Lying on the couch, bloated and greasy, the reality sets in that I’ve just polished off an entire medium Domino’s pizza. Following close on its heels is the shame. 

Vary the food item, and until a couple years ago, this was a scene that played out in my life far too often. 

Despite my active efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I used to find myself constantly caught in this vicious cycle: intense workout and rigid diet, inevitable backslide, binge eat, self-shame, repeat. 

Sound familiar? 
 
It was beyond frustrating because no matter how hard I tried to consistently eat well and exercise, I would destroy a “good” week by randomly shoving my face to the point of feeling sick, or eating a load of empty calories for dinner instead of something nutritious and filling. 
 
But I finally broke the cycle by committing a simple mantra to heart: be kinder to yourself! 
 
While society may well have its share of the blame for women’s insecurities about our appearance, I realized that the easiest place to make a change was within me. 

As my harshest critic, every time I thought about my health goals, my mind’s running monologue was a barrage of insults. The voice in my head could be likened to an antagonistic football coach, screaming at me to keep pushing, to ignore the pain. Without fail, she judged me for craving ice cream or napping after work or class when I should be hitting the gym. 
 
The voice was mean, and even though it occasionally helped me achieve some of my goals, it also drowned out every other feeling until, inevitably, they came bubbling up to the surface demanding to be noticed and comforted.  Unfortunately, at that point simply indulging in one piece of chocolate didn’t suffice… 
 
I hit a turning point when I faced up to this critical part inside me. 

It became clear that the times I chose to comfort myself with food or being overly lazy weren’t actually random at all. I began to understand that the difficulty I experienced in establishing a healthy lifestyle came about because I had an extremely critical inner voice that clouded everything else, leaving me feeling disconnected, angry and insecure. 
 
Ironically, I began to establish consistency in my exercise and eating habits when I eased up on myself. Instead of hammering my psyche with all the “shoulds,” I quieted the critic by imagining a conversation I would have with a best girlfriend. 

As women, we have this amazing capacity to listen and connect with our friends, extending our compassion to them when they are upset and  instilling confidence in one another. It dawned on me; why not turn this ability inward? 
 
With this concept in mind, I practiced tuning in, listening to my body, and taking care of myself, rather than simply driving single-mindedly toward some arbitrary weight loss goal. I threw out my previously conceived notions that I had to eat fat-free everything and run my entire jog without  
stopping to walk. 

As a result, I found a system that worked for me. I learned I hated the gym but loved yoga with weights. I learned to rest without guilt. I learned to enjoy eating healthy by trying recipes and cooking for myself. 
 
I challenge you to the same practice. Quiet your inner critic and really listen to yourself. How can you be kinder to yourself as you strive to achieve a healthy lifestyle? 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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