How overusing the word SHOULD might hurt your weight loss efforts

Raise a hand if you’ve ever caught yourself thinking,

“I should have known better and not eaten half the cake.”

“I should be able to figure this out on my own.”

“They shouldn’t be ordering pizzas when I’m on a diet.”

“My family should be more supportive of my weight loss journey.”

“I should have lost weight this week with all the sacrifices I made.”

If you think that if people would just act a certain way you’d be happier, you’d be thin, and the world would be a better place then trust me, you aren’t alone.

It is amazing how many scripts we write in our mind telling people (and things like the weighing scale) how they should think, speak or act yet we never take a moment to go ahead and vocalize any of those.

And the biggest surprise of all, we expect the people around us should read our minds and act as we wish for them to do.

What does using should or shouldn’t mean?

We often use should in conversation with others, as a way of motivating ourselves or keeping ourselves in check or to express feelings, often negative feelings like frustration, guilt, and regret.

However, over the course of using should, I realized that telling myself I should be doing more or being more wasn’t actually helping me do more or be more.

Instead, it left me feeling like I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t being my best self.

When using should or shouldn’t for other people, I wasn’t respecting their ability to make the best decisions for themselves.

This wasn’t what I intended to do and it made me rethink my approach.

Every time we think or utter a sentence with a should, we are expressing helplessness.

The feeling of being out of control.

We are expressing powerlessness.

If only the family didn’t order a pizza, we would have stuck to our meal plan.

If only the cake wasn’t as delicious or someone had put it away after my first serving, I wouldn’t have overeaten it.

If only our spouse or mom didn’t doubt our weight loss efforts, we’d be feeling so much better.

Though the reality is, the power is always with us.

If only we could stop and take responsibility for our feelings and our weight loss, our results would be so much more different.

Quote on the futility of 'should' by Margaret Atwood - The Era I Lived In

Why “I should be able to figure this out on my own” often does more harm than good?

As a self-help junkie, I know how exhilarating it is to decide to figure out everything on our own. When it comes to researching and understanding something, the Internet, self-help books, and watching many YouTube videos are great.

But when it comes to figuring out challenges relating to our health, relationships, and well-being, a similar hit and trial attitude can often delay results, frustrate us with confusing information, and worst of all make us prone to never trying again due to repeated failures.

That’s exactly when we should take the approach we’d recommend to a close friend or our children.

Imagine your child returns home with a failing grade in Math.

Would you encourage them to try to figure Math out on their own or would you encourage them to seek help from a tutor?

Asking for help somehow never strikes our mind, when we are seeking solutions for our own problems.

If you struggle with asking for help, here’s what might be going on and what you can do about it.

What does taking responsibility look like?

Taking responsibility for our feelings and actions might sound daunting, but is pretty simple.

It can be something as simple as deciding beforehand what we are going to do or think when any of the above scenarios play again in our lives.

The next time we are around a delicious cake, we can choose to eat less of the meal and have a single, decent serving of the cake. No restricting or punishing ourselves but simply enjoying the cake and stop once we are done with our serving. Simply put the cutlery down because you want to honor your decision to be mindful of the cake.

The next time someone says, “You are beautiful, but you should try to lose some weight.”

Instead of thinking, “My family shouldn’t be so insensitive and hurtful.”

Here’s what we can think instead:

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But that is just their opinion and it doesn’t mean anything about us until we choose to make it mean so.

We can either dismiss the statement or we can choose to flip it (if it comes from someone close) as a way of having someone dear express their concerns about our well-being. Maybe they want us to live longer and a healthier life that’s why they wish we get our weight under control.

Irrespective of how we decide to interpret the situation, taking the responsibility to think and act in line with our beliefs gifts us the power of our life and well-being.

It is the secret to keeping going even when we are faced with roadblocks and hurdles, which there are going to be plenty of.

Be the boss of your life. Try to look for the facts.

How can we conquer the obstacles SHOULD thoughts keep throwing our way?

Every time I hear my mind come up with a should I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Is it really true?

2. If it is true, what am I making it mean?

3. How can I change the way I think about this to stay on track?

Here’s a little practice I developed to conquer the obstacles of the should thoughts in my weight loss journey.

Every time a should thought sprang in my mind, I would write it down on a page in my journal. And next to it I would decide what I’m going to do about it (seeing help from the questions above).

Soon I had a list of all the should(s) I had playing in my mind and I was slowly getting in the practice of knowing beforehand what I’m going to make it mean or how to navigate past them without hurting my emotions or results.

It helps to remember to focus on:

  • The benefits of the activity – Instead of saying “I should exercise more” saying “I enjoy working out, it helps me feel energized and ready to take on the day in a great mood.” is helpful.
  • How a particular activity aligns with our core beliefs – Instead of “I should lose 2 pounds this week” trying “I want to stay on my fitness plan and it makes me feel good about myself when I honor my commitments.”
  • Being curious around exploring the reality and giving our thoughts a positive reframe – Every time someone doubts or questions your weight loss efforts, try to analyze the words to see where they are coming from and whether they mean to convey true concern or are just a reflection of the beliefs of the other person.

Removing the word should from our vocabulary takes time, practice, and patience.

However, it is possible, and it comes with surprising rewards.

Replacing should with more helpful thoughts sparks a more compassionate relationship with ourselves, and better relationships with the people around us, while saving us from stalling in our weight loss efforts.

A total win-win, isn’t it?


If weight loss is your goal, I’d like to invite you to take my Free Weight Loss Ownership Course that’ll set you up with the right mindset from the start.

Be in charge of your weight loss. Take ownership of your health without falling for fad diets and exercise routines you don’t want to follow. 


3 thoughts on “How overusing the word SHOULD might hurt your weight loss efforts

  1. pixie

    I agree with you completely! I don’t like the word “should” either. When my journey got to be too overwhelming, I asked for help and took some really amazing classes which helped me figure out what I want and like. Now, my fitness journey is comfortable with plenty of room for improvements and I’m happy with how things have been so far.
    I’ve never been a fan of diets, so what we did was bring in lifestyle changes and that’s helped us both – mentally and physically and there is no guild when we do indulge 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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