How Self Compassion Can Lead to a Healthy Body

Intuitive Nutrition is kicking off it’s new Motivation Mondays series with a little piece on self love.

It’s February, the month of love. A perfect time to write about self love and how having it can help you return to your natural healthy shape. The theme of self love and compassion keeps popping up every where I turn and when I notice a theme popping up over and over again in my life, it usually means the Universe is trying to tell me something.

The first thing that happened was that I decided that books were beginning to take over my house – I had books on my nightstand, on my husband’s nightstand, on the shelf in our bedroom, on my desk and the bookshelf in my office and on my coffee table and packed on to the bookshelves in our family room. They were literally taking over. As I started pulling books off of shelves I realized that every book was a big fat SHOULD, silently screaming at me. I should be the best parent on the block, I should have the perfect beach body in 10 days, I should organize my house, I should be using Twitter to build my business, I should read every Oprah book – you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I do read a lot, but these were books that I hadn’t read . These were books that I thought I should read. Big difference. With close to 50 books purged from shelves, I took an exhausted sigh of relief and felt like I lost 5 pounds.

While I was doing all that book purging, I did come across a gem that I had started to read awhile ago and never finished. “The Courage to be Yourself” by Sue Patton Thoele. She confirms that only when you become aware of your inner feelings and acknowledge them by telling others and then finally accepting them can you begin to make progress towards change. I may not like my extra weight, but I have to accept it. If I put all my energy in to resisting my current size and ultimately feeling like a failure, then I don’t have energy left over to actually do something about it.

Last week I attended a webinar titled, “The Compassionate Practitioner”.  The topic was having compassion for ourselves so that we may have more compassion for our patients. She spoke about pushing versus pulling and gave the analogy of pushing on a desk and using all of your energy to move the desk. For me and for many others, the desk represents our extra weight. I realized that I had been pushing so hard on the “desk” I didn’t have much energy left over to be nice to myself or to even go to the gym. Hmmm, she might be on to something – energy can only move in one direction so if you are pushing then you are incapable of reaching down to pull yourself up. Maybe I should will choose to focus less on my extra weight and how much I hate myself for having it and more on giving myself some love. I could spend five minutes visualizing my new shapely body or meditating instead of spending five minutes beating myself up.

Today, as I listened to the author Marc David (author of The Slow Down Diet and Nourishing Wisdom), it really hit me. Here is what he said, “Look at the key challenges in your life, not your body”. As you reach your potential on a personal level, your body and metabolism will reach their  full power and potential. Not the other way around! We are lead to believe (incorrectly) that we are flawed if we are overweight. That only when we fit in to what society deems the correct body shape will we be able to reach our full potential. This is bogus! The lesson here is to start living your life now, to your fullest potential and when you do that, your body will reach it’s full potential. Instead of focusing on fighting your body size, see your extra pounds as a lesson. What is your body trying to tell you or teach you. Your relationship with food is often a metaphor for how you live your life. If you rush through meals, perhaps you are rushing through life. If you are carrying extra pounds, maybe you are heavy with old issues that should be addressed with the help of a good therapist. If you love food too much to stop overindulging, perhaps you need to find a different source of joy in your life. When you rediscover things that you love doing, food will likely take a back seat. No willpower required. I’m willing to bet that as you begin to truly listen to your body and respect its wisdom, your intake of healthy foods will begin to replace some of the not so healthy items in your diet, naturally.

I began to percolate on what my extra pounds may be trying to tell me, my first thought: I have no willpower. Then I tried to think about what my extra pounds may be trying to teach, this time, with compassion. An idea came to me: perhaps my extra pounds are telling me that perfection is unattainable. Ironically, trying to be perfect all the time means that I am being harsh and demanding on myself. Perfectionism is living a life of “shoulds” and living a life filled with the word should is a life of attempting to live up to everyone else’s standards.

So, on this Monday, what are the “shoulds” in your life? Spend some time this week and begin to hear when that dreadful word, “should”, pops up in your thoughts. When you hear it, whose voice is saying it? Society? Your mother? Your spouse?. If your body is currently a bigger size than you would like, spend some time thinking about what your body may be trying to tell you – no judgement, just noticing. Please share your thoughts if you are comfortable sharing, I would love to hear them!

 

 

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Hi! I'm Heather: a body positivity, Health at Every Size dietitian. When I'm not blogging about wellness, I'm spending time with my fabulous family. Sometimes, they wear me out, so then it's time to bake, read, knit, tie myself into a yoga pose, or continue to work my first novel... stay tuned.