Self Compassion and Weight Loss
Often times, we care for others better than we care for ourselves. This can cause us to seek comfort from outside sources, rather than from within. However, there is a direct relationship between people that practice self-compassion, or self-kindness, and their ability to lose weight and keep it off.
This is evidenced by a study in 2007, by researchers at Wake Forest University: The focus was on restrictive and guilt behaviors and their correlations to emotional eating. Eighty-four female college students participated in what they thought was a food tasting experiment. The women were split into two groups in the beginning of the study, and were asked to eat doughnuts. One group was taught a lesson in self-compassion with the food. They were told that “Everyone in the study eats this stuff, so I don’t think there’s any reason to feel real bad about it.” The women were then asked to taste-test candies. The researchers found women that had guilty feelings about dieting and foods they should avoid, indulged less in the candy after the instructor’s encouragement. The women who were not reassured ate more.
The end result: women who felt guilty about consuming the doughnuts, and were not encouraged with positive talk, ended up in more emotional eating. (Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 10, 2007, pp. 1120–1144).
There are further studies being conducted in the field of self-compassion. A pioneer of which is Dr.Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.
(February 28, 2011, Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges by Tara Parker-Pope). Her research supports that “when experiencing negative events, self–compassionate people tend to have less extreme reactions, ruminate less, and experience more positive emotions than people low in self–compassion. Self–compassion is related to self–esteem; people who react to negative events with self–kindness and equanimity also tend to feel good about themselves”. (Leary, Tate, Adams, Allen, & Hancock, 2007).
Neff has developed a self-compassion scale: 26 statements that determine the frequency of people being kind to themselves, which interprets how people cope with ups and downs of life. Click here to test your level of self-compassion http://www.self-compassion.org/test-your-self-compassion-level.html.
For those who score lower on the self-compassion scale, Dr. Neff recommends a few tips to help: “writing yourself a letter of support, just as you might to a friend you are concerned about. Listing your best and worst traits, reminding yourself that nobody is perfect and thinking of steps you might take to help you feel better about yourself, are also recommended.”
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