Dr. Neff explains in her new book about self-compassion that it is a way of feeling good about yourself that doesn't require judging yourself as good or bad or comparing yourself to others. It just involves relating to yourself kindly. Self-compassion is treating yourself like a friend or a loved one – with care and concern.
Self-compassion has also been shown to be pivotal in optimizing weight loss and correcting bad eating habits in self-critical individuals. Psycho-therapist Jean Fain, author of The Self-Compassion Diet, suggests that we've got it all backward: "The best way to lose weight and look your best is to stop dieting and start with loving who you are." Self-compassion is a kinder, gentler, more effective way to lose weight than deprivation followed by self-criticism when you fail to stick to your eating plan. The ‘kind diet’ approach works well for those people who have little or no compassion for themselves as self-compassion, rather than self-criticism, promotes self acceptance, sticking to a healthy diet and making lasting healthy lifestyle changes for healthier living.
Dieters are really hard on themselves. Being hard on yourself isn't the way to lose weight. In fact, it may do more harm than good to your self esteem and confidence. Dieters who self-criticize all day long, telling themselves nasty things such as: “I am fat. I am out of control” are setting themselves up for over-eating. Fain contends that there are actually four roots to sustainable weight managent. Self-compassion is one of them, and it ties all the roots together. The four roots are: self-compassion, mindful eating, hypnosis (visualisation), and social support.
Self-compassion starts with turning your inner critic around and bringing into your mind a compassionate response when you've made a less-than-stellar food choice or reverted back to disordered eating. It helps to remember that ‘getting a handle’on eating issues is a journey, not the jaunt many dieters are determined to make it. The number of times we feel compassion toward ourselves during the day is crucial, since studies have shown that even a modest dose of self-compassion can help prevent the destructive self-criticism and negative feelings that can fuel overeating.
Whenever you notice that you’re giving yourself a hard time about your size or shape, think self-kind thoughts. Instead of saying “I can’t lose weight” or calling yourself ‘fat,’ ‘disgusting’ and other mean names, tell yourself what you’d tell a good friend: ‘Nobody’s perfect. If you stop striving for perfection and start accepting yourself as you are, it’s only natural to lose weight with a sensible, sustainable eating plan.’
Think about what troubles you most, and ask your inner self for insight. Ask, and you shall not only receive - you'll soak up what's so hard to come by in everyday life: unconditional love.
Practice self-hypnosis or relaxing visualisation or mindfulness meditation: Learn to hypnotize yourself, which is essentially focusing your attention, deepening your breathing, and then opening your mind to new ideas and experiences. You can feed yourself positive suggestions that make sense to you, like, ‘More and more I am craving nutritious and delicious food.’ Or, ‘Every day and every way I am appreciating the natural sweetness of whole foods.’ Use whatever seems motivating and important to you. Give yourself a self-suggestion and repeat it to yourself in a relaxed and focused state.
Self-hypnosis is an effective way of turning around haphazard eating, and for changing the ways you relate to food if they're less than healthy. When we focus both consciously and subconsciously on goals of healthy eating and weight loss, this constant awareness becomes our ally in adopting healthy attitudes and behaviours that foster a healthy lifestyle.
Practice Mindful Eating. According to Jan Chozen Bays we've forgotten how to be present as we eat. She writes in "The Mindful Eating Blog" that we often eat mindlessly. Multitasking is rewarded in our society. We chomp away happily in front of the computer screen or while watching TV - without even really tasting what we eat – and without keeping track of how much or what we actually consume.
Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. Paying attention to the colours, smells, textures, flavours, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. Paying attention to the experience of the body. Noting where in the body we feel hunger. Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?
When you've eaten the first portion, pause and ask your stomach, "How full are you? Do you need more? How much more?" Adjust your second portions according to the information your stomach gives you.
Also pay attention to your mind. While avoiding judgement or criticism, watch when your mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what we are eating or drinking. Notice how eating affects your mood and how emotions like anxiety influence your eating.
The old habits of eating and not paying attention are not easy to change. Don't try to make drastic changes. Lasting change takes time, and is built on many small changes. To get to a healthy, sustainable weight, you have no choice but to start where you are.
Social Support. Don’t underestimate the importance of a supportive environment and positive interaction with a community of friends in achieving your weight loss goals. To up the odds of finding your healthy, sustainable weight, seek good, supportive company. Support can be positive or negative. Positive support is a conscious and generous act committed by caring individuals. Negative support is that thing some people do when they discourage healthy change, like when someone buys you the very snack you've sworn off.
Ten Other Effective Strategies to assist with weight loss:
· Keeping a food diary or journaling,
· weighing yourself only once per week,
· adopting healthy breathing practices,
· practicing daily positive affirmations such as: ‘May I learn
to accept myself as I am, at least in this moment’,
· praying, practicing daily meditation or visualisation,
· setting up a food log,
· becoming more aware of self-criticism,
· using writing for clarity on what the real issues are
concerning your weight or unhealthy eating habits,
· setting realistic and reasonable weight-related goals, and
· if you practice to generally accentuate the positive and
decrease, if not eliminate, the negative, you'll be in good
Mary Anne Wallace touches on another useful strategy in her book - "Mindful Eating, Mindful Life": don’t think in terms of weight loss. It is more about one’s relationship to food and eating. If you think of losing weight you trigger ‘freak out’ deprivation mode, which scrambles both one’s physiology and psychology into survival mode - exactly what needs to be avoided if one wishes to lose weight.
One of the things most people want to know is how soon one will see results with this new approach to weight loss. The benefits of treating oneself with more self-compassion are almost instantaneous. Whoever follows it, will start feeling calmer, wiser, and more hopeful. And in that state, weight loss is so much more possible. If your life is calm, and you have some time to devote to yourself, you will start reaping the benefits within days. Not every person who does this will lose X number of kilos in X number of weeks, but most people benefit by practicing self-compassion across a range of aspects of their lives, which is often what is needed to provide mental resilience to face life’s challenges head-on, without reverting to self-harming eating behaviours to cope with stress and other adversities life hands us. It is an effective way to braoden and build our inner resources.
The advantages of self-compassion over traditional diet regimens is that it is all about making changes on the inside that will support a permanent healthier lifestyle. A self-loathing person is not likely to make healthier choices from day-to-day. Learning new ways of thinking and feeling about one’s self are bound to create new and better habits. Many diets and other weight-loss plans revolve around deprivation and neglect which trigger negative emotions. You’re supposed to stick to the plan no matter what. If you’re starving, keep eating the tiny portions. If you’re exhausted, keep moving. ‘No pain, no gain’. If you go on holiday, keep counting calories, carbohydrates and feel bad when you mess up. And while you’re at it, pack all your diet food and put it in your luggage. This is not compassionate and it’s not fun. Try instead to treat yourself with some self-compassion, so that you are more likely to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, rest when you’re tired, and move when you feel energized. And when you do that, you will lose weight naturally.
1. Neff, K.D.(2011).Self-Compassion: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. New York: William Morrow.
2. Fain, J. (2011). The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness. Boulder Colorado: Sounds True.
3. Chozen Bays, J. (2009). Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.
4. Wallace, M. (2010). Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. Inkwater Press: Portland Oregon.
To find out more about Self-Compassion and Weight Loss, or if you are interested in motivational support for your weight loss programme and to improve your emotional resilience, visit http//:positivepsyc.com, call The Positive Psychology Foundation on 011 465 1255 or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org