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How to...do a Thought Record

Mrs Lard

Silver Member
What is a Thought Record? (In Mrs. Lard’s own words….feel free to adapt to your own words!)

A thought record is a useful tool (it's a process) for finding out WHY you have behaved in a certain way such as bingeing on something when you are in abstinence, getting angry at something but you don't know why or feeling incredibly emotional about something.

When would you use a Thought Record?

I think the major triggers for behaviour requiring a thought record tend to be when we are any of the following:

HALT - hungry, angry/anxious, lonely or tired. For me, being lonely or tired are MASSIVE triggers to overeat/come out of abstinence but it has taken thought records for me to understand where those feelings came from.

Why would you use a Thought Record?

Often, you realise with a thought record (once you've gone through the process) that the REAL trigger for overeating (or any other self-sabotaging behaviour) has nothing to do with what you think it might be. For example, you may think that you eat a bag of crisps because you fancied them and your rebellious child/chatterbox/inner voice told you to eat them "just because". But it may turn out that you were given crisps as a sign of love and you were really feeling unloved at the moment of wanting/eating the crisps but you may not have realised it at that very moment.

I think if you can understand the motives behind your behaviour, you can make lasting change - you can stand back and get into your adult state (very hard when you're in the middle of a binge or about to binge) and recognise that such behaviour isn't going to serve you (well) any more. At one time in your life, it did, but not now.

Have you noticed whilst doing LighterLife that patterns of behaviour keep emerging? For me, tiredness keeps being a trigger but I may not realise just how tired I am. When you feel yourself reaching for the fridge or for the cupboard, that may be the perfect time to do a thought record - it's like an intervention - stopping you in your tracks. Sometimes the urge to overeat/eat the wrong food may be so strong that you'll be in the middle of eating before you can have the presence of mind to say, stop! I need to do a thought record. Even after the event, if you relax when you do the Thought Record, can be equally effective and give you amazing insight.

What are Hot Thoughts?

These are the thoughts that lie at the heart of the matter – these are the ones that feel the most painful but they are not feelings!! See the green book for the difference between thoughts and feelings (p.104).

The Thoughts Record Process

Thought Records cut to the chase. No doubt about it and with that effectiveness comes...being honest with yourself. And that can be painful, emotional - you may rather do a Bush Tucker Trial than face those demons but I promise you if you stay the course, you'll feel liberated.

SO HERE'S THE PROCESS (and remember, ultimately, you could get these down to 5 mins max and in a small notebook because you will get used to identifying feelings very quickly)

What happened?

Keep this to bullet points - short and sweet - NO ESSAYS, particularly if you are in a hurry

  • Came home from work
  • Took off my coat and put my bag down
  • Walked straight into kitchen
  • Opened fridge
  • Saw leftovers from last night
  • Ate them while standing at the fridge door

Write down what happened.

What were my most important thoughts, i.e. Hot Thoughts?

  • I'm tired
  • I've had a hard day
  • I need to eat - NOW
  • I'll just (check what's in the fridge)
  • I've had a crap day at work
  • I deserve a treat
  • I deserve a treat because no one spoke to me in the afternoon
  • I feel judged
  • I feel afraid (and what else)
  • No one likes me (that may be your HOT thought) - you'll feel different when you identify the hot thought.)

Underline/highlight your Hot Thought/s

Ask yourself and write down the answer to “How I felt”

  • Angry
  • Sad
  • Defiant
  • Lonely
  • Afraid
  • Scared


(You can then break those feelings down by percentage but I don't bother with that - by the time you've got to identifying your feelings, you want to make progress and fast)

What I did/might have done in the past

  • Eaten the leftovers and a loaf of bread/family pack of crisps/gone to the chippy
  • Ordered a takeaway
  • Raided the freezer

Write down what you would have done in the past (in this situation).

Evidence for Hot Thought

This is where you have to see whether the hot thought has any validity ie would it stand up in court? In other words, what would your loved ones think about your hot thought (something that you fundamentally believe about yourself)?

If the hot thought is “No one likes me” - ask yourself - what, no one? Not one single person in the world? OK, so the girl in the canteen might not like you. The girls in your class at school may not have liked you. You are basically looking for evidence of how you came to this conclusion - and there WILL be evidence (ie supporting facts that back up your view that people don't like you it's just not clear how many).

Write down the evidence.

Evidence against Hot Thought

This is the opposite so you are trying to prove that the statement (hot thought) – “No one likes me” - isn't actually true. Well, my husband likes me/my best friend likes me/the postman likes me/my team like me...my dog likes me! Whatever/whoever it is, you are trying to stack up the evidence AGAINST such a generalization that couldn't be true.

Write down the evidence. Keep it short.

More realistic thought

If you were to stand back and analyse both sides of the argument, you could probably say ok, some people don't like me but all these people do.

Write down your more realistic thought.

How I feel now

  • I feel calmer.
  • Less stressed.
  • Less afraid.

Write down how you feel now.

How I might behave now

  • Next time I come in from work after a hard day, I might go straight into my bedroom, change out of my work clothes and have a shower/bath.
  • I might check my emails.
  • I might have a glass of water and…wait.
Write down what you might do differently.

And by looking at what you would do differently (and how), you can devise a new, more effective (ie kinder to you!) strategy.

Good luck.
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Fab, couldn't get my head into the game when it came to thought records but your explanation is fab! Cheers x
Fantastic! I have a copy saved in my phone so I have it around with me when I go on holiday tomorrow!

Thanks Mrs L!


Full Member
Thanks very much for that. Have printed it out and just tried one when fancied icecream. Not entirely sure I've got it "right" but its certainly my best attempt to date.

Thanks for taking the time to talk us all through it, its greatly appreciated.


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