Improve Your Health by Improving Your Thoughts

cognitive distortions negative thoughts reframe thought exercise thought patterns Mar 10, 2020

Does it feel like your thoughts are out to get you?

You aren’t alone!

Based on the comments on my Instagram post, many of you resonated with distorted thinking. 

Cognitive distortion is a fancy way of saying, “your thoughts aren’t always helpful or correct.”⁣

Since many individuals struggle with distorted thoughts, I wanted to go through some common distortions. 

In a future post, I’ll also share tips on how you can ditch those dysfunctional thoughts. 


Cognitive Distortions 101


Cognitive distortions are inaccurate or exaggerated thoughts. They’re ways that your mind convinces you of something that isn’t true. 

Cognitive distortions can produce negative thought patterns or emotions and skew your perception of reality. 

Your brain does this because your mind is trying to make sense of situations, usually in the simplest way possible. Unfortunately, the result of this is often irrational and can be harmful. 

By recognizing thought distortions, you’re better able to deal with them in a healthy way.


⁣Common Thought Distortions


Below is not an exhaustive list of thought distortions. I’m sharing 13 common ones that you can likely resonate with. 

As you read through this list, consider recent situations when you’ve had these disordered thoughts. Then head to this post to learn how you can overcome them.


Distortion 1: Filtering

Filtering is the process of focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive. 

For example, you may say, “I can’t believe I still have 10 pounds to lose,” when you’ve already lost 10. 

Try and focus on the positive side, which, in this example, is that you’ve already lost 10 pounds and are halfway to your goal!


Distortion 2: Catastrophizing

You're catastrophizing if you’re always expecting the worst-case scenario and minimizing the positive. 

An example is if you think that if you can’t adhere to a particular diet, you’ll never adhere to any diet, and you’ll never reach your health and fitness goals. 

The reality is that if you can’t adhere to a particular diet, it’s not because you’re a failure. That diet may be too restrictive for you. Try another approach, or work with a coach who can help guide you. 


Distortion 3: Polarized Thinking

⁣This is all-or-nothing thinking, which I talk about frequently. If you’re experiencing polarized thinking, you’re likely ignoring the complexity of a situation. 

If you approach your fitness goals thinking there’s only one way to do things otherwise it’s wrong, that’s polarized thinking. 

For example, if you think you MUST workout 5 times a week to be successful. And the weeks you only get 3 workouts in are just the same as if you were to get zero, that’s polarized thinking! 

I’m gonna guess you know that’s not how it works, but the cognitive distortion might still be hanging around regardless! ! You might just need the help of a coach to identify and work through this!


Distortion 4: Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

With heaven’s reward fallacy, you’re expecting the worst-case scenario and minimizing the positives of a situation. 

You might say, “I had this gut feeling that I wouldn’t be successful, so I decided not to try at all.”

But if you don’t try, you’ll never know, and you’ll never give yourself the opportunity to prove that you can be successful. 


Distortion 5: Control Fallacies

With control fallacies, you either assume only others are to blame for a situation or that you only have yourself to blame. 

Let’s say you can’t make it to the gym one day because your kid got sick and needed to be picked up from school early. If you beat yourself up for not having gone earlier in the day, seeing yourself as the only thing to blame (not the unpredictable situation), that’s the control fallacy at work. 

Try as you might, you can’t control every scenario and outcome. Working with these unpredictable scenarios and not blaming yourself will always be the better option. We work with a lot of busy moms at KJO Coaching, so this example hits home for us!


Distortion 6: Always Being Right

This might be obvious, but always being right disordered thinking means your brain tells you that being wrong is unacceptable and that being right supersedes everything. 

An example of this could be continuing to argue with someone regardless of how badly they feel, just so you “win” the argument. 

Pretty much everyone wants to be right, but we have to consider other people’s thoughts and feelings, too, especially during a disagreement.


Distortion 7: Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization means you assume a rule from one experience. 

Maybe your friend lost weight while she was on the keto diet; overgeneralization would be assuming that keto is the best diet for fat loss, and it’s what you must do to see results. 

One instance of an event does not make it a rule. Sure, there may be a reason your friend lost weight while doing keto, but it was because she was in a caloric deficit, not because she stopped eating carbs. 

Also, don’t stop eating carbs. Your body needs them. 


Distortion 8: Jumping to Conclusions

When you make assumptions based on little to no evidence, you’re jumping to conclusions. 

Have you been told that you can spot reduce fat? That’s a widespread misconception in the fitness world, and it’s not founded in evidence. 

But, if you hear an uneducated coach talking about how her program will help you specifically “lose weight on your thighs,” and you jump to the conclusion that, since she’s a “coach,” she must know what she’s talking about, and buy her program — that’s a thought distortion that just lost you some money!!

There is a ton of research on various topics when it comes to fitness. If you’re curious about something, seek out the research or speak to an educated coach who can share their knowledge with you. 


Distortion 9: Emotional Reasoning

That’s the “if I feel it, it must be true” cognitive distortion. 

Sure, your gut feeling may help you from time to time, but it’s not always going to be accurate.

One that we hear ALL the time from new clients at KJO Coaching is: “I just don’t feel like it’s the right time” - when the reality is, it will NEVER be the “right” time to change your life. You just have to dive in, even if it doesn’t feel 100% right!


Distortion 10: Blaming

If you assume things are everyone else’s fault, you’re experiencing the blaming cognitive distortion. 

A common example of blaming we see in the fitness industry is people saying they can’t lose weight because of genetics. Sure, your body type or some other genetic factors may play a small role in your success, but they aren’t the reason why you aren’t losing fat or building muscle. 

By taking ownership and holding yourself accountable, you’re more likely to make the necessary changes to achieve your goals. 


Distortion 11: Fallacy of Change

The fallacy of change cognitive distortion is when you expect others to change. 

This could look like expecting your partner to change their eating and exercise habits to match yours. Although your intentions may be good since you want them to improve their health, you can’t let that hold you back from working towards your goals. 


Distortion 12: Global Labeling

Global labeling is taking generalization to the extreme. 

You might experience this cognitive distortion if you planned to adhere to your diet over the long weekend but indulged in extra treats, then start thinking about how you’re a failure at everything. 

One slip-up does not make you a failure. Although it’s easier said than done, you have to get back on track and keep working towards your goals. 


Distortion 13: “Shoulds”

You may experience this cognitive distortion if you hold tight to personal rules of behavior and judge yourself (and others) if these rules are broken. 

When you’re working on losing fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit, but you also need to give yourself a bit of grace and leniency. If you start beating yourself up about not hitting your macros or going over your calorie goal for one day, you’re experiencing this cognitive distortion. 

Whether your goal is fitness-related or not, you should be kind to yourself and remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful. 


Mindfulness Leads to Success

In the health/fitness/wellness industry, it’s incredibly common to find individuals whose thoughts are full of distortions.

Self-awareness is always the first step to changing thoughts and behaviors.⁣

Getting the hang of hearing these distortions in your head (or telling others) allows you to REFRAME those thoughts in a more accurate and helpful way.⁣

Remembering that your mind isn’t always accurate will improve your decision-making and overall well-being. 

For some real-life applications, you can check out this post where I share seven steps for ditching dysfunctional thoughts for some real-life applications. 

And if you’re interested in getting more help with your mindset for fitness and overall health, we’ve got a stellar team of coaches who can help you out!


Click here to learn more about KJO Coaching and how we can help you achieve your physique, health, and mindset goals. 


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IG: @coachkaseyjo @kjocoaching

Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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