After Christmas, many of the beautiful women I work with have been doing a jolly good job of beating themselves up about food and their bodies. I’ve been hearing things like:
“I’ve been lazy, Kali.”
“All my hard work’s gone down the drain over Christmas.”
“I’m back at square one.”
Christmas and the New Year can be a really challenging time with food and body image. Yet when we slip back into old patterns, does beating yourself up truly help?
Whilst your hunch may be ‘yes’, the science says differently…
The Benefits Of A Self-Compassion Mindset
Many of us believe on some level that we deserve to feel badly about ourselves, our bodies or our perceived shortcomings. Other people worry that self-compassion will make you ‘lose your edge’ or negatively impact performance.
Not only does this lack of self-compassion feel kinda rotten, current research shows that it is actually unhelpful to the goals we wish to achieve. Therefore, if you want to make lasting changes to your health and well-being, self-compassion is a fantastic tool to get you there.
Self-Compassion has been shown to:
- Have a buffering effect on negative emotions,
- Assist with positive body image and a lower incidence of disordered eating,
- Be linked with better health,
- Offer us the flexibility to adapt to inevitable challenges that arise.
A 2015 study showed that self-compassion is linked with more nourishing eating habits, lower stress, better sleep and exercise. Other research has shown that self-compassion helps to improve body image and reduce the incessant drive for thinness.
So you know that voice that whispers over your shoulder, ‘You’d look better if you were thinner...’? Self-compassion can help to tell that voice to sit down and shut up!
How To Be More Self-Compassionate
A great starting point is to build awareness around your current attitudes of self-compassion.
How do you talk to yourself? Or treat yourself throughout the day?? What are some of the expectations that you are putting on yourself that may not be fair or realistic?
Quite often, when women have been feeling low about food and body image for a long time, they express self-loathing, or even self-hate. As represented in the model below, they’ll feel that their ‘failures’ with food aren’t just about food – that somehow, this makes them a bad person as well:
As we develop our self-compassion and soften our attitude towards the things that we don’t like about ourselves, our language and outlook starts to change. If you look up the model, women will start talking differently to themselves.
Instead of feeling like you ‘should’ exercise or eat nutritious foods, women start to feel like they ‘want’ to look after their bodies as an act of self-care and because it simply feels good.
Self-compassion is like building a muscle. It’s difficult and feels funny at first but with time it does get easier. And just like strength training, it’s a practice that we need to maintain. The benefits are well worth it!
Tips For Using Self-Compassion For Better Health & Body Image:
- REFLECT. Are your expectations realistic? I recently spoke with a remarkable lady who’s recovered from anorexia. She shared, ‘I had to have Miranda Kerr’s legs, Jennifer Anniston’s arms and so on and so forth. Nothing less would do.’ It is literally genetically impossible to strive for this, yet how many of us are trying to make our bodies fit into a picture that’s not right for us?
- REFRAME. Next time you beat yourself up (“I’m so lazy for not exercising today”), try to reframe this in a way that is helpful and addresses the behaviour, not you as a person! Could you try something like, “I don’t feel good that I didn’t exercise today. What can I do to support myself tomorrow to make this happen instead?”
- GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO CARE FOR YOURSELF. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to ask myself regularly, ‘What can I do to take care of myself today?’ Even if I don’t always action the answers, the act of just checking in softens my attitude towards myself and cultivates self-compassion.
I’d love to hear your comments!