Ep. 252: How to JOURNAL for Weight Loss

Ready to change your mind about weight loss? Grab The 5-0 Method to lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.

You’ve heard me talk about managing your mind. Today I’m spilling the beans on the EXACT FORMULA that can take you everywhere you want to go.

You’ve heard me talk about managing your mind for weight loss success, and today I’m spilling the beans on the EXACT FORMULA that can take you everywhere you want to go. If there’s one part of the 5-0 Method that I get asked about the most, it’s the “mindset stuff,” and I get it! 

Starting a journaling practice can feel overwhelming. Where do you begin? What do you write? And – the big question – WHEN WILL I FEEL BETTER??

On today’s episode of the Fitness Matters podcast, we’re covering all of that and more, with my super detailed, can’t-go-wrong process, called The Two-Step Tool. In a nutshell, you’ll find your thoughts and decide if they’re helpful.

How to Journal for Weight Loss 

But let’s crack that nut open and dig in, with the step-by-step formula that will help you put pen to paper:

  1. Ask yourself a very specific and detailed question.
  2. Write your completely uncensored answers, one sentence per line.
  3. Add “I think” in front of each sentence.
  4. Listen for/find the feeling that each sentence creates for you.
  5. Decide if the feeling is “good” or “bad.”
  6. Write HELPFUL next to sentences that create a “good” feeling and UNHELPFUL next to sentences that create a “bad” feeling
  7. Let your brain work its magic

Ask Yourself a Question

First up, you’re going to ask yourself a very specific question, because your brain cannot help but answer a question. Your best bet is something like, “What do I think about the number on the scale this morning?” versus, “What do I think about my weight?” When you ask yourself too broad of a question, you’ll struggle to get started, but a narrow question will prompt answers, make it easier to answer, and will take less time.

Write Your Answers Completely Uncensored  

My friend, I cannot stress to you how important this is. The only way to be aware of what you’re thinking is to write down exactly what you hear in your head. And because we are looking for self-awareness, it means that we are purposefully looking for thoughts that don’t feel good. Thoughts that don’t feel good are the ones that are stopping you from getting to your goal. So it’s literally our job to find as many thoughts that don’t feel good as possible And it’s your job when you’re journaling, if you want to be successful with it, to let those thoughts out on paper.

Write “I think” in Front of Each Sentence     

You have a superpower called metacognition, which is the power to think about your thoughts, but sometimes when we’re thinking about our thoughts, we’re not recognizing them as thoughts. We can hear them. We can argue with them. We know that there’s narration going on in our head all the time and we understand intellectually that if it’s in your head, it is a thought. And yet it always sounds like facts. So adding the phrase, “I think” can help you tap into that metacognition superpower, where you are recognizing that your thought is a thought.

Listen For/Find the Feeling That Each Sentence Creates For You    

You probably already know how you feel about the whole situation, but each individual thought creates its own feeling, so it’s important to take the time to listen to each and every sentence slowly. The way that I do this particular part of the process is to start with my heart, and slowly do a full body scan. What do I feel, and where do I feel it? Describe your body sensations, and – if you can – write down the name of the emotion.

Decide if the Feeling is Good or Bad      

Here’s how I know if something feels good: I notice that I’d like to continue feeling it. Generally speaking, a good feeling is that good kind of bubbly where my shoulders pull back and my heart and my chest feel expansive and open. On the other hand, something like my throat feeling squeezy or my stomach feeling like it’s churning is a feeling that I would not like to feel. That feeling has all the information that you need.

Write the Word HELPFUL or UNHELPFUL Next to Each Sentence 

You have a second superpower called neuroplasticity, which means that your brain can rewire its neural pathways and think new thoughts. In fact, you can do this on purpose! No matter how much you might believe that you don’t like to change, you naturally have a growth mindset. As of right now, your brain has categorized every single thought you have ever had as helpful, because they have kept you alive. However, since some of your thoughts are not getting you to your intentional goal, you want to tell your brain in no uncertain terms, “Hey, this thought is unhelpful.”

Let Your Brain Work its Magic    

Lots of us would love to take charge of this process and be like, “Okay, here’s an affirmation that I’ll think on purpose to get to my goal,” but that’s not how neuroplasticity works. Recognizing and labeling your unhelpful thoughts as unhelpful is all the work that needs to be done. In the background, your brain will offer you those thoughts less often and work on finding others in their place.

Journaling Will Get You Everywhere You Want To Go    

Journaling is a skill, and it’s a formula that you can apply to everything. Every situation – no matter how thorny, no matter how sticky, no matter how difficult, no matter how angry you are, no matter how sad you are, no matter how happy you are. Journaling will help you get your goal.

Download the FREE cheat sheet and practice journaling page here.

