Self Compassion for Weight Loss, But to What End?


I was excited when I saw the headline of Tara Parker-Pope’s article, “Go Easy on Yourself, A New Wave of Research Urges.” Then a smaller banner headline, “Accepting imperfection may be a first step towards better health.” Finally! An article that will talk about self/size acceptance as a conduit to health. Yay.

Then I had a second wave, “Hmm, what if accepting imperfection is identifying the imperfection as being fat thus making perfection thin…again?” But I held on and read the article.

And I was disappointed that the primary outcome, the prize, the reward for establishing, ”the habit of self compassion” was weight loss and successful dieting.

It is a complicated topic. Would women struggling with compulsive eating and binge eating (who seemed to be the primary subjects of the research; they cite examples of bowls of candy and doughnuts and learning to make healthier choices about how much of the “forbidden foods” to eat) need as much self compassion if they hadn’t been bullied and demeaned for being overweight in the first place?

Love yourself and you will get thinner then when you are thin you will really love yourself.

I know the tenets of intuitive and mindful eating are also congruent with self compassion.

How can you argue with the premise that: If you are mindful of what you eat, stay in touch with what your body needs and wants, and eliminate the concept of forbidden foods you will have a healthier attitude and relationship with food?

I can’t. Leftovers has spent twenty years promoting the premise that self acceptance and self-compassion is the only way to embrace your total self. 

Beating yourself up day after day does not solve anything. But where I veer away from many of the Intuitive Eating programs is that some of them are still using the “new thinner body” as the grand prize and ultimate reward for the hard work of establishing the new habit of self acceptance.

I read Jean Fain’s book (which is mentioned in the article) and she really approaches the whole topic with a great deal of compassion. 

But Jean and I had a very honest and authentic exchange when I told her it was difficult for me to support that her book was called the Self Compassion Diet and that all of the wonderful exercises she employs in the book would ultimately be used by women who were looking to lose weight and the self compassion was a means to that end.

And in the end, I’m not sure if books about self-compassion where the end result is….well…self-compassion….would be as marketable.


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