions as part of a paid subscription to Noom, a weight loss program that uses daily lessons and a support group. When I was participating, it was very easy to use the ideas as it was fresh in my mind and I found myself able to regularly reinforce best practices by sharing experiences with other people in the group. What I found so helpful was the learning and social structure that this program provides, and it has been my experience that under these circumstances, it is easy to lose weight, under those highly structured learning environments.
Keeping these habits longterm by myself without Noom’s structure is difficult, but I choose to see self-improvement as lifelong and I am worth it to invest in that difficult work to achieve. These are good reminders for me, as I struggle with thought distortions, and I believe everyone does to some extent. I may have forgotten some of these principles since having cancelled my membership a few months back, so I write this down now so that I do not forget them again.
Thought distortions are logical fallacies as a result of flawed thinking which may act as barriers throughout our lives in many different spaces. Sizing up thought distortions has been helpful for me in areas other than weight loss, but also in long-term goal setting. It helps to size up and identify those thought distortions instead of believing them.
Fortune telling is predicting the future. You cannot predict the future! Example: I will never get this right. I knew this would happen.
Overgeneralization is failure/success at accomplishing one task will predict an endless pattern of defeat/success in all tasks. Example: I didn’t know the answer to one question at trivia, so I am generally bad at trivia. I aced my first test. The rest of this year’s test will be a breeze because I’m so good at taking tests.
All or nothing thinking: if I eat this slice of cake, it will all go wrong. If I fail this test, my life is ruined. Alternately, I was able to eat salads all weekend, so I will always be able to eat salads for every meal.
What helps me is to be a blank slate, to not attach meaning to behavior. In the process this builds frustration tolerance.
Frustration tolerance is the work I do to be OK with frustration. So the more comfortable I am with frustration, the easier it is to stay on track. Planning how I respond to frustration and becoming used to frustration or setbacks can prevent sabotage or the feelings of guilt and shame that can lead to overeating or giving up on achieving goals.
What helps me is the oh well statement. This is a statement that I create to build tolerance to frustration. Oh well, the meal I just ate will not undo the months I have spent losing weight. Another oh well statement I like is: I can control only so much and thankfully never everything.
Reframing: after challenging a thought distortion, I can decide to redo my way of thinking by reframing. Reframing helps me to think positively in a way that helps me feel empowered and good about myself and makes it easier to achieve goals.
Reframe using the oh well statement: if I eat this slice of cake, it will not ruin the months I have spent and all the work I do each day to make good decisions. If I fail this test, it will not be the end of the world. I still have another opportunity to make it up, and I normally do very well when I study for tests.
Removing labels helps me. Especially with food, instead of saying oh, that’s so fattening, or that’s really healthy for you, I’ll say, this salad has low caloric density. This bag of chips has high caloric density.
Low caloric density foods tend to have more water and fewer calories and include:
spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, apples, most fruits and vegetables
High caloric density foods tend to have more calories per serving and include:
highly processed and fried foods, chips, cheeseburgers, fast food
Reframe: Instead of saying, this food is so bad for me, I will say, this bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is a true treat, or this ice cream is an indulgence
Why it matters: being able to feel and identify feelings fully and head on helps me feel more in control. It can also be a way to be mindful of how I feel so that I can take a step back and run through different strategies and approaches to help me become more successful and competent in navigating my decisions. I enjoy the following quote:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote helps me to not take life so seriously, but rather encourages me to a very casual and enjoyable approach to living through life as a series of iterations or trial runs that a person may fail or succeed at, but the important takeaway from these tests are the data it renders, similar to how a scientist runs through trial testing, without even formulating a hypothesis on how it may end up, but rather moving through life nearly unattached to expectation of success or failure. This makes living more improvised and exciting, and I feel so thankful for this. The idea that we have free will makes me happy, that I am not bound by what other people expect me to do. I have the choice to make a choice, reflect on that decision, and do something different after that process of reflection renders new data that inspires a new way to operate. That capacity for transformation is real. If there is ever a time when someone is feeling sad, unsuccessful, or believing that they are not doing well in life, there is the opportunity to make a different choice, a new choice at any time.
This idea brings about the fixed vs. growth mindset. The fixed mindset says that people do not grow and change throughout their lives. The growth mindset is the idea that people grow and change many times throughout their lives and have the capacity for learning new skills and new habits by way of their own reflection and thought process. I believe strongly that people are able to grow and change and have many different careers or make a divergent set of decisions in their lives. This is something that gives me hope about the future and I believe in the ability for people to improve at any time in their lives.