You are here

#1 Weight-Loss Secret: Be Nice to Yourself

The Self-Compassion Diet by Jean Fain

Cutting yourself a little slack is the secret to big weight-loss, according to Jean Fain, a licensed psychotherapist and author of the recent book The Self-Compassion Diet. She explains:

How does self-compassion help with weight-loss? Most weight-loss plans revolve around deprivation and neglect. You’re supposed to stick to the plan no matter what. If you’re starving, keep eating tiny portions. If you’re exhausted, keep moving—no pain, no gain. Going on vacation? Keep counting…calories, carbs, points. It’s not a very compassionate or effective approach, and it’s no fun. What I’m saying: when you treat yourself with self-compassion, you’re more apt to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full; rest when you’re tired and move when you feel energized. When you do that, you lose weight naturally.

So what is self-compassion, exactly? Most simply put, self-compassion is treating yourself like you’d treat a friend or a loved one—with care and concern. My favorite definition comes from research psychologist Kristin Neff, Ph.D., who defines self-compassion as having three essential ingredients: mindful awareness, loving-kindness and common humanity. (Learn more and test how self-compassionate you are with Kristin Neff’s quiz.)

What’s the best way to boost our self-compassion? There are many ways to cultivate self-compassion, but my favorite is loving-kindness meditation. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit on a cushion and focus on your breath for ten years. It’s actually very simple. For 10 to 15 minutes a day, you can practice formally, sitting in silence, or informally walking around the neighborhood, by mentally repeating these four phrases:

  1. May I be safe.
  2. May I be healthy.
  3. May I be happy.
  4. May I live in ease.

Start by wishing yourself well, then extending well wishes to your next-door neighbor, the postman, the new mom with the baby carriage. You’ll feel calmer, less reactive, and less likely to indulge in emotional eating.

How can we turn off our inner-critics when we’re beating ourselves up about food? In order to change your self-critical thoughts, you’ve first got to pay enough attention to notice that you’re mentally beating yourself up. When you do, rather than continuing to criticize yourself, take a deep breath and silently tell yourself what you’d tell a good friend who is struggling with food issues. The message is sure to be a lot more compassionate than your inner critic’s.

Do you have a favorite “thinspirational” quote? “Just start where you are.”—Pema Chödrön