Transcript

You're listening to The Fitness Matters Podcast with Pahla B and this is episode number 252, "How and Why to Journal for Weight Loss. Welcome to The Fitness Matters Podcast where every week we talk about the fitness matters that matter to you. I'm Pahla B, YouTuber, certified life and weight loss coach, soon to be author and your best middle-aged fitness friend. Are you ready to talk about the fitness mindset that matters to you? Me too. Let's go.

Hello, hello, my friends. How are you today? I am so excited to be here with you and talking about journaling. I'm already singing because I am so excited about this. This is a topic that I get asked about, and in fact, this is a topic that I don't even get asked about, I get told about. In The Killer Beehive, which is my free Facebook group, I hear from you guys all the time, "I'm doing really good on most of The 5-O Method." Which by the way, is my free weight loss program for women over 50 in case you don't already know that. There will be a link in the show notes or the description box about how to download it. It's very, very simple. You can just go to my website, pahlabfitness.com. It's right there on the front page.

Anyways, I hear all the time these comments from lots of y'all that say, "I'm doing pretty good, but I'm not quite sure about the mindset thing. I don't really know how to get started. Don't really like journaling. Not sure about the mindset stuff." Okay. So now here's the thing. I understand that if you are already here on the podcast, that you've already probably overcome at least a little bit of that hurdle, that you already maybe have tried some of the mindset stuff a little. Maybe.

Well, today I'm going to answer, maybe not all your questions. I'm going to answer most of your questions about how to journal. And I'm going to offer you a very, very, very prescriptive ... It's using the two step tool and I've got 20 steps. I'm going to give you a step by step. I'm going to tell you what to write. I'm going to tell you how to write it. I'm going to tell you when to write it, where to write it. I have so many details for you today that I want you to know that the reason I am offering something like this to you is so that you have such a clear picture of one way that journaling might work. This is not the only way that journaling could work for you personally. I've noticed however that nobody in the world is Googling the question, what's one way to journal? Most people are Googling a question like how should I journal for weight loss?

So I'm offering this to you as though it is the best way, because it's the best way for me. Because I have found such huge success, not just in weight loss, but with my business, with my relationships. With literally everything in my life that I have journaled about, this particular method has just worked so beautifully with my brain and the way my brain thinks and the way I like to do things, which is to say, I love to follow a formula. I love to have such clear instructions that I know exactly what to do. There's no place to get lost. There's nowhere to be like, "Well, I'm not really sure what to do next." This is a step by step process that will take you everywhere you want to go. And having said that, it is still subject to your modification. There might be some things about this particular process that you're like, "You know what? That just doesn't work for me." My friend, make it work for you always. Always.

So we're going to start as we often do with the why. I love to know why we're doing things, because sometimes I think that this is part of ... I'm going to call it confusion and I don't mean that to be insulting to you. I don't think that you are as a human being confused about all the things. I do think though that when people in general talk about journaling and how they feel so good and how it really has helped them and how they get so much success from it, if you are not currently journaling, you might think, "Oh, when I journal, I'm going to feel better immediately." Or, "I'm going to solve this problem that I have immediately."

And I want to be really, really clear right up front here. We don't come to our journals to feel better or to solve a problem, ever. And that if you come to your journal putting the pressure on your journaling practice of, I feel lousy and I want to feel better, and this journaling session better give me that result, my friend, you're going to be disappointed. Maybe. The fact is sometimes we do actually feel better and we do sometimes solve some problems when we come to our journal, but that's not why. When you come with an open mind, with an open heart, with just nice gentle compassion for yourself and for the turmoil that your brain feels like it's in right now ... When you come to your journal and you're like, "You know what, the only thing that I am doing here is I just want to see what's in my head. There's something I'm thinking and I'm going to get it out on paper and then I'm just going to know. That's it. I just want to know what's going on in my brain."

Now, when you can come to your journal looking only for self-awareness, I promise you that it will work leaps and bounds better than if you are coming to it trying to demand of it that you want to feel better or that you need to solve a problem. Self awareness is the reason that we journal. And here's why we want self awareness. I mean, I know that in and of itself ... If I were trying to sell you on self awareness, you might be like, "I don't get it. Why do I care? I don't don't need to know more about myself. I already know that I don't feel good. Why in the world would I want to know more about that?"

Here's why. My friends, your thoughts create your results. There's two steps in between there though. Your thoughts actually create your feelings, your feelings drive your actions, and then your actions get you results. This is where I'm going to refer you to the episode where we talk about how to change. It's foundational. It goes over all of those four steps in much more detail than I'm giving you here. But here's what I want you to know about that process. It is always working. Always. We notice it when we're trying to get a specific result. If we're trying to get weight loss, then we notice ... Well, sometimes we notice. I'm pointing out to you that your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings drive your actions, and then your actions get your results. But here's the thing. You have results in your life right now. You have results. Every single thing that you can see around you, that you know about yourself, about your life, about your situation, every single thing that you do, that you have, that you are, is a result of your thinking.

