The reason so many weight loss plans fail is a lack of self-compassion, not necessarily a lack of self-love. We are told these days that you need to love yourself before you can love anyone else and “love is all you need,” but is that true? Loving yourself is incredibly important, but there is also a reason why the phrase “there is a fine line between love and hate” is popular as well. It is very easy to love yourself when everything is going well, but what about when you have lost your job, gained 20 pounds, ate an entire bag of Oreos, or just ended your marriage? When things go wrong is usually when your inner critic pipes up starting an endless cycle of self-criticism, judgement, and blame.
When things are not going the way we had hoped or planned, what is truly needed is compassion, or self-compassion. However, we live in a world where compassion is considered weak. Self-compassion is almost non-existent. And hard work, accomplishment, and perfection are in demand. We compare ourselves to everyone around us, and rarely think we are measuring up. But is anyone really measuring up? Is anyone rich, successful, thin, or smart enough? What is enough?
Compassion is what we need when we eat too much, drink too much, loose our job, make bad financial decisions, end a relationship, or do anything that makes us feel “not enough.” Judgement from the inner critic just puts us in an endless cycle of self-loathing that usually results in more of the behavior that started the cycle. Most of us find it easy to be compassionate with our friends in those situations, but for ourselves, we have condemnation and criticism. Why is that? Why can’t we be compassionate towards ourselves? Where did the criticism come from?
So much of our self-criticism comes from our childhoods, where we are often told we are not good enough, not smart enough or not thin enough. However, this silent dialogue in our heads is what makes the “diet” fail, causes us to over drink, make bad financial decisions or engage in almost any self-sabotaging behavior you can insert in this section. Judgement of others usually accompanies an inner critic as it is far easier to focus on another person’s life path than to actually experience the disappointment, sadness, and anger, and be present in your body. Times like this are when you really need compassion and self-nurturing to help get you back on track.
My website and blog, Solutions for Food manifested because I feel we are not honoring ourselves in terms of mind, body, and spirt when it comes to food, health, and our lives. As someone who has spent a lifetime of over doing, over-achieving, striving to be thin, and constantly fearing failure, I found myself surviving and not really thriving. Thriving is being healthy, not preventing disease. Thriving is being resilient in the face of challenges when we lose our job, end a relationship, get diagnosed with a disease, or loose a loved one. Helping people thrive is why I teach, why I have created Solutions for Food, and is what I belief to be my life’s purpose.
So how do you break the cycle of the inner critic and the endless monkey brain of the “shoulda, woulda coulda’s”? Start by pretending you are your best friend, spouse, or anyone you feel compassion towards, and have the same conversation with yourself that you would if you were someone you loved and supported. Write a list of the things that are working in your life, diet, job, and exercise plan, and focus on your wins, not your losses. Lose the words should, could, and would because if you knew better at that time, you would have done better if you could. I can’t tell you how many times I have had one of my A-students completely focused on the one or two questions they may have gotten wrong vs. the 98 or 99 ones they got right! It is one thing to learn from our mistakes, but it is entirely different when you live in the past, relive the mistakes, and never stay in the present, which is the only place you can do better or make a change. Conversely, you should completely eliminate the words always and never because that is a ridiculous commitment to the future, i.e. “I always gain the weight back; I can never stick to a healthy eating plan.” If you really want to shift your energy around in any situation, accept where you are, focus and build on what is working, and become your biggest cheerleader.