If someone asked me to name what I teach in one word, the answer might surprise you.
It’s not “Maintenance” or “Prevention” or even “Weight Loss” (ok, that’s two words).
What I ultimately teach is Compassion.
Self-compassion, more specifically.
In the almost 2 decades I’ve been working with people to lose and keep off weight, it has become increasingly clear that self-compassion is the key that unlocks the mystery to losing weight and maintaining that weight loss.
And now there’s some research to back me up.
David DeSteno PhD., a psychology professor at Northeastern University, recently wrote an article in The New York Times highlighting his research (you can access the whole opinion piece here). (Thank you, Mark!)
In it, he establishes that gratitude, compassion and an “authentic sense of pride” help us be patient and persevere better than the more often relied upon “willpower”.
In studies conducted in his lab, he showed that people feeling gratitude were able to demonstrate self-control and delay gratification twice as much as those feeling happy or neutral. And people who felt pride in skills they possess similarly used better self-control and more often became leaders in the groups, persisting to solve difficult problems.
Dr. DeSteno tells us that; “Feeling pride or compassion has been shown to increase perseverance on difficult tasks by over 30 percent. Likewise, gratitude and compassion have been tied to better academic performance, a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism, impulsivity and tobacco and alcohol use. If using willpower causes stress, using these emotions actually heals: They slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.”
It’s a win-win.
Trying to lose weight by gritting it, beating ourselves up for “falling off the wagon”, or depriving ourselves basic needs does not work. And yet many of us keep trying it as a strategy . . .
. . . every January.
It might result in a few pounds lost but at what cost? It just feels bad and when the willpower fades, as it inevitably does, so do the results.
Instead, compassion leads to the perseverance needed to get to the end of a long-term goal.
And it feels better.
Compassion can also be self-sustaining: when you conjure up some kindness for yourself, especially if it’s a new skill, you get the hit of a pride high thus prolonging the positive feelings for yourself and your goals.
I once heard Dr. Wayne Dyer describe the difference like this: “motivation” pushes and “inspiration” pulls.
Being pulled toward your goal has so much more ease and sustainability. And who doesn’t want to live in inspiration?
Weight loss and its maintenance are the ultimate marathon, not a sprint. You have decades to be in the body you desire. Time is on our side here. Treating your efforts with kindness and understanding gets you so much farther.
Compassion safeguards your resolutions.