In late August, Crystal Jackson, 36, found herself lost in the hiking trails of Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia. She should have been admiring the beauty of the woods, she recalls. Instead, she was focused on sucking in her stomach.
“I started to think about the fact that I was alone in the woods, and I cared that much about what my stomach looked like, and if I was the right weight, which is insane because I’m extremely fit person,” Jackson tells NBC News BETTER.
Putting my thoughts on a diet is being just really self aware at what I dwell on, and where I allow my thoughts to go.
Jackson, who is a novelist and blogs on Medium, says this negative “self talk” about her body was an issue most of her life. As a teenager, she was criticized for being too skinny. She gained a few pounds in her mid-20s. She says people started asking her if she was pregnant. Some gave her unsolicited weight loss advice.
During her hike, it occurred to Jackson that she had turned these critical remarks into her own internal dialogue.
“Our thoughts are incredibly powerful,” she says, “but I didn’t realize the power of those thoughts until I was critical with no one around to judge me.”
When she finally emerged from the trail that day, she had a new perspective: She was no longer going to obsess about the way she looked. She needed to put her thoughts on a diet rather than her body, she says.
Jackson says she typically puts on about five pounds during her period. It’s the time of month when she says she feels the worst about her body. She says it’s most important for her to be conscious of any negative self-talk during this time.
“Putting my thoughts on a diet is being just really self aware at what I dwell on, and where I allow my thoughts to go,” she says.
I’m concentrating on health, strength, endurance — things that have to do more with being fit and not with fitting into a size.
She says learning to ignore the critical voice in her head is a lot like meditation. “Letting it go, and not following it down whatever habit hole it wants to take me down,” she says.