We’ve talked a lot about the concept of self-compassion at JillFit. In other words, giving yourself the win. Not only can this be difficult to do because we are simply used to being hard on ourselves, but it can also feel like giving up. Self-acceptance can be scary.
We often hold onto our negative self-talk because we feel like it fuels us. It keeps us accountable. We believe we need it to stay motivated.
We experience this all the time in our personal and professional lives–we hold onto the notion that our dissatisfaction drives us. And while there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with striving, there’s a huge between holding ourselves accountable versus being miserable until we reach some arbitrary accomplishment at some point in the future.
In fact, positive psychology research shows that more than anything, people who are always striving for the next accomplishment without counting their wins along the way are more relieved than anything when they hit a goal, so the desired emotions–happiness, contentment–are not even present. Booo.
When it comes to our physique, this is often the concern: “If I am not hard on myself, I will just say screw it, give up and eat everything I want.” This seems a legitimate fear considering we are used to using negative motivators to keep ourselves on the straight and narrow; even like JillFit Coach Jillian says, “Needing the threat of a competition to stay tight.” But I don’t believe it’s really true, because I have seen myself, the other JillFit coaches and dozens of clients do just that–self-accept and stay the same size, NOT get huge.
Because when we feel compelled to eat everything we want, the focus is still on food. It’s still an obsession with food (as is deprivation)–food is still controlling US. However, when practice, learn and master self-acceptance, the importance and obsession of food falls away. We simply don’t think about it as much.
But Jill, HOW do you do that? What steps do you take?
Here’s the first step:
Decide to TRUST THE PROCESS and commit to the idea of taking things one day at a time. And then just see what happens! You can’t know how you are doing if you are trying to control every single scenario and moment of the day regarding your food. I did this for many years. The biggest change for me was just going, “You know what, I am just going to stop obsessing and trust, and SEE WHAT HAPPENS.” The OLD way will always be there for you to go back to if you need it (portioning out food, not going to social events, tupperware, etc), so why not TRY to relax and release??
This might not be the answer for everyone, but for me in my journey, the biggest change was discontinuing extensive food prep every weekend. I know some people feel like they need this, and that’s fine, but my goal (2 years ago when I started this journey) was to stop being obsessive about food. I found that if I continued with my entire week revolving around and stressing about food shopping, prepping, cooking, tupperware, doing the dishes, etc, I was, in those moments completely consumed with food. I was thinking about often, when’s my next meal, do I have what I need, has it been 3 hours yet, etc. When my focus was always on making sure there was enough healthy food around, I was inadvertently obsessing over it. So if I indulged, I went big. When I deprived, I couldn’t mess up or else it meant I was a failure, and I was in a constant cycle of all-or-nothing.
Releasing the need to prep and cook food (since I actually don’t like it anyway) was the first step. Once I did that, food became less important. I was able to get a better hold on my cravings, understanding them better, I was able to feel hunger myself (rather than eating according to a clock), and not stress that I was losing muscle every second if I waited a bit longer to eat. I was able to start practicing moderation, knowing that food, especially desserts, booze and bread, would always be there so I learned to abstain more effortlessly. It didn’t take 100% of my willpower to skip these things anymore. This is a practice of course, but the first step in the practice is taking a leap of faith.
So, the first step in releasing your obsession on food so that you will not gorge yourself when you are “off plan” is to simply stop stressing over it. Try it. See what happens. The old way will always be there for you. Give it 4-8 weeks. Stop measuring, just workout because it makes you feel good, not because you have to. Do whatever you can. Do your best. I don’t think the results will be nearly as catastrophic as you think. In fact, I think you will feel a lot more liberated.
Does giving yourself the win mean giving up?
Giving yourself the win is not the same as non-action. In fact, the more you do of the former, the less you’ll have of the latter. Self-compassion breeds action. Self-compassion opens up all the mental space that was formally taken up with negative self-talk and allows us to practice making better choices moving forward. The focus is forward, not on beating ourselves up for past mess-ups.
At Metabolic Effect, we say, “You are always one meal away from being back in fat-burning mode” and a personal favorite of mine: Yesterday ended last night.
Move on as fast as possible. Move on at the very next meal. Don’t wait until Monday. Don’t even wait until tomorrow. You always have a do-over in your back pocket and nothing is ever irreversible. But you have to start somewhere. And that somewhere is inside your mind. Harnessing the SELF-TRUST necessary to try a new way, a more gentle way.
Negative motivators simply don’t work long term. So give yourself a pat on the back for how far you’ve come and then promise your future self to give her the benefit of the doubt. And as always, simply do your best because that’s all you can do! :)
Love this post on self-compassion from Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson.