Self-compassion seems a bit like a buzzword these days. And buzzwords at times can feel a bit meaningless if they don’t feel appropriate or relevant. It is as if they are inserted into conversations a bit randomly.
I’ve been reflecting on the practice of self-compassion in the context of weight management, and I think it could be very useful for our internal dialogue around our weight management challenges. That is, if we can avoid berating ourselves if we don’t always do it. I say this quite seriously as like anything, if this is a foreign concept and unfamiliar, it may be hard to start practicing it.
A majority of weight loss conversations are shrouded in negativity, restrictive and emotional language that is laced with self-deprecation. Headlines with titles such as “ten things you should not eat”. “Things not to do if you want to lose weight”, “Guilt free snacks”, etc. On top of that people often feel they are just not trying hard enough. They tell themselves they eat too much, don’t exercise enough and worse, other people tell them the same thing. They start to believe it must be true.
The inner dialogue people have is often extremely harsh when they embark on a weight management program. It is laden with self-talk that is highly critical. “All or nothing thinking” plays a big role in how these thoughts manifest. For example if someone eats an ice cream after dinner their inner voice will tell them very sternly that they have failed, that they are hopeless, that they have no self control and all sorts of other mean accusations are leveled at themselves. When you are in the habit of “all or nothing” thinking, your inner bully tells you that once you have eaten an ice cream you have blown it all, you have no self control, that you may as well eat twelve ice creams and start again next week.
This is where practicing self-compassion can help. It might be worth having a little conversation with that inner voice. Asking it to go kindly, go gently; ask it not to be such a bully. Suggest to that mean inner voice to stop its running commentary on what you did or didn’t eat. Suggest it starts to give you permission to eat an ice cream sometimes and enjoy it, ask it not call you rude names and tell you are a failure. Ask that inner voice to acknowledge you are a human being with all frailties, foibles, inconsistencies and vulnerabilities doing your very best in a challenging situation, and being mean just makes it all that much harder. Ask it to say something like “Hey, hope you enjoyed your ice cream, you haven’t done anything wrong at all”. It may feel clumsy or insincere in the beginning, which is totally normal and understandable, but little by little some self compassion can remove some of the pressure you may be feeling around your weight management challenges.