Isn’t it funny how we learn a new term or get exposed to a new theory and then it seems to crop up everywhere?  That happened to me last week.  I came across a new “theory” called “self-compassion.”  First I saw it referenced in an MSNBC article, “Self-compassion May Matter More than Self-esteem” in reference to the best ways to raise our children, and then ran across it in Whole Living magazine in the context of dieting.  In both cases, we’re encouraged to have more compassion for ourselves and others.  (The alternative theory around achieving or promoting self-esteem advocates striving to be better than others and punishing ourselves when we don’t reach our goals.)  While I was intrigued by the theory for life in general, the article on dieting really struck a chord.
The Whole Living piece, based on a new book, “The Self-Compassion Diet,” by psychotherapist Jean Fain, states that the key to maintaining a healthy weight isn’t self-control or deprivation but nurturing the self and the body — treating them as you would a friend or loved one.  OK, I know that sounds vague so here’s how the fancy Harvard psychologist explains it.  Self-compassion has 3 essential aspects: mindful awareness (giving full attention), self-kindness (vs. beating yourself up), and “common humanity, the understanding that suffering is part of the human experience and that you’re not alone.”
In a study, two groups were given a doughnut for each person to eat.  Afterward, one group was prompted to think kind things of themselves, like “everyone overeats sometimes and you can get back on track,” while the other group was left to think their own thoughts.  Then both groups were left to sit with a big bowl of candy.  Those who exhibited “self-compassion” were less likely to over indulge than those in second group.  Net net, being kinder to yourself reduces the likelihood of overeating.
I can certainly relate.  Who hasn’t eaten a bowl of ice cream or another piece of cake and regretted it afterward?  And the next day we wonder, did that pound of flesh just materialize thanks to what I ate last night?  Ugh!
So many of us are harsh to ourselves when it comes to our bodies.  But the result of this self-loathing as a nation isn’t making us healthier, stronger, or leaner but, rather, heavier and sicker.  As I’ve written in earlier posts (What Pornography Reveals), if we truly love ourselves — including the vessel we carry ourselves in, i.e., our bodies, we all would be happier and healthier. Our bodies aren’t separate entities, they are part of us.  We must nurture and love them.  And if we do, then the extra piece of cake becomes just a treat, not a symbol of our lack of control and inability to be a healthy, successful person.  And in the end, we would be happier, more confident, and even, healthier.

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