Lately, I’ve been noticing a thought pattern that’s keeping me feeling stuck. And in fact, I know it’s not just lately, and it’s not just my experience. This thought pattern is keeping my clients stuck in a rut, and whether it’s weight loss related or happening anywhere else in your life, I can guarantee it’s creating some far from ideal results for you too.
You’ve heard me talk about the power of the words and language we use, and this is what we’re diving into today. One simple word can change your entire experience of weight loss, so we’ve got to take a closer look and inspect your list of have to’s, should/supposed to’s, and can’ts that you might be believing right now.
Join me on the podcast this week as I invite you to think about the things you currently believe you have no choice about by changing your sentences to “I get to…” Making the shift from a feeling of obligation to opportunity in this way lets you see the things you actually want, so I’m showing you how the words you choose will ultimately determine your outcomes, and how the choice is always yours.
This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode 83.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, Master Certified coach, Natalie Brown.
Hello everybody. I’ve been noticing a thinking pattern in my brain lately that is keeping me feeling a bit stuck. I don’t think it’s just lately and I don’t think it’s just me. Pretty sure most humans get into this rut. I definitely hear my clients doing this and I see what it’s creating for them.
And as I was thinking about it, I actually remembered the first time I noticed this same thinking pattern happening for me was in high school. And here’s why it stood out.
I love to read. I’ve always loved getting lost in a story, being transported to a new world, getting to know new characters with lives that were different from mine, being introduced to concepts and language that’s unfamiliar. Experiencing writing styles and other people’s imaginations and the amazing things they come up with that feel so real to me.
I remember falling in love with chapter books in third grade. My teacher would read to us every day after lunch recess, and it was my favorite time. It was magical. We were all worn out from running around outside and we’d come in and sit or lay on the rug and she would read aloud to us from books like Redwall, and The BFG, and my imagination would run wild in the world of giants or tiny mice.
She introduced me to Roald Dahl, who wrote some of my very favorite children’s books and became a big part of my childhood. I started my own collection of books at that time that included the entire Babysitters Club series, which I read over and over and over, kind of on repeat, Where the Red Fern Grows, Blue Willow, all the Roald Dahl books, and my very favorite book which I read 100 plus times, Wait Till Helen Comes.
It was like a mystery ghost story that I loved. I remember taking a blanket out to my front lawn and laying and reading for hours on end. Reading in my bed, reading everywhere. I got in trouble for turning my light back on to read after I was tucked in, and I was supposed to be going to sleep.
Maybe that contributed to my difficulty getting up in the morning that I mentioned in a previous podcast. Staying up too late reading. Still my downfall to this day. Although sometimes it’s Netflix documentaries now to be honest. Not always reading. Anyway, I digress.
I also read aloud to my kids every night when they were little. We read all my favorites. Not sure who loved that more. I’m pretty sure it was me since none of them are big book lovers now, to my dismay.
So what I thought was so fascinating was that in high school and college when I was assigned reading, it felt like the worst punishment of all time. I was always complaining about it and procrastinating. I stayed up way too late reading then too, but it wasn’t because I couldn’t put the book down. It’s because I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up, so I would wait until midnight the night before it was due, and I’d stay up all night reading it or studying or doing whatever assignment was due the next day.
The only thing that changed was not my age, it was not that I was being assigned books I didn’t love. I mean, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, Grapes of Wrath, some of my favorite books were assigned. It was one word in my mind. It’s the only thing that changed. One little word.
When I was young and spending all of my spare time reading, I was thinking, “I get to read.” When I was in high school and college and it was assigned reading, I was thinking, “I have to read.” That’s it. One word changed my entire experience of my favorite pastime.
It changed how I felt about it, how I experienced it while I was reading, how I showed up for it, usually late and scrambling and grumpy. I have to is that thinking pattern that I’m noticing showing up for me now. It’s making things I’m doing anyway feel really heavy and hard.
So I decided to look a little closer at it, and I realized it isn’t just I have to inhibiting me. It’s also I can’t, and I should/I’m supposed to. So I asked myself, what are the things I think I have to do in my life?
I have to take care of my kids, I have to clean my house, I have to manage my mind, I have to manage my finances, I have to pay my bills, I have to go to church, I have to be an engaged partner, I have to be informed, I have to be responsible, I have to do the laundry, I have to go to the store, I have to get gas, I have to run to the carwash, I have to make these appointments.
I have a lot of have-to’s around my business. I have to work, I have to answer emails, I have to take care of my clients, I have to plan for the future, I have to create content, I have to market, I have to engage, I have to pay my bills, I have to look into this, I have to research that, I have to make money, I have to write my podcast, I have to be professional, I have to meet deadlines.