Your current weight is a result of your current thinking. My friend, this is why we want self-awareness. Your current thoughts are creating a result, and I say this with love, but that you don't want. I've titled this episode, How To Journal For Weight Loss. I assume that you are listening because you would like to create a weight loss result in your life. If you have some other result, I'll tell you what, this process totally works for that too. As I mentioned at the top of our discussion, I have gotten results that I want in my business and in my relationships and in my life from using this method, which is to say from self awareness.

Recognizing that my current thoughts aren't getting me the results that I want. And further to that ... And I know that if you are interested in mindset work at all, you know that you need to be thinking something different in order to get a different result. I want to just be really, really clear, really clear, that the act of demanding of yourself that you think something different, I have strong opinions about this, and I will even send you to the episode, Stop Thinking Positively. Because simply trying to think something different is in my opinion like trying to put a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches. It looks like it might be helpful. It looks like, okay, I'm doing what I can. I'm saying nice things to myself. Of course, I'm going to get where I want to go. But when you peel it up and you can see that there's a whole lot going on under there that needs a lot more attention, yeah, that's what we do with our journals. We find our current thoughts so that we can simply acknowledge them. So that we can be aware, this is what my brain offers me in these various situations.

This is what I'm currently thinking. And that's really, really helpful to understand that your current thoughts are getting you your current results. Let me also be clear that we don't come to our journal to brainstorm some happy new thought that could possibly get you where you want to go. Your brain ... And I'm getting way ahead of myself here, but let me just give you a spoiler alert. Your brain will actually do that brainstorming all by itself in the background without your help. Let me start giving you the prescriptive here's how, and then we can delve further into the why, as we're talking about the how. Because the why of knowing that we want self-awareness will also reveal itself as we are discussing the exact how. Let me also tell you that I have a cheat sheet for you. If you want to come to my website, pahlabfitness.com, which I have already sold you on to go get The 5-O Method, but come on over to the website, there will be a link in the show notes that give you the direct link to this episode. Because I will have for you a download that you can print out for yourself and use as a journal prompt that has all of these steps of the two step tool.

The two step tool, by the way, has its own episode. I believe it's 89, Mind Management. It really is two steps. It's find your thoughts and decide if they're helpful. It is that simple and yet there are nuances to both of those steps and that's what we're really diving into today. As mentioned, there are many more steps to the two step tool that are very prescriptive and very like, this is exactly what you do to find your thoughts. This is exactly what you do to decide if they're helpful. This is exactly why this works and here's what to do next.

So the first thing that we're going to do is we're going to ask ourselves a very, very, very specific question. The reason why we would ask ourselves a very specific question is twofold. Number one, your brain cannot help but answer a question. I'm going to call it innate. Whether or not it actually is, or it's something that we simply use so often that it feels innate to our nature. There's some evidence that it could have been passed down and this is just how our brains are supposed to work because it makes sense. Evolutionarily speaking, a cave person who could answer a question, who could solve a problem was definitely going to survive longer than a person who couldn't solve a problem. So it certainly makes sense that the people who could solve problems passed down their genetics and now our brains do this very naturally because of all those years of natural selection.

So the fact is that your brain is primed, either through DNA or just because we do it so often, to answer questions. Therefore, when you ask yourself a question, you will very likely prompt answers from your brain. Versus sitting down in your journal ... And this is what I used to do you guys. I have so much sympathy for this one. I used to sit down with a pen and be like, "What should I write? I have no idea." Unless I was really angry about something or really sad about something or just wanted to create a memory, write something down in order to remember it later kind of a thing, I used to not journal very often at all because I thought I had to have some topic.

And you might still struggle with asking yourself a question. Here's what I'm going to offer you, is that asking yourself something very, very, very specific is going to be the best way to go. And usually for me, that makes it even easier to find the question to ask myself. When I notice that I'm upset about the number on the scale this morning that's my question. What do I think about the number on the scale this morning? That's how narrow and focused you want to ask this question. Not just, what do I think about my weight? What do I think about my weight? Oh my God. You could be journaling for 100 years or not at all because that's too big of a question. When you ask yourself a very, very narrow and specific question ... What do I think about stepping on the scale tomorrow morning? What do I think about emptying the dishwasher?
I have no idea what episode that was where I talked about emptying the dishwasher. But I am going to bring up that example again where my husband told me that he was going to empty the dishwasher after our oldest son moved out because our oldest son used to empty the dishwasher. That was just one of his chores. And after he moved out, my husband threw out randomly, "Oh, you know what? Now that he's moved out, I'm going to go ahead and start emptying the dishwasher." And I thought that was really nice. It was great. I think he emptied it once or twice randomly. And I kept expecting him to empty the dishwasher because he had told me he was going to, and then he didn't because it wasn't part of his day. It wasn't part of his habits. I mentioned it to him later and he's like, "Oh my God. I promised that?" He didn't even remember.

