One key component of mindfulness is self-compassion. We tend to be very harsh with ourselves. This is especially true around weight loss. Self-hatred, poor body image, guilt, and shame are common emotions for people struggling with their weight.
These emotions often lead to a vicious cycle of emotional eating (due to negative emotions) and then guilt or shame about the overeating, which leads to more overeating to assuage the negative emotions.
This excellent article refers to this as the “what the hell” effect: you ate too many cookies—things are already bad— so what the hell, you finish the box of cookies. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, this is known as “all or nothing thinking.” It is the same idea: since you weren’t 100 percent perfect in your eating, what the hell.
Mindfulness asks us to arrive at each moment afresh, and to treat ourselves with the same kindness we would extend to a crying child. Indeed, our cravings, shame, guilt, and self-hatred are like crying children. They are clamoring for something, and it isn’t cookies. Self-compassion is a far better way to handle the emotions that surround eating binges or dietary slip-ups.
So how does self-compassion work? How do we apply it when we have just fallen off the wagon? According to Steve Kanney, who brings his expertise in meditative disciplines to the Mindful Life Weight Loss program:
“Every moment is a fresh opportunity to improve your situation….It is time to be compassionate to yourself and your situation, and doing something to make it better, not worse.”
Seeing every moment as a fresh start takes a certain amount of discipline. It is a learned skill. There is no mystique to it. The best way to develop this skill is to practice. Mindfulness is like a muscle. It gets stronger with practice. See this post for an easy mindfulness exercise, but don’t limit mindfulness to something you do for brief periods. Try to bring a greater sense of presence to all of your activities. You will find that as you cultivate kindness to yourself, you make great strides on your weight loss journey.