Practicing Self Compassion
I once read an article that distinguished the difference between having love for oneself, versus having discipline. The author stated that there wasn’t really such a thing as discipline, but rather that the driving factor of success is love. It may have been a bit hippie’ish but I got the vibe he was sending and although I didn’t have my shovel with me…..I could dig it!
Through my own health and fitness journey I have experienced many ups and downs both physically and mentally. I have seen the power of obsession towards success, as well as feeling it's power towards destructive behaviors. The following dialogue is an excerpt from an email thread between myself and one of my best transformation clients to date that illustrates the necessity for self-compassion practice for the sake of long term longevity.
Client’s response on an email thread:
“Good Morning Brendan - happy Monday!
I will plan on just training with you for now, per my budget. I know I need the nutrition - if I cut out my nightly ice cream I would probably look a lot better
In regards to the 12site - I know you don't want to focus on numbers, but what are your real, honest thoughts on my last month's progress? I think I need to increase my weight for lifting all across the board - I mean, do I still look kind of weak?”
My response to her questions:
In all honesty I think you've had an AWESOME physical transformation! However I don't think you have gone through a mental transformation that matches, which concerns me for long term success. I freaking love what I do because there are really two sides of it: 1) there is the black and white "sciency" side of things as far as what do you actually have to do for your body to get the results you want? And then on the other side of things you have 2) the real life application what do YOU need to do mentally, emotionally, habitually to make the changes a part of your day to day lifestyle?
Through my own personal journey along with my education on lifestyle change, I have seen the value in focusing on positives rather than "putting your nose to the grind stone and just doing what you have to because the trainer said so". I have always focused so much on fixing physiology and never put as much effort in to fixing mental outlook......which dramatically affects how well you are able to make a healthy change and sustain it and also directly changing your physiology. Sure you can balance brain chemicals to a degree.....but does it fulfill you? Make you happier? This is rhetorical of course, but heavily applies to me as an individual. What is healthier: "I won't eat junk food because it is bad for me and will keep me fat"? Or "I get to eat as much steak as I want because it's an approved healthy food and I LOVE steak!" Which will make habit change happen? Which will lead to long term healthy habits?
Since day one you have had a negative tone towards yourself and lifestyle change. Most clients do initially to some degree. What concerns me is that it has been a year now and I honestly have not seen much improvement in that aspect. I know a bit about your life and I understand what it's like to have other big things in life that can cause stress and negative feelings. Trust me I get it. I have always tried to not encourage any of your negative self-talk and also try not to bluntly discourage it (because that's me being a negative coach by pointing it out bluntly haha). I try to listen and empathize while encouraging positive thinking and positive life change.
Obviously I haven't seen you as frequently for the past few months, which I totally understand btw, but I have felt disconnected and obviously I can only help as much as each client allows me to. I've noticed you still are a bit overly concerned about measurements and I just want to be a responsible coach and do the right thing to help you improve. I mean let's cut the fluff and acknowledge that you have made a FREAKING AWESOME physical transformation! I mean you made our website as a success story for darn sake haha! You should feel damn proud! You have given yourself some credit here and there but it has been outweighed by negative self-talk! Give yourself some credit! You work an intense corporate job, while raising two kids, being a wife, and all the while making some awesome lifestyle changes!
I won't always be there to pinch your skin so I want to make sure we get you to a point where you are practicing self-compassion and doing your healthy habits out of love for yourself rather than out of negative self-image! What would happen if I disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow and you had no one to take your measurements and give you the reassurance that you are still doing well? Would you self-reflect and realize your awesomeness? Or would you have a melt down and slip into unhealthy habits (mental or physical)? I say these things out of experience! For most of my life my exercise and nutrition habits were driven by self-loathing! Today I'm not completely past that, but I'm a hell of a lot more self-compassionate than I used to be!
So to answer your question of what I think of your progress or if I think "you still look weak"..............my answer is: I'm not going to answer that haha. You can thank me later when you wake up....look at yourself in the mirror......look deep into your own eyes......and say out loud "damn! I'm awesome!" and truly mean it!”
As you can tell from the excerpt I am admitting that I’m definitely not perfect and have had my struggles with negativity in regards to my health and fitness goals. I believe love is a stronger emotion than anything negative, or at least in the context of making healthy changes. You may be able to get yourself skinny out of hate…..but can you get yourself healthy out of hate? Realize that you are human. The more you reflect on your behaviors and the reasoning behind them, the more capable you are of changing them for the better. Now self-compassion is not to be used as a “get out of jail free card”. You can’t eat a box of donuts every day out of love for yourself and then expect to wake up with a six pack, but if you are striving for those washboard abs you can cut yourself some slack when those carb on carb temptations drift by. Do right by your body because you DO deserve it. You do deserve to be the best possible version of yourself! You do deserve to feel great all the time! Your lifestyle choices should be for what makes you feel at your best! “Do all things with love” - Anonymous.