So I, upon emptying the dishwasher every single time, was infuriated because I thought that I wasn't supposed to be emptying the dishwasher. Come to find out my husband didn't think he was supposed to be emptying the dishwasher either. So I have an entire journal ... Probably more than one because it came up a couple of times in my day that I noticed that I was mad that I was emptying the dishwasher and I wanted to know, okay, what am I thinking? As it turned out, I had lots of should thoughts about, I shouldn't be doing this. He should be doing this. Lots of thoughts that I didn't really hear until I came to my journal. So when you could ask yourself a very, very specific narrow question ... Like I said, it will prompt your brain to answer it because that's how brains work. Also asking a very narrow question will make it easier to answer and will take less time.

You could, if you wanted to, journal for hours. If that is your jam my friend, knock yourself out. Have a good time with it. Don't do this the way I'm telling you to do it. Make modifications that work for you. For me personally, I love to journal, but also I really don't. I will put off journaling because I think it's going to take too long if I think I've got a lot on my mind. So I offer myself this ability to ask a very narrow question so that I can have just a handful of responses. I feel very satisfied when I have, let's say five to 10 sentences in my journal. That to me is a productive and helpful journaling session. It does not need to be pages long.

So then number two, which is still step one of finding your thoughts. You're going to write completely uncensored. My friend, I cannot stress to you how important this is. First of all, your brain actually really wants to be heard. Your brain, it's not separate from you, but it is. You are not your thoughts. But also they're in there and so you want to be aware of exactly what your brain is saying. So many of us struggle with this. I struggled with this for years. I worried that somebody would read my journal. I worried that I would hurt somebody's feelings because I was talking about them. I worried that it was too much or wrong or I would try and say things in a nicer way because I worried that I was being too negative. I just had a lot of judgements about what I was writing. And this is what I'm going to offer you. Because you are coming to your journal for self awareness. The only way to be aware of what you're thinking is to write down exactly what you hear in your head.

IF you are the kind of person who would rather not swear, but your brain has swear words for you, write them down. If you are the kind of person who would rather not be seen as negative, but your thoughts are very negative, write them down exactly as they occur to you. If you are the kind of person who would rather not whatever it is that your brain offers you, this part is going to take some practice to really allow yourself to write down exactly what your brain is offering you.
Now here's the thing about what your brain is offering you. Because we are looking for self-awareness, it means that we are actually, purposefully, hoping to find thoughts that don't feel good. Thoughts that don't feel good are the ones that are stopping you from getting to your goal. So it's literally our job to find as many thoughts that don't feel good as possible. And let me tell you that what happens is that when you are thinking thoughts that don't feel good, they don't feel good. I know that sounds so obvious, but it surprises me every time when I come to my journal and I'm like, "I want to feel better, but I actually feel worse because these thoughts don't feel good." Yeah. That's what happens. We have thoughts that don't feel good and they're stopping us from getting where we want to go. And it's your job when you're journaling, if you want to be successful with it, to let those thoughts out on paper.

Now, here's the other thing that I'm going to have you do. When you write down your responses ... This whole process is easier and I'm going to say neater, more tidy even though I don't ... Well, no, I do care about that. I do. My journal has all kinds of scratches and circles and arrows and things that have squares around them. My journal is a mess, but also there's a part of me that really, really likes it to look very tidy. So my suggestion is that you write one sentence on each line, as opposed to writing a paragraph. Going through and writing as though you ... Like a stream of consciousness. It is a stream of consciousness, but it's a stream of consciousness that you are simultaneously not censoring yourself and also performing this in a way that will help you with the next step. Meaning that you are writing one sentence on each line.
It's not really censoring. I guess that would almost be editing. Formatting. That's the word I'm trying to come up with. You are formatting your journal so that you can do the next couple of steps. So I like to write completely uncensored whatever my brain offers me. I like to ask a specific question in a way ... And I apologize because I meant to mention this with the first thing where you ask a question. I like to ask a question of what do I think? Because it already puts me in the frame of mind of finding what I'm thinking, finding thoughts and it helps me recognize them as thoughts which is what we're coming up to next.

