You may be thinking of the anti-aging, flu-fighting vitamin C?
In particular, self-compassion.
That’s the vitamin C I’m talking about.
Before you decide that this vitamin is vapid and ineffectual, read on and think again. Because for dancers, this self compassion has much more impact on your mind and body than you’d imagine.
Especially now that we’re approaching the festive season, self-compassion can help you feel less stressed and anxious around food.
Just imagine how much more fun and freedom you can experience if you could let go of food, eating and body concerns.
First let’s define self compassion.
Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as the practice of being kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.
Being mindful of your thoughts, actions and feelings, instead of being judgemental of them, brings about self realisation, kindness and development.
How does this relate to eating, you may ask?
Evidence shows that self-criticism is one of the leading causes of disordered eating behaviour. That is, the less regard you hold for yourself, the more likely you are to engage in unhealthy eating habits and behaviours. This may be over-eating, binge-eating, restrictive eating,
So then, if you were to start exploring compassionate eating, what can you do?
I particularly like Kristin Neff’s exercise – Identifying what we really want.
- Think about the ways that you use self-criticism as a motivator. Is there any personal trait that you criticize yourself for having (too overweight, too lazy, too impulsive, etc.) because you think being hard on yourself will help you change? If so, first try to get in touch with the emotional pain that your self-criticism causes, giving yourself compassion for the experience of feeling so judged.
- Next, see if you can think of a kinder, more caring way to motivate yourself to make a change if needed. What language would a wise and nurturing friend, parent, teacher, or mentor use to gently point out how your behavior is unproductive, while simultaneously encouraging you to do something different. What is the most supportive message you can think of that’s in line with your underlying wish to be healthy and happy?
- Every time you catch yourself being judgmental about your unwanted trait in the future, first notice the pain of your self-judgment and give yourself compassion. Then try to reframe your inner dialogue so that it is more encouraging and supportive. Remember that if you really want to motivate yourself, love is more powerful than fear
The practice starts with noticing your critical or judgemental voice.
“I’m going to have a salad for lunch because I need to lose weight”
“I really want that cake but it’s full of sugar and so BAD for me!”
“I’m so weak-willed for stuffing myself with pizza last night!”
Those are just some of the many common voices that I hear in my practice.
These self-critical, judgemental, voices only create self-loathing and disregard. ‘Tought love’ may work in the very short term, but won’t help you create a long-term healthful habit.
What can you say instead? Maybe…
“I could nourish my body more if I added some vegetables to my lunch”
“I wonder what’s driving this craving I have now for the cake. Am I craving for anything sweet, or does that cake hold a particular meaning to me?”
“That pizza last night was yummy. But I feel like I’ve gone over my fullness to an uncomfortable level. Maybe I could listen to my fullness and satiety cues more next time so I can enjoy the meal AND feel physically comfortable afterwards.”
Do you see how it changes the tone of your inner voice when you take a more compassionate, curious approach instead of a judgemental criticism?
The society almost encourages self-criticism to be a vital part of living, but when it comes to eating and body concerns, self-compassion will do a much, much, much better job in supporting your devleopment, both personally and professionally.
Lachance, L., Martin, M. S., Kaduri, P., Godoy-Paiz, P., Ginieniewicz, J., Tarasuk, V., & McKenzie, K. (2014). Food insecurity, diet quality, and mental health in culturally diverse adolescents. Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, 7(1), 14-22.
Neff, Kristin. Self Compassion. http://self-compassion.org/
Neff, K. (2010). Review of The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from
destructive thoughts and emotions. British Journal of Psychology, 101, 179-181.
Neff, K. D. & McGeehee, P. (2010). Self-compassion and psychological resilience
among adolescents and young adults. Self and Identity, 9, 225-240.
Neff, K. D. (2009). The role of self-compassion in development: A healthier way to relate
to oneself. Human Development, 52, 211-214.
Noordenbos, G., Aliakbari, N., & Campbell, R. (2014). The Relationship Among Critical Inner Voices, Low Self-Esteem, and Self-Criticism in Eating Disorders. Eating disorders, 1-15.