Same thing, a lot of to-dos about my health as well. I have to get enough sleep, I have to get up in the morning, I have to drink water, I have to take care of myself, I have to shower, I have to take my supplements and vitamins, I have to get my blood testes/regular checkups. I have to work out, I have to go to the chiropractor/dermatologist/all the things, I have to get coaching.
This is definitely not a comprehensive list if you can believe it. I think in have-to’s a large majority of the time. It’s the language my brain uses. So this is just the tip of the iceberg. In combination with all these have-to’s, there are also a bunch of shoulds.
I should do more cardio, I should journal more, I should do yoga, I should spend more time with my friends, I should spend more time with my family, I should take more walks, I should be more punctual, I should be more proactive, I should be more productive, I should be more intentional with my time/energy/focus, I should meditate.
There’s a lot of I should mores. Clearly, I think I have a lot of extra time that should be filled with doing more of things I already do some of. And then the icing on top of all of this obligation and unmet expectations cake is the I can’t list.
I can’t get a handle on this, I can’t get on top of this, I can’t seem to figure this out, I can’t change this, I can’t understand this. So much fun. If this is showing up for you too, let’s talk about what we can do. You know I’m a strong believer in the fact that words matter. And this is a matter of words.
When we believe I have to about things we do anyway, it changes the experience of doing those things. It adds an emotional weight and obligation to the process of doing it that’s just unnecessary. So sit down and ask yourself the question, what are the things I think I have to do? And make your list.
You can separate this out into categories like I did, work, home, personal, health, weight loss. You can focus just on the process of weight loss and all the have-to’s there. Or include anything and everything in your life.
Now, let’s just get something out of the way, something we’ve talked about before I’m sure, but I just want to mention it here. We don’t have to do anything. We are adult humans. We can do whatever we want. Seriously, think about it.
Think about the things you think you have no choice about that you have to do. You don’t have to do any of it. Yes, there are consequences to not doing it, of course. But if you think I have to take care of my kids, I have no choice, that’s just not true. There are plenty of people who don’t take care of their kids.
If you think I have to pay my taxes or obey the law, you don’t. People don’t pay taxes and break the law every day. Consider that when you’re making your list of have-to’s. There will be things on that list that you truly believe you have to do, that you believe you don’t have a choice about, and there will be things on that list that you know you don’t have to do but you typically tell yourself I have to about.
For example, I have to take care of my kids may be one of those I have no choice things. And I have to get a carwash is one of those I know I have a choice, but I use the language of have to anyway things. It’s important to get honest with yourself about all of it. You really have a choice about all of it.
Look at those hard have-to’s and look for evidence for how that isn’t true. Like that there are people who leave their kids, who don’t pay their mortgages, who don’t obey the law. To me, this is a helpful way to shift into something different.
When I look at the alternative of, I have to pay my mortgage, which is I don’t pay it and the consequence of that which is I don’t have a house, I want to pay my mortgage. It’s not that I have to. I want a house. Making my mortgage payment with the thought I get to pay this money and have a house just feels like a treat rather than a punishment.
The two other questions to ask yourself, what am I believing I should do or am supposed to do? What am I believing I can’t do? Once you have your list, go back through, and change out the have to in the sentence to get to. Just because you change the word won’t mean now it feels true, and everything is sunshine and rainbows in your life.
But get to changes it from an obligation to an opportunity. We want to spend a minute asking of our new get-to sentences, what opportunity does this present?
So maybe your sentence is I have to make a food plan for tomorrow, which we would switch to I get to make a food plan for tomorrow. And then we would ask, what opportunity does this present? You get to utilize your brilliant adult brain to make a decision now, so you won’t have to make one tomorrow.
You have an opportunity to practice making aligned decisions from a place of love for you. You get to practice the skill of considering and choosing what you want most ahead of time so that you don’t just choose what you want in the moment all the time.
Do the same thing for the I should/I’m supposed to sentences. They become I want. This changes them from outside pressure to inside desire, from extrinsic to intrinsic. This is also a test because some of your should/supposed to are not actually things you want.
They are things other people have told you to do, or that society has suggested. Changing out should/supposed to for want will often reveal this. And if the should/supposed to are not things we actually want, we get to just let them go, or at least work on unpacking why we believe we should when we don’t actually want to.
Some of my favorite questions for this would be how do I know I should? Who says? Do I want to believe them? Consider the source. If you don’t trust it, like it, or even know it, bye.