The next thing that you're going to do ... And this is why you've written each sentence on one line. You're going to write the words I think in front of each sentence. You guys, here's the first part of this magic of the two step tool. We don't know that our thoughts are thoughts. We do and sometimes we can get there intellectually. Yes, I understand that if it's in my head that it's a thought, but also it sounds so true. It's definitely real. He should have emptied the dishwasher. This step of adding the phrase I think in front of each sentence, it's tapping into one of your superpowers. You have two of them. One of them is called metacognition, which is the power to think about your thoughts. We are quite possibly ... There's evidence both ways. We don't know for sure. Because we don't speak the language of animals. We don't know whether or not they can think about their thoughts. Because we think in language, we understand that we can think about our thoughts and we do all the time. Except that sometimes even when we're thinking about our thoughts, we're not recognizing them as thoughts. We can hear them. We can argue with them. We know that there's narration going on in our head all the time and we understand intellectually that if it's in your head, it is a thought. And yet it always sounds like facts. Always. Always. Every time.

So adding the phrase I think can help you tap into that metacognition superpower, where you are recognizing that your thought is a thought. I have an entire episode about this. It's called What Is a Thought? I highly recommend that you go listen to it because it dives into this a lot deeper. I also recommend ... I mean, if you're going to go listen to a whole bunch of other podcasts, let me recommend more. The other thing that I will recommend is Facts Versus Opinion. It's a very foundational episode. I recorded it, oh my gosh, at least two years ago. So there's some thought processes there that I have definitely evolved over the past two years, as far as how I approach this and what I talk about. And the thing really specifically is that I used to refer to thoughts as opinions, because I do think that it's actually really helpful language so that you understand that all of your thoughts are opinions.

I can go both ways on that one. Either way it's a helpful foundational episode. Take a listen to that one. When you take a moment ... This is really the magic of this whole process. You are taking the time to really put everything in your brain on slowmo. You are going to frame by frame with this process. To take every single sentence, to look at it as a single sentence, and then write the phrase I think in front of it so that you can take that moment and be like, oh my gosh, this thought, he should have emptied the dishwasher, is a thought. That's not a fact. I can find all kinds of evidence. He told me would. I don't have anybody else to do it. I have to work too. This feels so factual, but it's a thought. It's a thought I have. And I'm thinking this thought.
Now, here's the next step. After we have taken that moment to recognize each thought as a thought ... That by the way, the first three things that we just talked about, asking a question, writing uncensored and adding I think in front of them, that's all just finding your thoughts. That's step one of the two step tool. This next part is deciding if they're helpful. So here's how we know whether or not a thought is helpful. And I'm going to digress a little bit off in left field here, but I want to be really clear about something. There is nothing about your thoughts that have the nature of being helpful or unhelpful. A thought is just a thought. It's a spark of electricity in your brain that you have for a variety of reasons, most of which is that you've perceived things in your lifetime. You've taken things in. People have said things. You've read things. You've heard things. Your brain formed neural pathways that simply kept corroborating this thing. That's the only reason you have this thought is because you have this thought. There's nothing about the thought that is either good or bad or helpful or unhelpful.

However, situationally, your thoughts will be helpful or unhelpful to get to a specific goal. So here's the thing about deciding whether or not your thought is helpful. You need to know what you want from a situation. Here's why I brought up this very specific example of the time that my husband didn't empty the dishwasher and really it's not so that I can continue to be right and he can continue to be wrong. Even though it feels like that. Like I'm haranguing about this one particular situation. I promise we have long since moved past this and I guarantee that if my husband were to ever listen to my podcasts, which I don't think he does, he would be like, "Oh my God. I said I would empty the dishwasher?" Because he has long since forgotten everything about this entire situation.

I bring it up because it's a really good example. I think it's a really good example because it's a step removed from weight loss and sometimes it's hard to see when you're in the middle of thinking unhelpful thoughts about your weight loss journey, that there is an answer. That there is a way to think about this that you have a ... If not a big goal, then at least an intermediary goal. Here's the thing about my journaling session about what do I think about emptying the dishwasher. My goal for that situation could have been, I want to be right. I want somebody else to empty the dishwasher. If that was my goal in that situation, then all of my righteous indignation about how he should have emptied the dishwasher would have been helpful thoughts.

However, my goal for that situation was to come to peace with the dishwasher and love for my husband. So every thought I had that created feelings of anger or indignation, or again, the righteous indignation or defiance, that meant that all of those thoughts were unhelpful. Here's the thing about deciding whether or not your thought is helpful. You're going to listen for and find the feeling in each sentence individually. This is a frame by frame thing.

