The 10 Forms of Twisted Thinking and How They Can Kill Your Health and Fitness Efforts

My husband is bipolar. Out of respect for his privacy I rarely talk about it online. Like most couples with one (or more) bipolar person, we’ve had to struggle, we’ve had challenges, and we’ve had to work at everyday things that many people take for granted. Despite all that, though, I consider my husband’s bipolar a gift. Knowing and loving my husband means I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about our brains, brain chemistry, depression and the lies we tell ourselves when we’re feeling down or vulnerable.

A few years ago, when hubs and I were going through a rough time, my hubs’ parents gave us a wonderful book called “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns, M.D.

On the cover, Dr. Burns claims you can “overcome depression, conquer anxiety, and enjoy greater intimacy” through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. At first I was very skeptical but I decided to give the book a try. I loved it. Now I am constantly recommending it to others who suffer from bipolar/depression or those who are just having a rough time.

Why do I like it so much?

In this book Dr. Burns details the 10 Forms of “Twisted Thinking” and gives instructions on how to untwist your thoughts. There are no counselors or therapists needed to succeed. All you need is YOU and your determination to get better. Dr. Burns’ advice makes sense, it’s easy to remember, and it’s logical.

So, why am I bringing all of this up?

I caught myself thinking twisted today about my diet and realized how appropriate Dr. Burns’ advice was for those of us who are trying to lose weight.

How can I not share it with you?!?!

Below is a list of the 10 Forms of Twisted Thinking, a short definition for each (I encourage you to read the book for more detailed info) and an example for each as it relates to health, fitness and/or weightloss:

1. All or Nothing Thinking – This is black-or-white thinking at it’s finest and most unreasonable. I am often guilty of this!
Example:“I skipped my run on Monday so I’ve ruined my entire training schedule. I might as well just stop running altogether.”

2. Overgeneralization – This could also be called “always or never” thinking. It’s when you see a single event (usually negative) as a sign of a never ending pattern of negativity.
Example: “I gained weight again this week. I’m always gaining weight. It will never change.”

3. Mental Filter – This is when one single negative detail or event sours your entire experience.
Example: Your family and friends have started to praise you for your weight loss efforts. Everyone says you’re looking great and they’re proud of you! However, one friend says something negative about your diet choices and you obsess over it for days.

4. Discounting the Positive – Just what it sounds like. Rejecting or dismissing a positive experience by insisting it didn’t count or wasn’t good enough.
Example: I’ve been going to bootcamp for weeks, have lost inches and gained lots of strength but I still can’t do a push-up like all the other women at the gym.

5. Jumping to Conclusions – This is when you decide something is bad or wrong without any evidence to support your conclusion.
Example: “Yoga is too difficult for people like me. I’m not even going to try it.” or “The trainers at the gym will judge me because I’m so overweight. I can’t face the humiliation”

6. Magnification – When you magnify your problems and shortcomings and minimize your strengths.
Example: “It doesn’t matter that I’m getting out and exercising because I’m a terrible eater.”

7. Emotional Reasoning – Relying on your emotions to tell you the “truth” of the situation or to help you make a decision.
Example: “I feel like I will never lose this weight. I’m completely hopeless.” or “I’m so sad today, I should just stay inside.”

8. “Should Statements” – Telling yourself you should or should not be doing or expecting something. When you do the thing you shouldn’t, you feel like a rebel or a bad person.
Example: “I shouldn’t eat that doughnut” or “I should’ve walked to work.”

9. Labeling – This is the extreme form of all-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking. You attach negative labels to yourself, other people or situations that lead to frustration, anger and low self-esteem.
Example: “Trainers are just a bunch of dumb jocks. They can’t help me.” or “Ugh, I’m such a failure.”

10. Personalization and Blame. – Blaming yourself or someone else for an event that isn’t entirely under your (or their) control.
Example: With the kids home and your spouse sick you couldn’t make it to the gym for a week. “If only I was a better mom or spouse, I could’ve somehow made it to the gym” or “The reason I’m not losing weight is because my doctor isn’t telling me everything I need to know”

It’s SO easy to lie to ourselves we often do it without thinking. Soon we start to believe our twisted thoughts, and they can lead to failure or, even worse, depression.

Are you guilty of twisted thinking? What do you tell yourself to get over your twisted thoughts?

P.S. Once again, I highly recommend you read The Feeling Good Handbook for yourself. No, I’m not getting paid for promoting it, however, if you DO buy the book by following this link, I will get Amazon Affiliate credit!

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