quick hit: self-compassion in the NYT

Tara Parker-Pope posted an article on the New York Times website yesterday called “Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges.” I don’t read her stuff that often, but a co-worker alerted me to this post and I gotta say, I like it! It’s not new information to those of us in the FA movement, but it’s always awesome when mainstream media and press get it right. Or, mostly right.

Essentially, research shows that when we are nicer to ourselves, we enjoy less stress in our lives and pay more attention to what our bodies actually want in terms of food. What I don’t like is that the researchers Ms. Parker-Pope speaks with frame the narrative using weight-loss as the ultimate goal.

“Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan,” said Jean Fain, a psychotherapist and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School who wrote the new book “The Self-Compassion Diet” (Sounds True publishing). “Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that it seems to ignore the fact that self-compassion is important regardless of dieting, weight loss goals, etc. (though of course one has to frame it that way if one is hoping to sell a diet book). The ultimate goal need not be weight-loss, the ultimate goal should simply be loving yourself more. Of course, Ms. Fain is right in part. Self-compassion doesn’t currently exist in any diet plan that I’m aware of, but to me that’s not the point. Still, though, good to know folks recognize that diets fail for a variety of reasons, most notably (to me, anyway) because they are rooted in self-criticism and a call to “just have more willpower.”

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5 responses to “quick hit: self-compassion in the NYT

  1. I think it’s a step in the right direction.

  2. …”self-compassion doesn’t exist in any diet plan….” Unfortunately, there is a book recently out on the market called Adore Yourself Slim. The press releases make out that the secret to weight loss is ‘loving yourself the way you are’. I flicked through a copy in Smith’s to see if there really was anything different about it, and it’s basically a bunch of self-hypnosis guff (not that I think self-hypnosis can’t work – I’ve made effective use of it for anxiety – just that using it to lose weight is a really lousy waste of a good method), mingled with the usual ‘eat less and move more’ spiel. The part I really hated was where it suggested ‘rewarding’ yourself for weight loss with ‘treats’…like a relaxing bath, reading a chapter of a favorite novel or listening to music. Because of course, only thin(ner) people deserve even the most basic nice things in life.

    Buddhist author Cheri Huber notes that the key to self-acceptance is that you can’t do it from ulterior motives. It has to be completely unconditional – i.e. you must believe that you’re worthy of love even if you never, for example, lose weight, because to have the idea that you can love yourself into changing at the back of your mind isn’t really self-love at all. Now her books, I do recommend.

    • excellent point (yours via Huber). self-compassion for self-compassion’s sake by definition can’t exist in any diet plan b/c the POINT of a diet plan is to lose weight. “You must believe that you’re worthy of love even if never lose weight” – my word, this was SO hard for me to wrap my head around back in the day (ok, less than two years ago, but still). Also? Can we just laugh for a moment at the total absurdity of the title of that book? good lord.

  3. I read this article today too. And I wanted so much to say “Yes! Self-compassion and acceptance is great!” And if you read that article in isolation, okay, it’s pretty fuzzy bunny rainbows. But pretty much 99% of TPP’s work in the NYT is diet promotion and fat hate. So I can’t imagine this is really any departure from that.

    I totally agree that no weight loss regimen is “self-compassionate”. Any way you slice it, it involves being unhappy with your current body.

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