You already probably kind of know how you feel about the whole situation. I knew that I was pretty frustrated with the whole situation, but each individual thought that I had, when taken individually out of the context of my son moved away, I'm already feeling a little bit raw and sad about that, about being in a new ... Not a new place, but a new place in my life as far as empty nesting. Out of context, each individual thought creates its own feeling. Taking the time to listen to each and every sentence slowly. This is such a slow process y'all. And if there's going to be a barrier to entry, it's going to be this. It's slow to journal. It's slow to take your time to write one thought on each line. It's slow to go over it again and write I think in front of it and think about the fact that it's a thought. It's slow to look at each sentence and be like, "Okay, what feeling do I feel in my body right now?" And then write down that feeling.

Here's the thing. All of this is 100% worth it. And however much of this you can get done is worth it. If you get one sentence that creates one feeling that you can recognize as a thought and recognize and label as either helpful or unhelpful, you my friend have had a hugely successful journaling session. Hugely successful. You do not need to get pages of helpful or unhelpful thoughts. You do not need to feel every feeling in the rainbow in order to get this work done. I promise you that you will change your life. I cannot state that more emphatically. You will change your life one thought at a time. Taking the time to listen to one sentence and asking yourself, how do I feel when I think this thought?

I'm going to tell you to listen inside your body and that sounds like cuckoo talk. I know it does. I know that doesn't seem very helpful. So let me really break this down for you as clearly as I can. The way that I do this particular part of the process is to start with my heart. I take a listen to my heartbeat. This step of finding the feelings is going to require some patience, some practice and some brain body connection. If you have ever watched any of my workout videos, you have probably heard me talk about the brain body connection. This is excellent practice to notice what's going on inside your body.

So I like to start with my heart because that's where a lot of my feelings seem to center. Sometimes my heart feels like it's being squeezed or sometimes my heart or my chest feel like they are expanding depending on what kind of a feeling it is. The next place I go is my stomach because sometimes my stomach feels like it's being squeezed or it feels like it's churning, or it feels like it's burning, or it feels like it's being stabbed or punched or collapsing in on itself. I also like to look ... Well, look. I like to feel into my throat. Very often I will notice a feeling in my throat that my throat feels like it's squeezing or that my throat feels very light and open. Then I go to my shoulders and see whether or not my shoulders are hunching forward or squeezing in, or if they feel like they've been pulling back and open and expanding. Next, weirdly, I like to go to my fingers and toes. I sometimes have a tingling sensation in my fingers or my toes that gives me information about what kind of a feeling I'm having.

Very frequently a feeling like anxiety, really specifically is the one that comes to me right away, I will feel that much more in my limbs. The feeling is trying to get out of the middle of my body and it's trying to get out of my body so it zings all the way to my fingers and toes and feels very kinetic, very bubbly, but not in a good way. Like carbonated and more like electricity even. The next place I like to look for a feeling or feel for a feeling is the top of my head. I very frequently have almost steam escaping from the top of my head or a bubbly, in a good way, happy feeling at the top of my head. I'm listening to myself and I'm like, I don't know if this is a very good description.

And here's what I want you to know. You and your experience of your feelings is going to be unique to you. I'm trying to offer you some of the ways that I feel my feelings because they are physical vibrations in your body. What happens is that you have a thought. It's a spark of electricity in your brain. That spark of electricity fires along a neural pathway and along that neural pathway, there are receptors that spark out chemicals and hormones that quite literally react in your body. You have a physical response to your thoughts, and you can feel that physical response in your body in different places. Sometimes your heart beats harder. Sometimes your breathing quickens. Sometimes your throat feels like it's squeezing. Sometimes you'll get tears in your eyes. Sometimes you'll feel like you need to laugh. You have involuntary physical, physiological responses that we call emotions.

Now here's the thing. You might not have a lot of language for this right now. It has taken me years. If you go listen to some of those old podcasts, I very frequently described my feelings with more thoughts. And it's really funny to me to listen to those. You may or may not care about this. This is a little bit of a left turn. But when you can describe your feelings as physiological responses, as opposed to, well, it feels like I should be doing something different or it feels like he should be empty in the dishwasher, or it feels like another thought ... This takes practice. This takes time and effort and work. There's no nice way to say it. You're going to have to practice listening in or feeling in or looking in, however you want to describe it, to notice your physiological responses. And you might not know what those feelings are.

It's completely okay. All you have to do is decide if it feels good or it feels bad. Here's how I know if something feels good. I notice that I'd like to continue feeling it. For me, generally speaking, a good feeling is that good kind of bubbly where my shoulders pull back and my heart and my chest feel expansive and open. Sometimes there's a lightness to it. Meaning like a color like a light yellow, or even a bright white or a soft pink or a soft blue. Like what I consider a happy color or a pleasant color to it. To me, those kinds of physiological responses feel good. They are the kinds of responses that I would enjoy feeling for a length of time.

