Today is Day 12 of my 31 Days of Self-Love posts to celebrate Self-Love Month with suggestions for jump-starting your own self-love.
One of the biggest self-love busters is body image. I don’t meet a lot of people who are completely happy with their bodies. People say they want to be thinner, more defined, taller, more in proportion, curvier, etc. Or there’s a few pounds someone needs to lose before they can have self-love. People starve themselves, go on fad diets, abuse their bodies and send a terrible message to self:
“I’m not good enough and must take drastic measures to get this weight off before I can be happy, or love me.”
Now there’s a kinder way to lose weight–by giving yourself compassion. I’m delighted to have Jean Fain, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist specializing in eating issues, as my guest today. In her new book, The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness (Sounds True, January 2011), she shares her more gentle method of losing weight, which has been very effective for her clients. Jean explains a visualization from her book that you can use to turn self-criticism into the kind of compassion that can help you drop pounds in a loving way. Here’s what she has to say:
By Jean Fain
“Do I look fat?” That is the question despairing dieters have been known to ask when their jeans feel uncomfortably tight. If you find yourself entertaining this no-win question during the month of self-love, you’d do far better to entertain a compassion-enhancing visualization.
Why’s that? Because the harsh judgment that inspires the do-I-look-fat question distorts body image more cruelly than a fun-house mirror. From this distorted viewpoint, it’s impossible to get an accurate assessment in the mirror or from significant others who, until they wise up, answer the question literally and pay for it dearly. Some significant others do learn to provide reassurance or withhold their opinion, but reassurance and silence prove less than helpful because they fail to answer the real, unarticulated question: “Can you spare some compassion?”
?I developed the “Compassionate Glasses” visualization to help my weight-management clients give themselves the compassion they desperately need in order to prevent the self-criticism and negative feelings that can fuel emotional overeating. Informed by exciting, new research on self-compassion and eating issues, the guided visualization you’re about to learn has helped my clients ultimately lose weight and gain health and happiness… without dieting.?
What do you imagine would happen if you took a kinder view of yourself? Read on and see what a difference self-compassion makes! For this visualization, you’ll need two pair of imaginary glasses — one with distorted lenses, and one more compassionate pair. The distorted perspective is all too familiar and clearly painful, but it makes the contrasting view even more powerful. Most clients find both perspectives instructive. If the first proves to be too much, go directly to the second, more compassionate one. It’s healing in and of itself.
Once you’re settled into a comfortable position and a quiet breathing rhythm, imagine trying on glasses with distorted lenses — a pair that allows you to see yourself in the worst possible light. The view may not be all that clear, but take an imaginary look at yourself in an old, tarnished, full-length mirror. Whether you see yourself clothed or naked, focus on your least favorite body parts. If you have recently gained weight, notice where you have gained it. Linger on the bulges, the sags, the cellulite, all the visual imperfections.
?Expand your focus to include self-critical thoughts: “If I’d stuck to my diet, I’d be thinner and happier. I’ve really blown it!” Let yourself ruminate on all that’s wrong: “I hate my body. It’s gross. I’ll never lose weight!” Invite self-pity: “Other people lose weight, why can’t I?” While it may be tempting to switch glasses, stick with this pair until you feel more than a little agitated, but less than completely miserable.
?Now try on the other glasses, the pair with the compassionate lenses. Exhaling discomfort, inhaling calm, take another look at yourself, this time in a crystal clear, full-length mirror. Take a good look at your whole body in the mirror’s beautiful golden light. You’re glowing with natural energy. As you drink in your reflection, allow compassion to wash over you, refreshing and relaxing you. Whether you’re clothed or naked, notice what a difference compassion makes. It’s easier, isn’t it, to appreciate your health and vitality with loving eyes? It’s hard to ignore the marvelous design of the human body, your body. Your inner beauty. Your head and heart. Your innate ability to think, to feel, to love. It’s only natural to stand tall, with dignity and confidence.
?It is not that you must see total perfection when you look at your body and being with compassionate eyes. You can see beauty in your imperfections. Or at the very least, you can view your body with more acceptance, less criticism. You can see your least favorite body parts with the pride and gratitude of a new mother. You are grateful for all that’s right: toes and fingers, eyes and ears, lips that can smile, a being that can enjoy all that life has to offer.
In this glorious light, your body is undeniably a temple, worthy of care and protection, deserving of delicious, nutritious food. Some body fat is necessary: it keeps you warm and comfortable. It sustains you in sickness and in health. Your compassionate lenses are without distortion. You can see that as clearly as you can see your true shape.
?You can see overeating for the sign that it is: the need to pay attention. To pay attention to how you feel, what you need, if you want support. Everyone overeats sometimes; it’s normal. If you notice you’ve been overeating too often, it’s clear in this light that something’s asking for your attention. Whatever is asking for your attention, it’s definitely worth attending to. Of course, you can always eat better, exercise more regularly. That’s part of taking good care of yourself. But it’s not the whole picture.
You can see the big picture with your compassionate glasses. You’ve got perspective. What stands out is how pleasing it is to view yourself through kinder, gentler eyes; to embody a greater sense of calm, well-being, and patience. There is a wonderful ease that comes with greater self-acceptance and a more balanced viewpoint.
Because you enjoy this viewpoint, you might like to prescribe yourself an imaginary pair of contact lenses. Lenses that allow you to take this warmer, more benevolent view of yourself with you. Or maybe you’d prefer to take a self-compassion break by watching the YouTube vers
ion of “Compassionate Glasses.” However you like, make a habit of stopping in the name of self-love.
Jean Fain is a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist specializing in eating issues, and the author of The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness (Sounds True, Jan. 2011). Her book just came out and she’s currently on tour promoting it.
Take the self-love challenge and get my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways for free at http://howdoiloveme.com. And you can post your loving acts HERE to reinforce your intention to love yourself.
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