Now, the I can’ts you’ve got going on. I think when it comes to our weight loss journey, this may be an equally thick stack to the have-to’s. In my life, the I can’ts are a much smaller list. I don’t limit my capability much. I know I can pretty much figure out how to do anything I set my mind to, I didn’t always believe that.
I’ve worked really hard to let go of most of my limiting beliefs and choose to believe that I am infinitely capable. I don’t always act on that, I’m not out kicking butt and taking names all day every day in every aspect of my life. But I know it’s totally possible for me if I choose to.
There are a couple of flavors of I can’t that will show up. I can’t that refers to your capability and I can’t that refers to restriction and subsequent ability. For example, I can’t figure this out versus I can’t eat sugar.
So your I can’t list needs to be separated out into two because there are two different shifts depending on the reference. We want to change out the I can’ts that are in reference to capability with I will, or I am going to. So I can’t figure this out becomes I will figure this out, or I am going to figure this out.
If your brain offers objections to believing this, then we want to inquire, how? How will I figure this out? Brainstorm some things you might try. We want to open up to possibility here. You could also ask how is this true, or even are there any examples of someone else who is doing this thing that I think I can’t do? How are they accomplishing it? What’s different about them compared to me?
Sometimes finding an example can be super helpful because if it’s possible for another human, why not you? We want to change out the I can’t that are in reference to any rules or restrictions that you have for yourself to I don’t. What I love about this shift is that it’s shifting from action/restriction to identity, which is a much more powerful declaration.
When you think I can’t eat dessert, or I can’t drink wine after work, or I can’t have sugar or flour, it disempowers you. It’s like saying there’s something outside of me forcing this restriction on me. It’s not my choice, it’s the program’s, or it’s the plan, or it’s this other person who I’m listening to, it’s their choice for me.
It feels terrible. Whereas I don’t eat candy, or I don’t drink wine after work or I don’t eat sugar and flour is a strong statement of who you are. It’s like saying I’m a person who takes care of myself in this way. This is how I choose to connect myself.
So much more powerful to identify as a human who rather than subscribe to the belief that something outside of you controls you. Here are some scientific study style evidence for you of this concept quoted from one article that I read.
In one study, students with a healthy eating goal were instructed that when faced with the temptation, they should say to themselves either I don’t do x, or I can’t do x. Example, I don’t eat candy versus I can’t eat candy.
On their way out of the lab, they were told that they could choose a token of appreciation for their participation in the study. A chocolate bar or a granola bar. Who chose the healthier option? 64% of those who said I don’t compared to only 39% of those who said I can’t.
In another study, 20 adult women who were working toward a health and fitness goal were encouraged to use either I don’t, or I can’t language when they were tempted to lapse, like maybe skip the gym or grab a donut, whatever.
On each of the next 10 days, these women checked in via email to report on whether or not the strategy was working for them. If not, they were told they could stop using the strategy. By the study’s end, eight out of 10 of the women using the I don’t strategy were still using it successfully while only one of the 10 who used I can’t lasted that long.
Any of you who are doubting my word-shifting and the power it wields, there you go. Some evidence. As you start to shift these I can’ts to I don’ts, notice if you come up against any resistance and question it.
When is this true of me? That can be a helpful question. There are likely some examples of times you don’t eat candy or don’t drink wine after work or don’t eat sugar and flour. Lean into those. Focus on those.
So it’s like I am a person who doesn’t eat candy in the middle of the night. There are six to eight solid hours where I can say I don’t eat candy and it’s true. So when is this true of me? Find some examples like that.
You can also add right now, or tonight, or today to your I don’t sentence if you have a lot of trouble believing I don’t, period, end of story. Because when you say I don’t eat dessert, your brain might be offering you counter arguments like, well, you did yesterday, or you usually do.
So find a true sentence that counters it. I don’t eat dessert today. I don’t eat dessert right now. And then practice believing that. That’s a critical component of the efficacy of any of this, that with consciousness and commitment, you practice these new sentences, these new beliefs until they feel like the only truth.
The more you practice, the more you will look for and find evidence that they are true and the more strongly you will believe them. This is a power cycle or a virtuous cycle rather than a vicious one. Both are feedback loops. One is a positive feedback loop, encouraging you to keep doing this, the other a negative one.
The words you choose will determine the outcome and the choice is yours. Okay everybody, I have some really exciting things in the works in my business. Some amazing opportunities, some really fun changes to my program and the way things work, I cannot wait to tell you all about it in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
If you want all the latest info and updates, get on my waitlist at itbeginswithathought.com/waitlist and I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.