How Cognitive Distortions Can Sabotage Your Health

Cognitive, or thought distortions, are something we all struggle with from time to time. Read on to find out what they are and how they can sabotage your health.

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

  • “I’ll never be able to lose this weight.”
  • “I should watch what I eat… I should lose more weight…I should workout more.”
  • “I ate waaay to much last night. I blew my whole diet.”
  • “It’s too late for me to become healthy. I’m too old.”

If so, I have great news for you; they’re not true!

The above thoughts are examples of cognitive distortions; even though we may feel a specific thought to be true, in reality, it’s false or distorted. Thought distortions are something we all struggle with from time to time, but when they go unchecked, guide our behavior, and we believe them to be true, they lead to unwanted stress, unhappiness, and ultimately end up deterring us from reaching our goals.

Why these thoughts are false.

  • “I’ll never be able to lose this weight.”

This is an example of a cognitive distortion known as overgeneralization. It’s false because using the word “never” (in a self-defeating context) when describing a single event, is impossible. Most likely, there have been times that you have been able to lose weight. If you can’t recall one, you may need to think harder. If you still insist that you’ve never been able to lose weight in the past, the thought is still false. Never also infers the future and unless you’re a fortune teller, you can’t predict it.

  • “I should watch what I eat. I should lose weight.  I should workout more.”

Should and shouldn’t are also examples of cognitive distortions.  Surprisingly, when you add should or shouldn’t to your goal related thoughts, you’re distorting them. How? You’re attempting to self-motivate by indirectly inducing guilt and “guilting” your way to success rarely works. What you “should” tell yourself is that you want to lose more weight and or want to work out more and then be specific. By replacing the should with want and then proceeding to be specific by quantifying it (i.e. workout 5x per week instead of your current 2) you’re removing the hindering self-induced guilt and paving the way for a greater chance at reaching your goal.

  • “I ate waaay to much last night. I blew my whole diet.”

This is an example of all or nothing thinking another common cognitive distortion and a thought that is false. You did not blow your whole diet, you overate once… at dinner. Stating the event for what it really is will help you stay on track with your weight loss goal, rather than abandon the goal altogether which is usually what happens with this type of distortion. This all or nothing thinking, also known as black and white thinking, is highly detrimental since it allows no room for error when it comes to reaching our goals. Considering were complex humans with a variety of external and internal circumstances affecting our path to success, allowing for grey areas (room for error) is a must.

  • “It’s too late for me to become healthy. I’m too old.”

Instead of getting specific with what you may be struggling with, your instead, turning your characteristics into a negative global judgement, called labeling. Rather than specifically describing what you’d like to improve on (the first step in reaching your goals) you attach the all to common, unhealthy label, of “I’m too old.” This thought is false as indicated by the countless number of individuals that have regained control of their health throughout various ages of their lives! All you need to do is google “fit at the age of 70, 80 or 90” and you’ll see that it’s never too late.

Awareness is key.

Becoming aware of these distortions is key to long term success. The anxiety and fear invoked when attempting to change entrenched behaviors for the better, tends to cause an increase in these cognitive distortions. Its human nature to want to remain comfortable (by sticking to what we know) and we can go to great lengths in our minds to convince us to do so. Instead, by intentionally identifying and counteracting these types of distortions, you can then use your thoughts to help identify where exactly your struggling, change your behavior, stop the sabotage and ultimately, reach your goals.


If you know you need to improve your health, but are struggling with where and how to start, contact me for a free strategy session HERE.

Comments are closed.