Negative thinking patterns and problem solving

Negative thinking patterns and negative mood states can undermine your weight loss.

Many who have lost weight only to regain it later tend not to allow themselves to confront problems directly and are much more likely to turn to food or drink in response to emotional distress. Conversely people who have successfully achieved a lasting weight loss have been able to learn how to face problems head on and use problem solving strategies to overcome the hurdles everyday life presents to them.

The development of problem solving skills is particularly helpful at times when you are dealing with emotional distress so you don’t revert to old unhealthy habits.

Problem solving requires you to be prepared to deal with problems before they arise. High stress situations tend to arise either as a result of emotional or social factors. Being able to identify these high-risk situations and modify or adapt your eating and exercise habits, will enable you to find a solution that works for you.

Steps for problem solving

  1. Define the problem as you see it
  2. Make a list of possible solutions
  3. Weigh up the pros and cons of each option
  4. Choose the best and healthiest option for you and make this your goal
  5. Make a plan of how to achieve your goal
  6. Commence your chosen course of action
  7. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and control you get from solving a problem effectively


An example of a high risk situation could be an invitation out to dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate a special occasion with friends. There are 3 approaches you could take:

  1. Avoidance – decline the invitation BUT this is not a practical nor realistic solution.
  2. Give in to temptation - go all out, and then feel guilty and out of control afterwards.
  3. Use your problem solving skills - call the restaurant ahead of time and ask what they have in the way of healthy or calorie-controlled meals. Plan your menu choices and using your knowledge of healthy food portions and energy densities you will be able to adequately balance your energy in with sufficient energy out to ensure your weight is maintained.

Be confident

As each problem is solved successfully, your confidence to deal with new challenges will grow. So when a new challenge arises, think about past problem solving successes you’ve experienced and use positive thoughts (affirmations).

Useful affirmations might be:

  • “I have solved more difficult (or similar) problems before so I know I can solve this”
  • “I know I can solve this problem if I face it one step at a time