Why Health Resolutions need to be rooted in Self-Love
Have you considered why you may be unable to stick to resolutions for the long-haul? You decide to eat well, exercise more and meditate, but before long the effort of maintaining it all becomes too arduous and it all falls on the wayside.
There are various reasons why this may occur but at the heart of it all, it usually boils down to ONE factor!
. . . And that is how well you value yourself => your practice of self-love, self-worth and self-acceptance.
Unfortunately, without this, the best meals and the best cure will have minimal to no effect. While with it, a cup of hot chocolate may be the most medicinal drink for your body.
Lose weight with more self-love?
Now, how does that work? Say, you’ve committed to a diet to lose weight. After a week of intense effort and powerful self-control, you have a rough work day, come home and your cravings for comfort food are through the roof. There are two scenarios that could take place in this situation. Outwardly, both situations look the same but at their core, they are worlds apart. In case #1, you give-in to the craving to sooth your discomfort and distress while deep down you feel guilt and are harshly criticizing yourself for your self-assessed ‘failure’. In case #2, you also give-in to the craving for comfort food (eating the exact same food as case #1). However, the self-talk is kind, there’s no judgement and there’s peace and ease felt in the heart and gut. In this case, that same comfort food is deeply satisfying as it was consumed with total mindfulness. In case #1 on the other hand, the emotions of guilt and harsh self-criticism do not allow for the proper assimilation of the food you just ate and so not only are you left unsatisfied, worse you continue to be tempted for more. This results in a vicious cycle of guilt and overeating that weakens your resolve to get back on track the next morning. When we have positive self-worth, self-acceptance and self-love, it becomes that much easier to get back on track and continue on the goals you initially set out to do.
The Evidence behind Self-love:
Now, for the scientists, this is not some airy fairy idea as there’s hard evidence behind self-compassion and its benefits on overall health & well-being. A study looking into self-compassion and behavior change around food concluded: “incorporating holistic self-care (i.e. caring equally for the body and mind). . . self-kindness and self-compassion, is necessary and important in facilitating behavioral change” (1). In other words, if you’ve got health resolutions that require behavioural and lifestyle change, self-compassion is an essential requirement to success!
What exactly IS Self-love?
Self-love has taken on all sorts of meanings in the hype of mainstream media. We are presented with images of relaxing candle-lit baths and trips to the spa. But that is the superficial fluff that is no more than a mirage of what true self-love looks like.
True self-love needs to be rooted in self-acceptance and self-compassion
Here are a few suggestions to begin your practice:
- Stop to smell the roses occasionally or simply take a sick day when needed!
I cannot specify what this might mean for you. It may be permitting yourself a mid-day nap instead of maddeningly trying to cross things off your to-do list. The psychotherapist, Darlene Lancer explains it well: “There’s always too much to do in too little time. You can be resting or trying to relax, but the [pusher in you] reminds you of a dozen undone things. The [critic in you] then teams up with the pusher to make you feel guilty for all you haven’t done and finds flaws the pusher can correct (2).” So, if you’re overweight, your inner critic thinks you must exercise to lose fat, while the pusher puts you into action. And then the critic and pusher together harass you for not doing enough to lose more weight faster. The pusher isn’t always terrible as it helps you achieve your goals. However, it can also cause problems if it doesn’t let you pause long enough to enjoy your successes which can then lead to stress-related illnesses. I love the following quote as it sums up this idea beautifully:
“Your Pusher must learn to let things go and do less so you can become a human being, rather than a ‘human doing’”(2).
- What follows the prior step well is the practice of self-acceptance.
This means that instead of thinking of all that you want to change about yourself, you accept yourself as you are –unconditionally! You accept yourself despite your flaws, failures and limitations. This can partly be learned through the practice of catching yourself when you compare yourself to others. In these moments, remember that you and everyone else have a unique fingerprint; no one else out there can serve the world exactly as you can! And this can be transformational as you release the tensions that may have held you back. When you finally relax, you stop struggling to present yourself as your critic thinks you should. This allows you to present your authentic self to the world, and this flowing ease reveals possibilities never imagined before.
- And lastly, what is true self-love and how can you nurture your practice of it.
Love is a mystery and self-love even more so! So, let’s break it down. Firstly, self-love is not egotism as what is understood as a ‘big ego’ is usually a compensatory mechanism for lack of self-love. Love comes with compassionate understanding, respect, and responsibility. It requires focused attention, discipline, patience, empathy, and tenderness. Going deep below the fluff, self-love, at the heart of it is an ability to remain calm and centered while supporting your emotions (no matter how uncomfortable those emotions may be). A meditative practice can be helpful in developing your ability to observe and contain your emotions. As, this is all too abstract to fully intellectually integrate, let’s do a visual exercise presented by D. Lancer. She recommends imagining a kitten sitting on your chest were you’re lovingly stroking and cuddling it. You feel the warmth of its body next to your chest as your chest rises with each breath (2). You listen to your heartbeat, and imagine the kitten inside your heart. You continue stroking and speaking lovingly to yourself about all you may have suffered, your burdens, conflicts and worries. At this point, you just let it all be for a few minutes without feeling the need to do or solve anything. You then ask yourself, “what is the most loving thing I need right now?” This is a practice that needs to happen on a daily basis until it becomes routine. Tune-in to your heart everyday to find out how it feels and what it needs. Take an inventory of the emotions while you simply observe. Then ask yourself what the most loving thing you can do for yourself is? It may be rest, healthy food, joy, compassion and or socializing.
The above 3 points barely touch the surface of the iceberg that entails the concept of self-love and how to practice it. I encourage you to dig a little deeper as this practice will bring light-heartedness, ease, and peace to every aspect of your life. Moreover, your desires and goals will be that much easier to achieve.
It may take you longer to lose weight, but when it’s done in a heart-centered and loving way it’ll free you of the chains of yo-yo dieting.
You may not acquire that hot tub sitting in your neighbor’s paradise of a backyard as quickly as your pusher would have liked you to, but then you had been a human-being as opposed to a human-doing while you worked to make that paradise happen. And so, not only will you enjoy the goal once it has been achieved, but you also enjoyed the process of achieving it as you were mindfully present through it all.
So how about committing to more self-compassion this year? Make THAT your goal and watch all of your other goals fall naturally into place.
Here’s to a more heart-centered, joyful, non-judgemental, loving and as a result, Healthier 2018!
Happy New Year,
- “Promoting Self–Compassionate Attitudes Toward Eating Among Restrictive and Guilty Eaters.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2007.26.10.1120.
- Lancer, Darlene. Codependency for dummies. For Dummies, 2015.