In this interview at the Symposium for Metabolic Health in San Diego, California, Mike Giardina and Dr. Robert Cywes discuss self-speak and self-affirmation when initiating and maintaining healthy behaviors. Dr. Cywes explains the importance of the locus of validation — which means when you do things you’re proud of, they are internalized and self-affirming. When we act in this manner, no one else’s opinion matters. This is how we provide ourselves with internal validation, allowing ourselves to be proud of our efforts versus solely focusing on the results.
When only focusing on results, we tend to compete to meet someone else’s standards — meaning you’re never good enough. This is external validation, and it forces you to outsource your sense of self and look for affirmation from others. It isn’t about what you show other people. It’s about how the effort makes you feel, explains Dr. Cywes. That’s internal validation.
Dr. Cywes takes this explanation of locus of validation to nutrition. He explains how snacking on carbohydrates is like using drugs. The carbs are the external validation and provide an instant high, which is then followed by guilt and remorse when the eating is over. With his patients, he substitutes this external validation with four pillars of emotional control: physical activity, human connection, creative arts, and spirituality/meditation. Instead of self-medicating with addictive foods, it can be helpful to consciously choose to do something that requires effort. He uses this same approach when a patient has a bad day, or “falls off the wagon”. The only addition, explains Dr. Cywes, is that this time, it should be done alone. Getting back on track with a walk, workout, or meditation alone helps restore self-affirmation.
Dr. Cywes finishes by explaining that we are always students, no matter our level of expertise. We are on a journey that never ends, but there are milestones along the way to keep us on track. It’s about how well you sustain healthy habits over the long term, not how well you do on any one day. When you go astray, you can get back on this path — but make sure you are doing it for you.