Is Self-Compassion the Key to Losing Weight?
Life is hard.
It’s made even harder when you are overly self-critical.
While it can be positive to challenge yourself, self-criticism can quickly get out of hand and spiral into self-flagellation, depression and underperformance. It’s not that you’re giving into self-pity—it’s just that self-criticism that has gone too far.
You can make a correction, though. It’s within your grasp to change your mind. Literally change your mind to foster self-compassion in place of self-criticism.
So what is self-compassion? And how can you use it to lose weight and feel better on a daily basis?
What Is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is a practice or discipline in which individuals use certain customs and tools to foster a positive mindset, especially when faced with challenges.
In terms of weight loss, self-compassion teaches you to love yourself before addressing weight loss goals. It augments diet and exercise by strengthening the heart and mind.
Self-compassion is very strongly associated with mental health. It has been proven to:
- lessen depression
- reduce anxiety
- increase happiness
- foster optimism
- and develop a keener motivation to try new things.
Self-compassion is not the same as self-control. Self-compassion is a way to feel good about yourself without judging yourself against others or thinking that your happiness is dependent on external events. It’s about treating yourself as a friend or loved one would in a time of need, with authentic care and compassion.
The mental and emotional benefits of treating yourself with more compassion are almost instantaneous, and they only grow with regular practice. People who practice self-compassion on a daily basis feel calmer, wiser, and more hopeful. And that makes weight loss feel like a goal you can accomplish, instead of a dream you can’t reach.
Self-compassion has been demonstrated to be decisive in optimizing weight loss and correcting bad eating habits. Loving who you are—right now in this moment—is a kinder, gentler and more effective way to lose weight than deprivation and self-criticism.
How to Practice Self-Compassion, Lose Weight and Feel Better
Self-compassion is a complex process, and you may not be sure how to foster greater compassion in your own life. One central tenet to the practice is taking the time to focus on yourself so you can interrupt and correct the negative thoughts in your head.
Everyone has a complicated personal history that affects how they think and feel in the present. The person you have become is not simply the result of the conscious decisions you have made, and lots of things that affect you negatively may not be your fault.
Think of self-compassion as the kind of love a parent has for a child, or the love that grows between two old friends over the years. This love is independent of judgment or achievement.
So how does cultivating self-compassion affect weight loss?
- It helps get a hold on emotional eating by neutralizing feelings of guilt and shame
- It replaces negative self-talk with more empowering messages that pull you toward healthier behaviors
- It helps you be more mindful so you can change what you eat, how much you eat, and how you experience food
Self-compassion starts by fostering an awareness of self-critical thinking and changing those messages into a compassionate response. Even a modest dose of self-compassion can change unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors and negative feelings that boost overeating and make it harder to resist cravings.
Think progress, not perfection. Losing weight is a journey, not a destination. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Fostering awareness of how you feel can start a change in the right direction.
Embrace mindfulness. Whether you explore self-hypnosis or meditation, a mindful approach makes it easier to embrace a compassionate response to distress. Whether you download a podcast, check out an audiobook from the library or visit a therapist, these tools can teach you to focus your breathing, deepen your self-attention, and open your mind to new ideas and experiences. In this state, your subconscious is more open to positive suggestions, such as “I am craving nutritious and delicious food,” or “I appreciate that delicious can also mean nutritious.” Mindfulness works because it fosters increased awareness that becomes your ally in adopting healthy attitudes and behaviors.
Practice mindful eating. Like mindfulness in general, mindful eating is about being present in the moment. That means paying attention to how you feel mentally and physically when you are eating and drinking. When you pay attention to the colors, smells, flavors and textures of food, it brings a focused experience to the body. Old habits are hard to change, and small, focused changes apply strong, steady pressure to help reach your goal.
Embrace social support. People who feel lost or hopeless have often built up emotional walls in order to protect themselves, which is a perfectly rational reaction. Except it doesn’t work. Any therapist will tell you that we simply cannot live in a vacuum of our own making. Don’t underestimate the importance of positive interaction with a community of friends, family, and allies in achieving your weight loss goals. Positive support is a conscious, mindful and caring act committed by people who care about you.
And remember, self-compassion starts with loving yourself, warts and all.
Practice Self-Compassion for Sustainable Weight Loss
Self-compassion is about making changes to your internal dialogue that will successfully and sustainably support a healthier lifestyle.
Many fad diets and weight-loss plans are centered on deprivation, which conjures up negative emotions. Try instead to treat yourself with self-compassion so you feel good on your journey to losing weight. Positive self-thought can teach you to eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, rest when you’re weary, and move when you feel energized.
When you’re present in the moment and have given yourself a break, you’ll be well on your way to successful weight loss.