Do you find you get frustrated and critical with yourself when faced with a setback in your health and fitness program? Are you harder on yourself than you would be on a friend or colleague?
Many people, in fact probably most people, feel the same way.
But, some surprising research suggests that people who are kind to themselves, and more tolerant toward their own imperfections, are more likely to be successful with their health and fitness goals.
The study, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, took 87 female students, who thought they were participating in a food tasting experiment. They were asked to eat donuts and candy as part of the taste test.
The instructor casually told one group,
I hope you won’t be hard on yourself, everyone in the study eats this stuff, so I don’t think there’s any reason to feel real bad about it.
The second group (the control) were not given any further instructions.
The researchers found that women who were regular dieters ate less than the control group after hearing the instructor’s reassurance.
Researchers believe the women who felt badly about eating the junk food eventually ate more due to “emotional eating” patterns. They experienced emotional stress about the food, this caused them to eat more in an attempt to feel better.
The women who received reassurance that it was okay to enjoy the food felt less guilt, and didn’t overeat as a result.
Many people beat themselves up over every minor dieting transgression.
The problem with this approach is that it leads to more stress, which then triggers the urge to overeat, perpetuating the vicious circle over and over and over again.
So, how can you get over this dieting pitfall, and start giving yourself a bit of slack?
3 Strategies For Practicing Self-Compassion
1. Be Aware of Your Thoughts
As with any habit, the first key is awareness.
Take some time to think about the way you talk to yourself internally, and how you react to different situations.
Do you constantly judge and criticize yourself when things go wrong, or do you see yourself as doing the best you can under the circumstances?
2. Realize You’re Not Alone
Often we feel that we’re the only ones who struggle with these issues, or have trouble coping.
The truth is that we are all human, and we all struggle with our problems and issues whatever they may be. We don’t expect our friends to be perfect, so why not give ourselves the same leeway?
Consider how you treat yourself when you experience challenges and difficulties in your life.
Are you able to keep a balanced perspective, or do you beat yourself up over it? Do you often make situations out to be worse than they really are?
Take some time to think about the consequences of self-criticism.
Do you feel more or less motivated toward your goals when you indulge in self-criticism? How would you feel if you were able to simply accept yourself as you are?
Learning to accept yourself despite the flaws, which we all have, can become a powerful turning point in your life.
3. Keep It Real
Finally, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic.
The fact is, staying fit and healthy is a lifelong process, and there will be many ups and downs along the way. It’s important not to get too carried away with your success, or get too down on yourself when things aren’t going the way you would like.
Learning to relax into life, and be a bit easier on yourself, can make your life more enjoyable, while helping you reach your goals more quickly.
Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.