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Ring in the New Year with Four Steps toward Less Guilt and Greater Self-Compassion

0195785001546531211.jpgMolly exercises body acceptance

Feeling particularly vulnerable to the diet, “lifestyle change”, and “wellness” messages that saturate the media as you ring in 2019?

Ok, so you thoroughly enjoyed and took pleasure in holiday eating, yet you are now feeling a little twinge of guilt…or worse yet—SHAME, or are having some difficulty accepting your body. Perhaps it was difficult to listen to your body’s signals while enjoying social events or family gatherings, or you may have tuned out the trusted feelings of hunger or fullness your brilliant body faithfully offers. You’re not alone. Really. As part of our common humanity and, likewise, our common tendency to take pleasure in the delights of holiday cooking, baking, spirits, and cheer, it is quite normal and actually very healthy to now give yourself some space to explore whatever feelings have followed. Do any of these thoughts/feelings sound familiar?

How could I let myself go like this? Better kick that new year’s resolution to lose 20 in high gear!

Jeez, these pants are snug (or sweater, as in the case of my lovely, curvy pug Molly featured above). I even told myself this year would not be like last year. What a (expletive deleted) failure I am! I have zero willpower!

How soon until swimsuit season? What is the latest diet that will get me ready in the shortest amount of time?

BUT WAIT! Let’s get rational for a moment….Recall that the long-term success rate of diets, clean eating plans, lifestyle changes or however diet culture is disguising themselves these days is less than 5%! You read that right.  Now, would you ever spend your hard-earned cash or invest your emotional and physical time in anything else with a 95% failure rate?!? And by the way, willpower has NOTHING to do with it. The diet industry sets us up for failure, time and time again. That’s how they make money--through our pseudo failures at losing weight in the short-term, but inevitably regaining it further along so that we spend our money trying the next diet fad. Naturally, following the holiday season, the media is saturated with messages of how to “fix” yourself by losing X amount of weight in just Y amount of time. Balderdash! Before giving in to the Whole30 (for the 30th time!) or shutting down your system’s natural insulin processes with a zero-carb diet, take a moment to savor these thoughts and feelings—even the really hard ones--with a healthy side of self-compassion. As Dr. Kristen Neff so eloquently describes in the Self-Compassion Break exercise, there are quick, easy ways we can help center and better accept ourselves, as we are, in spite of media messages suggesting we are deficient, ugly, unlovable or unacceptable.

Here’s how using 4 phrases you can say to yourself in the present moment, anywhere or anytime you are aware of a difficult thought, feeling or physical sensation (I like to use language that sounds like I’m offering a healthy dose of compassion to a loved one….and also actually sounds like my voice):

  1. Bring a bit of mindfulness and presence to your painful or difficult thoughts, but try to do so without judgment. In your kindest, gentlest voice or inward dialogue, remind yourself that “This is a moment of suffering”. Or even “this is really hard feeling so much guilt and lack of control over my snug pants”
  2. Instead of fighting against the difficult thoughts, feelings, or experience, tell yourself “suffering is part of life” and that imperfection is part of our common humanity. We ALL suffer. In this case, maybe “almost everyone gains a few pounds over the holidays, each and every year”
  3. Bring a sense of caring, comfort, and permission to be gentle with yourself “May I be kind to myself in this moment”
  4. Set your intention to be self-compassionate “May I give myself the compassion I need in this moment” or “I am worthy of receiving self-compassion”

There. How does that feel? Feel free to draw upon this quiet, internal sequence whenever you are feeling hijacked by the airbrushed, “perfect” hardbodies advertising the New Year’s specials at the local gym, the bikini-clad model hawking end of winter travel deals, or the sleek Weimaraner with the shiny coat selling fat-free biscuits (that one’s for you, Molly!).

Though Fresh Air Counseling gets a kick out of including our pets rather than stock model photos and a bit of levity in some of our articles, we also recognize that there are many folks experiencing unhelpful thoughts, extremely difficult feelings and emotions, or reminders of past losses or traumas, especially during and after the holiday season. We do take these issues very seriously and certainly realize it isn’t always as simple as just getting quiet and extending ourselves some self-compassion. We are here and available for a FREE 15 minute telephone consultation to discuss your current experience, to help work through difficult thoughts and emotions, and to offer alternative strategies to get you back to the valued and vital life direction you deserve. Contact us today to set up a phone consultation and to move toward an improved lived experience in the new year! Cheers, and be well in 2019!

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Professional Seal for Kelly Jerome
Kelly Jerome, MS, LPCA, CRC, NCC
Therapist in Durham, NC