Do you loathe your body at your current weight? Have you tried one diet after another and failed to lose weight or to keep weight off? Do you dread shopping for clothes because of the size you wear versus the size you want to buy? Stop hating yourself and being so critical.In her new book, The Self-Compassion Diet, Harvard Medical School-affiliated therapist Jean Fain presents four paths to weight loss: loving kindness; hypnosis or the power of positive suggestion; mindful eating; and social support of a compassionate community. Fain refers to her program informally as thinspiration and jokes that as a therapist she literally shrinks people. But seriously, Only self-kindness can help quiet the shame that traditional diets instill and establish a harmonious relationship with food, says Fain. Could we overeat because we are starved for compassion? A 2007 Wake Forest study offered college co-eds a donut followed by candy. Subjects who were reminded that everyone eats unhealthy food from time to time ate significantly less. They only sampled the candy, while the other subjects gobbled it up. By calmly accepting that they had no reason to hate themselves, the first group avoided mindless eating. Other findings support strict dieting leading to overeating as well.
The books meditations and guided visualizations are an important component of weight loss. One metta or traditional loving-kindness practice, encourages self-compassion, which encompasses compassion for others: May I be safe/ May I be happy/ May I be healthy/ May I live with ease followed by substituting the word you for I, and then repeating all four wishes substituting the word we for I. Other suggestions include visualizing putting on two sets of glasses: one pair with distorted lenses that highlight fat and flab and the other with lenses that cast a golden glow over the body, making it sparkle and radiate warmth. Note how different you feel about yourself depending on which glasses you put on. The section on hypnosis clarifies what it can and cant do for weight loss. It can put you into a deep relaxation that simply helps you to focus on positive thoughts (like how delicious farm-fresh foods are) and encouraging words (like remembering to take care of the body that carries you through the world). But a good trance is not going to prevent you from eating; if it did it could lead to an eating disorder so do not believe any practitioner who promises to use the power of suggestion to keep you to a certain calorie count.Mindful eating is essentially being present in the moment from shopping for food to savoring each bite to listening to the bodys signals to stop eating. A perfect example of mindless eating, if you want a counterpoint, is buying popcorn at a movie. You sit in the dark, watching and thinking about something other than eating, as your hand goes from the popcorn to your mouth time after time with no thought until the container is empty. Then as you leave the theater you realize you ate so much you are uncomfortable, and other than the first few bites you didnt even enjoy what you were eating.
The last piece of the thinspiration pie is community support. This is something Weight Watchers and Overeaters Anonymous have successfully provided for decades. You can go to an organized group like these or simply choose one or several mindful eating buddies to partner with. Other options are professional and online support.
Practicing self-compassion and mindfulness will not only trim your waistline, it will deepen your appreciation of living each day. May we be safe, May we be happy, May we be healthy, and May we live with ease.
Judy Kirkwood has stopped stepping on the scale and started saying grace before eating.