Remove guilt and shame from your weight loss equation
Think about the last time you successfully made a big change. Maybe you took on a new role at work or went to grad school. Or maybe you gave up a bad habit like drinking soda. Think back to when you were a kid. What kind of coach or teacher had the greatest impact on you? Did they yell and make you feel guilty every time you made a mistake? Or did they support, encourage, and help you reflect when you made mistakes so you would know what to do differently last time?
What does guilt and shame have to do with weight loss?
Everything. So often people use guilt and shame to try to change their eating and exercise habits in order to lose weight but it always ends up backfiring. It keeps people stuck in a never ending diet rollercoaster. If you think about your relationship with food and exercise, more than likely you will find guilt and shame hiding out.
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It shows up when you label foods good or bad. It looks like telling yourself you will be good and only eat salad when you go out to eat. If you end up sharing nachos with your friends, you consider that a bad thing. It looks like feeling guilty if you sleep in (even though you really needed the extra sleep) when you planned to workout.
I know I have never made a lasting change when I feel shame or guilt. It always ends up backfiring on me. If I feel guilty, I end up self sabotaging because I don’t like feeling that way.
What if you used love and kindness towards yourself to inspire change?
When I am not coaching women how to improve their health, I am a part time elementary school teacher. My 17 years of teaching experience has given me a front row seat to how people respond to different kinds of coaching/teaching. When kids are encouraged and spoken to in positive ways, they make way more progress than when they are yelled at and belittled. I have observed classrooms where the teacher creates a space of loving encouragement where kids feel safe to take chances and push themselves. This will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that kids in that kind of learning environment make way more growth and progress than kids in a less supportive environment.
The same goes for the voice inside your head. If you speak to yourself in a loving and kind way, you are going to make a lot more growth than you would if you belittled and shamed yourself every time you ate something unhealthy or missed a workout.
I have used guilt and shame for so long, I have no idea how to change
The great news is that your brain is capable of change at any point. It is never too late to start. Here are some ways you can work to change how you speak to yourself:
Instead of beating yourself up after eating a cupcake (“I can’t believe I ate that whole thing. I am such a failure”), use it as information to inform your choices moving forward. Do you really love cupcakes? If so, enjoy the heck out of it and move on. A healthy life has room for delicious treats that you love. Was the cupcake only so-so and made you feel crappy immediately afterwards? Use that as information for the next time a cupcake comes across your path. You can say no thank you and wait to enjoy a treat that you really love.
Journaling is a great way to check in with yourself. Start each morning (or end each day) with a couple of minutes of journaling. This is a great way to express your feelings without mindlessly eating to address uncomfortable feelings. Uncomfortable feelings are a natural part of life. Instead of running from them (or numbing them with food), teach yourself to sit with them.
Spend time (in real life and on your social media feed) with people who make you feel great. If you have people who make you feel bad about yourself, limit your time around them. Check in with yourself after you scroll through social media. If you spend time looking at people with “perfect” bodies (there is no such thing, it is an edited, highlight reel you are seeing) and feel shame about your body after scrolling, limit your time on social media.
Let go of the idea of perfection. If you make healthy choices 80% of the time, that is amazing! You should celebrate it. I eat mostly healthy but eat chips (almost daily) and drink wine (usually just a glass or two on the weekends). I know chips and wine are not healthy but they bring me joy so I enjoy the heck out of them and don’t allow myself to feel guilty.
Reframe your relationship with exercise. Instead of thinking about exercise as something you HAVE to do to burn calories, I challenge you to think about it as something you GET to do. This was a complete game changer for me. It made me think about exercise as a privilege I am lucky enough to do instead of a chore I am forced to do.
Weight loss is not a temporary change. In order to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of your life, you will need to work at it every single day. Guilt and shame may work temporarily but they won’t lead to lasting change. If you are ready to get off the weight loss rollercoaster but you need some more support, hiring a coach may be the best thing for you. Fill out my quick application here and I will be in touch with you to chat about the various ways I can support you.
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