Weight loss does more than change your appearance. Of course, shedding the extra pounds and inches makes you look good and feel confident. The happiness of fitting into a smaller size can make you glow. At the same time, it results in a positive cycle of improved self-esteem and increased motivation. Studies also establish a link between a healthy lifestyle and a lower risk of depression and anxiety.
Conversely, not losing weight despite the best efforts can stress you out. A large body of research, such as the study realized at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, states that common mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety and depression can impair a person’s ability to complete weight loss interventions. Breaking the cycle is the only way to move ahead in the journey and maintain your sanity.
Self-compassion can be a game-changer in this context. You need to understand its role and the ways to practice it. Here are some valuable insights for weight-watchers struggling with mental health issues:
The Role of Self-Compassion in Weight Loss
Self-compassion is giving oneself the love and kindness one deserves. Believe it or not, you need tons of it while pursuing your fitness goals. According to research, self-compassion shows a positive link with weight management self-efficacy. Further, it improves emotional response to diet re-lapses in the long run.
A study realized at the University of Portsmouth, for example, found that people who participated in a self-compassion program lost more weight over five weeks than those who simply meditated. Additionally, it improves the emotional response to relapses on a long-term diet or exercise regimen.
In this sense, a research developed at Drexel University discovered that self-compassion promotes more adaptive responses to dietary lapses (incidents of non-adherence). In other words, it will help people deal with those moments when they forget about their diet and feel guilty and demoralized.
Self-compassion will allow people to reframe that “failure” from a more positive perspective and promotes self-improvement so that they can move forward despite the setback. These researchers observed that the most self-compassionate people showed more interest and intention to continue with the diet despite the slip.
Since the path to achieving the goals is usually not linear, but is often full of ups and downs, in the long run self-compassion will help persons not throw in the towel and achieve their goals. Unfortunately, while the role of self-compassion in the weight loss process is evident, most people don’t forgive themselves when they overeat or skip a few days at the gym. However, a conscious effort to forgive themselves and move on can make all the difference.
Tips to Practice Self-Compassion During a Weight Loss Initiative
Weight loss is a journey with goals and milestones, but it has roadblocks as well. Suppose you choose intermittent fasting because it matches your goals and lifestyle. You know the benefits of intermittent fasting well and stick to its rules day in and day out. Suddenly, you lose control and indulge outside the permissible eating windows.
Simple notes that you should normalize such weak spots, specifically during the initial stages of intermittent fasting. The first few weeks are rough for most people, and bumps are a part of the journey. You can overcome them with a compassionate approach.
Here are a few actionable ways to practice it during your weight loss initiative:
Set Realistic Goals
According to the CDC, unrealistic goals such as trying to lose 20 pounds in two weeks can be damaging to a person. You will likely fail to achieve it and feel stressed and frustrated sooner rather than later. You may even want to quit when things do not go your way.
Setting realistic goals is a self-compassion practice every weight-watcher should adopt. Besides being achievable, realistic goals offer sustainable results. People with steady and gradual weight loss are more likely to sustain the outcomes than those shedding pounds quickly.
Avoid Expecting Perfection
Statistics show that most dieters fail to maintain the lost weight for more than three years. Even the most committed ones cheat more often than they can imagine. You are not alone if you feel guilty about being unable to stick to the plan and sustain the results for the long haul.
Self-compassion is about steering clear of perfectionism and focusing on progress as it happens. Accept that breaking old behaviors overnight is impossible. You should recognize the value of effort to move in the right direction and every step along the way.
Be Mindful of Your Thoughts
Managing your thoughts can be the most challenging part of your weight loss journey. They can hinder your progress in more ways than you imagine. Being mindful of self-critical thoughts is a part of practicing self-kindness.
Challenge negative thoughts that make you feel like a failure. Using positive affirmations can help you counteract negative self-talk effectively. For example, instead of telling yourself, “I can’t do it”, you can activate self-compassion by telling yourself: “It’s hard, but I’ll do my best.” Keep reminding yourself of your worth, regardless of your progress and setbacks.
Losing weight is an uphill journey, and no matter how committed you are, you may feel a drop in motivation at some point. A daily dose of self-care can keep you going, no matter how challenging the road ahead. Find ways to dedicate time to care for your physical, emotional and spiritual needs because it can promote a healthy weight in the long run.
Here are a few expert-recommended self-care practices you can adopt:
- Allow yourself an occasional cheat meal
- Take a day off from exercise when you feel exhausted
- Experiment with diets and workouts if the current ones push you too hard
- Practice daily meditation
- Allow time to do nothing
These self-care practices may increase motivation and energy levels, helping you achieve your goals. It also cultivates resilience and self-compassion as you accept your mistakes and move on.
Self-compassion is more than validating your efforts and caring for your needs. Of course, you are the first person who should do these things, but you should accept the need for external support and validation. Be ready to share your thoughts with friends and family. You can join a support group to connect with people experiencing similar feelings.
Sharing your experiences provides relief and perspective. Seek professional help if you encounter deeper emotional issues regarding weight and self-esteem. A therapist can be the best person to provide valuable guidance regarding self-compassion.
Research indicates that the impact of weight management interventions on mental health is less evident than that on physical health. But, as a weight loss enthusiast, you will surely understand the emotional burden of falling short of your goals. It can stress you and hurt your self-esteem and confidence.
Self-compassion is a savior when it comes to dealing with the emotional impact of weight loss struggles. You can adopt these compassionate practices as a part of your fitness plan to improve the outcomes and retain your mental well-being. You deserve kindness and self-care, so you should not skimp on it.
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Velten, J. et. Al. (2018) Lifestyle choices and mental health: a longitudinal survey with German and Chinese students. BMC PublicHealth; 18: 632.
Mantzios, M. & Wilson, J. (2015) Exploring Mindfulness and Mindfulness with Self-Compassion-Centered Interventions to Assist Weight Loss: Theoretical Considerations and Preliminary Results of a Randomized Pilot Study. Mindfulness; 6: 824–835.