Self Compassion in Fitness and Nutrition

Today I want to dig a little bit deeper…….emotionally that is. As a fitness professional, coach, guide, whatever you’d like to call me, the request I get most often is to help people lose weight and tone up or bulk up.

What I’ve learned is that along with those requests comes a lot of baggage. Now take a second. Hold on, I’m not judging. I’m just stating it like it is. Many of the folks that want to lose weight, when we get down to it:

-don’t feel confident at social gatherings

-don’t feel like they look good enough for their spouse

-don’t want to be in pictures

They also tend to start out their new program all in and burn out after a month or two. Regardless of results, I have seen this time and time again. To be honest, this isn’t only in folks who want to lose weight, it could be someone who simply views themselves in a negative light.

So, how do we work on pushing through some of these barriers and gaining the long term success everyone wants…….. Self-compassion.

I know, I know. It sounds kind of wimpy. In fact maybe you should do a few burpees right now just because we discussed self-compassion in a fitness setting! After all, in the gym butts are only for kicking and towels are only for wiping sweat from your face.

How can one ever accomplish anything by having compassion for one’s self?? What we really need is a swift kick in the pants!

Maybe not….

If you’ve learned about compassion before you might understand. If not, it may just seem like some touchy, feely, weirdness that doesn’t belong in the gym.

Compassion researchers (yes, they exist) identify three parts to self-compassion:

Self-kindness
Common humanity
Mindfulness


Self-kindness is — obviously — the act of being kind to yourself. A good way to think of self-kindness is to think of being a loving parent or wise counselor to yourself — you are honest and clear-eyed about your faults and mistakes, but accepting, tolerant, and charitable about them while seeking to do better.

Self-kindness is not self-indulgence or self-destructive pleasure seeking. When you are kind to yourself, you don’t toss back a few beers at the end of a stressful day or go home and plow through a pack of cookies. Instead you do things that nurture you and help to build your spirit.

For me personally, I have found that a hot bath, yes, I will take a bath sometimes, and reading the Bible brings me peace. Sometimes it might be knocking out some work that I want to get done as well. Both of these can be nurturing to me at times and help me reset.

Common humanity means that you realize that the stress you are experiencing or that anxious feeling in your chest isn’t just about you. Everyone has bad days, deals with annoying people, and has problems to solve. At times everyone feels inadequate. Taking this view can be useful in helping you see yourself as part of a larger whole and avoid the “poor me” syndrome that leads to self-indulgence.

Mindfulness is a state of simply being aware of something, without judgement. Understanding what took place and moving on from it without allowing it to affect you negatively. You can be mindful of how you feel in terms of your body and mind but you move on from there.

So, what does self-compassion have to do with improving your fitness and nutrition? Well, I’m going to take a wild guess that you  might just be a bit self-critical at times.

-When you “fail” you might beat yourself up pretty bad

-Your inner voice might sound like a school yard bully

-You might suffer from “impostor syndrome” thinking that everyone will think you are a fraud

This is normal. In fact most folks, including myself at one point felt that being self-critical could be of benefit. If we are self-critical, it should drive us to do better next time right? Even though most people don’t want to recognize it, research has shown that negative feedback works with teams in sports. Apparently, it’s different when it is you with yourself. Here’s what the research says. Compared to self-criticizers, self-compassionate folks are:

-more effective under pressure

-more resilient and able to bounce back after setbacks faster

-feel less depressed or anxious

-are more satisfied with life

-are able to take risks and be open to new things rather than be afraid of failure

-learn, grow, and develop more effectively

-are better at providing social support (like in the BFP Family!)

Pretty much awesome all the way around!

Here’s how it relates to losing weight, getting fit, and conquering new challenges:

Clients who practice self-compassion while dieting lose more weight and keep it off for longer.

Self-compassion can decrease emotional eating as well as “dis inhibition” (i.e. the “F— it!” moment that clients might feel just before a binge).

Self-compassion helps people accept and seek out their healthy weight and shape, with less shame or rigid and negative body image.

Self-compassion can help clients regulate their feelings, which means less stress and distress, which means less impulsive or reactive behavior (i.e. “I couldn’t help myself”).

There you have it. It’s time to give yourself a break, without destructive behavior. The next time you miss a training session or eat 12 cookies, accept it, recognize it, in some cases name it (more on this next week), remember you are human and awesome, and move on!

If you’d like some help in doing that, check out our 28 Day Jumpstart Program Here

Thanks,

Coach Joe Rouse