I was plagued with a lack of inspiration trying to figure out what to write for February. I like to think I’m not the only one feeling a little “ick” with the cold and the grayness. Summer seems a distant memory and spring not quite around the corner just yet. So I wondered…. How can I help people more? What could we all use right now to feel better about ourselves and life? I began thinking of my clients as a whole and what common threads I’ve noticed lately when I realized the little reminder I wanted to send out:
Practice Self-Care, Not Self-Control.
I’m seeing a lot of you being way too hard on yourselves.
People want to change themselves for the better, which is fine. I think striving for self-improvement can be healthy. But there’s a big difference between doing positive things to be a better version of yourself (self-care) and fighting yourself by engaging in behaviors like denying your appetite, eating foods that don’t satisfy you or forcing yourself to exercise in ways you don’t enjoy (self-control).
There is a lot of self-loathing going on and not enough self-acceptance.
And so I was thinking about this self-control vs self-care mentality among my clients and there is an unmistakable correlation between the type of mindset someone has and their progress with making healthy behavior changes. Did you hear that? If you want to see breakthroughs in your journey then take a look at the mindset you’ve created. It could be getting in your way.
Are you caring for yourself or are you trying to control yourself?
It’s not your fault if you have a controlling “diet mentality”– thanks to messages we’ve received since childhood from television, magazines, the internet and even family and friends who mean well– it’s no wonder we think we aren’t good enough because we don’t look a certain way. 🙁 And the answer, we’re told, is to go on a diet or ‘eat this/not that’ or exercise furiously to burn those calories.
Consider that type of thinking as flawed, distorted and damaging to your soul. If you’ve been thinking that way ask yourself if it’s been helpful in getting you where you want to go. From what I observe…. it doesn’t encourage anybody to become happier or healthier or to make better eating choices. Think of someone you know who has a positive relationship with their body and with food. What messages are they telling themselves? Are they constantly on the lookout for the next cleanse or diet plan? Do they feel guilt if they eat a piece of birthday cake? Are they waking up at 5am to torture themselves on the treadmill for an hour before work? OR– Are they eating foods that bring them pleasure and that make them feel satisfied? Do they allow themselves to savor their favorite treats moderately with joy instead of shame? Are they moving their body in ways that make them feel alive and amazing?
There was an interesting study, Chocolate Cake. Guilt or Celebration? that compared weight change and perceived behavior control between two groups of people with opposing attitudes towards eating cake– those who saw eating cake as a celebration and those who associated eating cake with guilt. Those in the guilty group reported less perceived control over their eating. Their guilt did not play a useful role in keeping them from making certain food choices like many of us think it might. Also, they were less successful at losing weight than those who connected cake with celebration. Hmmm.
The angle from which you view things really does have an effect on your behaviors and habits. If you find yourself stuck with a self-control instead of a self-care attitude, noticing this is the first step towards changing it. Question your thoughts and then begin creating a new, more positive story in your mind. Once you can learn to not see food as your enemy you will notice it loosens its grip on you.
Being gentler, more accepting and kinder with yourself WILL lead you to better self-care habits. You are much more likely to make the effort to care for someone (you!) if you can first embrace who you are, as you are, right now. ♥