You're trying to lose weight. To be healthy. To eat right. You've set goals. Hard goals. Ambitious goals. Tough goals. And you're determined to stick to the goals, whatever the cost. Even if it takes a toll on your health in other ways, it's worth it ... right?
You know that if you're not tough on yourself, you'll never reach your weight loss goals. So you make your regimen about self-hate. Self-judgment. Self-criticism. And yet, as hard as you are on yourself, you often fail to reach your weight-loss goals. You're not as toned, as slim and as healthy as you thought you'd be by now, so you start the cycle of self-hate, self-judgement, self-criticism again.
But there's another way. A way that's not only self-compassionate, but also effective.
More and more evidence proves that self-compassion — being kind to yourself and accepting yourself without judgment — is linked to healthy behavior. A recent study suggests several things self-compassionate people do that leads them to make healthier choices:
1. They set appropriate goals.
Self-compassionate people are likely to set more realistic and safer health-related goals. For example, many people get dispirited when they don't reach the often too-lofty weight loss goals they've set at the start of a diet. By contrast, self-compassionate individuals are in it for the long haul and aren't pressured to engage in extreme goals.
2. They monitor their health goals.
Self-compassionate people monitor health goals (such as target weight or distance and time at the gym), taking responsibility for their role in health problems without experiencing the detrimental effects of worry or self-blame. They're free to focus on getting back on track if they "fall off the wagon."
Remember: We have limited resources. The more self-compassion we have and the less we're spending those resources on suppressing emotional reactions, the more we can spare to monitor our goals.
3. They pay attention mindfully.
Mindfulness is a key component of self-compassion. Mindful individuals pay attention to their experiences on their diet or health program in a nonjudgmental, patient and accepting manner. Their balanced perspective means they're not overly affected by their successes or failures.
Self-compassionate people are less likely to let judgmental or defensive thoughts derail them, so they can cope with a spread of negative feelings, respond more effectively to threats to their diets and are better at managing emotional distress when their goals are not met than those who are low in self-compassion.
4. They let go of unhelpful goals.
Sometimes the self-compassionate thing to do is release a goal that's too challenging. Self-compassionate people are more likely to focus on goals that directly promote their well-being, let go of failure, and focus instead on alternative goals. If seeking a health-related goal (e.g., losing a specific amount of weight) becomes detrimental to well-being or is unobtainable, a self-compassionate person might pursue an alternative, healthier goal, such as being able to walk for a certain distance.
A Two-Sided Approach
With these steps, you can approach using self-compassion to lose weight from two sides, using whichever direction you find works best for you.
First, look at the four behaviors above and be kinder to yourself by engaging directly in them. How many of the following questions can you say yes to?