A Compassionate Approach to Dieting
By Diane Petrella, MSW
Many diet plans miss the mark on the emotional needs of dieters. If you struggle with keeping weight off, you probably know that punishing self-criticism can trigger emotional eating. When you make a slip, you may scold yourself, believing you need more self-discipline. You then slide into a guilt-ridden binge. To stop that cycle, retire from diet boot camp and add some self-compassion to your weight loss plan.
The Compassionate Approach
The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness, by Jean Fain, MSW, LICSW, a Harvard Medical School affiliated psychotherapist, teaches a compassionate approach to weight loss. Her four step plan includes loving kindness practices, self-hypnosis, mindful eating strategies, and guidance on developing social support. While self-hypnosis and mindful eating are not new, Fain offers a creative toolbox of inspiring exercises. You also learn why this program works. Each approach is supported by psychological theory and cutting edge research.
If your relationship with food is fraught with anxiety and stress, this book will calm you. Laying the groundwork, Fain applies Buddhist meditation and mindfulness practices to help you cultivate self-compassion. Since I meditate daily, I was inspired to see these powerful tools woven into a diet program. If you're unfamiliar with these practices, this beautifully written book teaches you, in a simple, easy to follow manner, how to use these approaches to help you stop overeating.
For example, one loving kindness suggestion is a guided visualization whereby you view yourself through a pair of eyeglasses with compassionate lenses. Many dieters have a distorted perception of who they are and what they look like. This negative self-image often fuels shame induced self-sabotaging behaviors. The 'Compassionate Glasses' visualization gently guides you to see yourself and your body through the eyes of love. Your weight loss journey becomes much easier when you shift your perspective in this way.
Fain also demystifies self-hypnosis and teaches you short, simple practices to instill positive suggestions to eat more healthfully, develop confidence, and manage challenging situations. For example, the 'Imaginary Triggers' exercise helps you develop solutions to risky situations for overeating. The book also comes in a user friendly audio format to guide you.
The Power of Community
Fain emphasizes the importance of relationship to facilitate your progress. She helps you navigate the many professional and social avenues available for dieters. There's a quiz and writing exercise to assess whether your current weight loss support team is helping you or holding you back. For example, does your “best” friend encourage you to overindulge on a food you want to avoid, or suggest sharing a nutritious meal?
Informative and practical strategies help you develop a winning team, ranging from professional group therapy, self-help groups, on-line communities, or a single trusted friend. I like this emphasis on support, such as offered by the Calorie Count Forums, because it honors a universal human need for positive connection.
Does the Self-Compassion Diet Work?
Whatever plan you're using to release excess weight, adding self-compassion will most likely guarantee success. A 2007 research study at Wake Forest University applied self-compassion strategies to restrictive and guilty eaters. The results indicate that even a mild dose of self-loving thoughts can curb emotional eating.
The Self-Compassion Diet isn't a quick fix. Fain's approach and strategies encourage lasting lifestyle change, essential to sustainable weight loss. If you've been having a hard time losing weight and keeping it off, chances are it's not that you lack self-discipline. You probably just need more self-compassion. Don't worry. This doesn't mean you'll overindulge in unhealthy behaviors; most likely you will begin to indulge yourself with kindness. And when you do that, you naturally will be drawn to foods and choices that reflect back to you the compassion you feel for yourself.
Read Love Your Muffin Top by Jean Fain at Huffpost Living.
How will being more self-compassionate help you to release weight and make peace with your body?
Diane Petrella, MSW is a psychotherapist and life coach. She offers her clients a spiritual approach to weight loss and helps them develop a loving, respectful relationship with their bodies. Receive a free copy of Diane’s Seven Easy & Effortless Weight Loss Secrets by signing up for her monthly e-newsletter, Living Lightly, for spiritual insights and tips to release weight with confidence and love. To contact Diane directly visit her website at www.dianepetrella.com.