Something like my throat feeling squeezy or my stomach feeling like it's churning is a feeling that I would not like to feel. It's a feeling that honestly, as soon as I feel it, I notice that I'd really like to avoid it. I'd really like to do something else. And this is something I notice very frequently when I'm journaling. I'd really like to check my email. I would very much like to pick up my phone and scroll on Instagram. I would very much like to get up and go for a walk to see if I can dispel this feeling. When I notice that I would very much like to avoid a feeling, that is something that I would label as bad. I'm using air quotes here because the fact is all of your feelings have information for you so technically speaking, they're all good. Also, technically speaking, they're all natural. Your body produced this physiological response to give you information about your thoughts.

It's good for you, but it's good for you in a way that when you were a kid Brussels sprouts are good for you. I happen to love Brussels sprouts now and honestly, I didn't eat those as a kid, but broccoli. I remember eating broccoli as a kid and I didn't like it. Now I love broccoli. God, I would eat broccoli every day. Love broccoli. But it's good for you, but it feels bad. So we're going to use the words good and bad here. Even though technically speaking your feelings are all good because they all have information for you. But go ahead and label it either good or bad. You don't have to, but you can label it with a specific name.

If you have the language and the nuance and the feeling, fortitude to say this is ennui or this is even something as simple as this is anger, or this is frustration, or this is disappointment, or this is elated, or this is pleasant. However you want to name the feelings is fabulous. Good for you. And I mean that literally. It is good for you to develop that kind of language. It's a skill. It's helpful to you, but you don't have to. If you can simply decide, this feels good or this feels bad, that has all the information you need. As just a skill development tool, I like to write down the feeling with a name or at least good and bad, good or bad rather, next to the sentence. Sometimes I don't have a lot of room for this. So help yourself with your own journaling, whether or not you've got a big piece of paper or a small piece of paper, whether or not you want to put little chicken scratch or whatever.

Sometimes for me personally, I would just grab a different colored pen and put a little G or B next to it so that it looks different. You can feel free to choose however you would like to do this. Here's the thing. That feeling has all the information that you need. When you have your stated goal of for example, I want to love my husband, then I know that righteous indignation feels a little bit churney in my stomach. It feels bad. Therefore, the thought he should have emptied the dishwasher is unhelpful. Feelings that you would label as bad tell you that specific thought is unhelpful for getting to your goal.

Now here's the thing. The next step is that we're going to write the word helpful or unhelpful next to each sentence. Now, again, if you got down here and all of a sudden you're like, I have completely run out of room, you can help yourself to just grabbing a red pen and putting an X next to it or something physical that is very clear to you that this thought is unhelpful. Here's why. You have a second superpower. Your brain can rewire its neural pathways. I find this completely and utterly fascinating. Your brain is not fixed. If you've ever heard somebody talk about a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, I want you to know you, my friend, every single person on the planet actually has a growth mindset. You have the ability. You were born with it. You will never lose it. No matter how much you think of yourself as being somebody who is stuck in their ways ... I'm just chuckling to myself because my sister was the kind of person who was like, "No change is good change. I don't ever want to change." And yet she changed all the time because we do. Because we do.

We form new neural pathways all the time and we are capable of creating new neural pathways on purpose. It's amazing. And this is how you get your goal. But here's the thing. As of right now, your brain has categorized every single thought you have ever had as helpful. Because technically speaking again, they are. Your thoughts are neither good, nor bad. They're just thoughts. Your feelings, neither good, nor bad. They have information for you. Because all of your thoughts have information for you, technically they're helpful. And to your brain because your brain's number one biological imperative is to stay alive. Whatever thought you've thought has kept you alive. Therefore, tada, this was helpful. You're welcome. According to your brain.
However, since some of your thoughts are not getting you to your intentional goal, you want to tell your brain in no uncertain terms, "Hey, this thought is unhelpful." You do that by writing the word unhelpful next to it, or putting a red X next to it, or at least saying to yourself, "The thought he should have emptied the dishwasher is unhelpful to get me to the goal of feeling love towards my husband." That was very wordy, but you get what I'm saying here. You want to tell your brain on purpose that a thought is unhelpful. Now, the next step, my friends, is the one that's going to be really hard for you if you are anything like me, which is to say, I am a control freak. The next step is to let your brain work its magic.

This whole series of events that we have just done ... We've asked ourselves a question. We've written completely uncensored. We've written exactly what our brain offers us, because what we want to do here is we just want to be aware. We just want to know. Let's see it on the page. We've recognized each thought as a thought, which is the first step in starting to rewire your brain. Like, oh wait a second. I don't have to think this. This is a thought. This is optional. This is an opinion. Then we've felt for the feeling that thought creates in our bodies and we've decided, oh, hey, this feels good, this feels bad. This must mean that this thought is helpful for getting me towards my goal or unhelpful for getting me towards my goal. And let me be really clear again, the only thing we're going for here is self-awareness.

If you notice yourself starting to beat yourself up ... "Oh my God, I have so many unhelpful thoughts. Oh my God, I do nothing but think negatively. This is terrible. This is awful. I can't believe that I'm thinking this. I can't believe that this is what's going on in my head." That's me shaking my finger at you. My friends this is all excellent news. You now have the self awareness that you came to your journal for. You have found 17 unhelpful thoughts. This is amazing news. Every time you find an unhelpful thought, you are closer to getting to your goal because here's why. Your brain, your magic amazing super computer of a brain, upon being given the information that it is thinking a thought and further, that thought is unhelpful, your brain will start to offer you that thought less and start to work in the background on wondering if there's another thought that we could think.

Now, lots of us would love, we would love to take charge of this process and be like, "Okay, here's an affirmation. I always love my husband. And I'm so happy and grateful for our perfect marriage where we have an even split of the chores." You guys, I can't even say that with a straight face. Can't even. And yet recognizing the thought he should have emptied the dishwasher as unhelpful. The next time I emptied the dishwasher, I noticed that thought wasn't rattling around the way that it had before. It didn't feel the same churny, oh, this is not my job. It should have been his. I did not have that same visceral reaction to emptying the dishwasher because I had gained the self-awareness from my journaling session that that thought was a thought, that it created a feeling that I would rather not feel and that thought therefore was unhelpful. I found my thoughts, I decided if they were helpful. And then my brain worked its magic.

You guys, this was a lot of steps for a two step tool. Am I right? I'm going to actually recap for us because I feel like this is a little bit all over the place. I want to tell you in no uncertain terms, here are the seven steps that I have written down for how to use the two step tool. Number one is to ask a question. Number two is to write uncensored. Number three is to add the phrase I think in front of each sentence. Number four is to listen and find the feeling for each sentence. Number five is to decide if that feeling is either good or bad. Number six is to write helpful if the feeling is good or unhelpful if the feeling is bad, next to each sentence. And number seven is to let your brain work. its magic. Y'all, journaling will get you everywhere you want to go.
Journaling is a skill. It's a formula that you can apply to everything. Every situation. No matter how thorny, no matter how sticky, no matter how difficult, no matter how angry you are, no matter how sad you are, no matter how happy you are. Yes, you can actually come to your journal when you feel amazing and find the helpful thoughts on purpose so that you can be aware of them. 99.9% of the time though, you're going to find unhelpful thoughts. I say that with love, but you can do this to find helpful thoughts also. Because remember you're helpful thoughts? They're the ones getting you where you want to go.

I hope that this was helpful. As I always hope. I hope that this process makes sense to you. I hope it's something that you can start to put into practice. I hope that I have given you so much information that you can make even one part of this work for you in your practice so that you can get your goal. And my friend, this is the part where I'm going to tell you that this is what we do in the Get Your Goal group. I mention at the end of every single episode of the podcast, because of course the little blurb that I pre-recorded about, hey, do you love what we're doing here? Come and join us. But for reals, this is exactly what we work on. We work on finding our thoughts and deciding if they're helpful. There are nuances to it. This is a skill that you can practice that you can deepen over time.

My journaling practice two years ago was ... I'm just going to call it basic. I say that to myself with love. It was what it was. It was where I started. I had a lot of misconceptions about how to do it or why or what I was going to get out of it. And I understand that when I'm offering you all of this information, that only some of it is going to really seep in right now. But this is an episode that you can come back to and learn from and deepen your own practice again and again and again so that you can get your goal. Again, what we do in the Get Your Goal group, my friends. I hope that you heard exactly what you needed to hear today. I'll talk to you again soon.
If you're getting a lot out of The Fitness Matters Podcast and you're ready to take it to the next level, you're going to love to Get Your Goal Coaching And Accountability Group. We take all the theory and knowledge here on the podcast and actually apply it in real life on your real weight loss and fitness goals. It's hands on, it's fun, and it works. Find out more at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal and let's get your goal.

Listen to the full episode here, and be sure to leave a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts.

Originally aired September 4, 2022
You’ve heard me talk about managing your mind. Today I’m spilling the beans on the EXACT FORMULA that can take you everywhere you want to go.
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Meet Your Host

Mindset expert and certified life coach Pahla B knows a thing or two about changing your mind to change your weight and your life. She’s the creator of The 5-0 Method, Amazon-best selling author of the book “Mind Over Menopause,” and former yo-yo dieter who has cracked the code on lifelong weight maintenance. Join Pahla B each week for the personal insights, transformative mindset shifts, and science-backed body advice that can help you lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.