I want to highlight one of my clients today because, honestly, hearing this in her own words is much more powerful than my words.
One of my clients, let’s call her Abby, starting working with me because she wanted to learn how to eat “normally”. She is in her young twenties, and lost over 100 pounds a few years ago. Although this was a tremendous accomplishment, she is left feeling so freaked out about gaining any weight back. Because she has dieted for so long, she is unsure how to loosen up the tight control she has over her diet & exercise and let herself live a little, all while trusting that she will not gain all of the weight back.
In order to learn how to eat “normally”, you need to learn what that means for your own body. What you like, what you don’t like, what makes you feel good, what energizes you, what foods you can’t live without, what is too much structure, what is not enough structure.
So, I’ve been helping Abby rediscover herself. She decided that she wants to email me daily with a reflection on her day – what she has eaten, how she has felt, when she has felt guilt, progress she has made, things she still struggles with.
I want to share with you snippets of some of her emails from the past couple of weeks. She has blown me away with the self love and compassion that shines through each of these emails. I wrote her back the other day and said “this is amazing. It’s like reading a beautiful story about a girl learning to love herself and free herself“.
So if you’re wondering what it sounds like to be kind toward yourself in regards to your relationship with food, here are examples from Abby:
“I took your advice and went to costco today to see what sounded good and I bought a few news things. It was strange not to look at the product information and analyze every ingredient and nutrition information of a product but yet it felt so free and normal.”
“An hour in the movie I felt a little hungry. I think it was part hunger and part wanting to snack during the movie. I decided to be ok with that and have my Chocolate peanut butter quest bar; my favorite flavor.”
“I am not sure if the grapes and almond crackers were hunger or being bored or tired but I let myself have it because I wanted it and in the past I would have been upset with myself over it but I gave myself slack and it made my night so much better and I did not need to get more. “
“Later on a night my family and I went for self serve frozen yogurt. I was in the mood for it so I was excited we were going. Those places tend to make me nervous because I can go crazy but I told myself get what you want and don’t worry and that’s what I did. I got any flavor I wanted and put on some toppings and didn’t worry. It was strange and wonderful. The freedom to enjoy a desert with your family felt so nice and I think my family loved it too because I wasn’t a downer and everyone enjoyed the night.”
“It felt nice to actually reach for things I wanted. I did have some negative thought but I was able to conquer it and not let it get to me. That was really great.”
“After dinner, I was full and didn’t need anything but for some reason about 30 minutes later I found myself reaching for some granola. It was almost like I couldn’t stop myself. I think part of it was that I was tired and forcing myself to stay up for some odd reason. After a couple times reaching in I told myself to stop and take a breath and I asked myself what I really wanted and asked myself if I was hungry and then what I wanted was to go to bed. So that’s what I did. Just went to bed and called it a night. I told myself its ok to reach for that granola and I now know to pay a little more attention to the mindless part.”
“After kickboxing I was a little hungry and all I wanted was a quest bar and cherries so that’s what I had. I try to stay away from bars but I wanted one so I thought why not. All in all today was a good day. I realized some things and let myself pretty much eat without guilt. It was strange just being able to eat whatever I want. “
“After dinner, as we started to walk, I realized I was full and thought maybe I over did it. I let some guilt creep in but walking quickly pushed it away. I realized that I sometimes never let myself get perfectly satisfied so I don’t know how that feeling feels and it’s weird when it actually happens.”
Do you see how Abby is so compassionate toward herself? She is learning, she’s not perfect, she’s figuring things out as she goes, but she’s being nice to herself. She isn’t beating herself up about overeating, or eating the “wrong” foods, or having bouts of emotional eating. She’s taking it all in stride and is choosing to be kind toward herself instead of judgmental.
I tell my clients to talk to themselves as they would to a little girl. It takes time, but changing the dialogue we have in our heads from one of criticism to one of compassion and love can be extremely powerful in our lives. The best part is that we have the choice to make that shift.
I challenge you to watch the way you talk to yourself today. When you screw up, when you compare yourself to others, when you think you should be doing something better than you are, ask yourself “would I talk this way to a little girl or to someone I love?”. If not, change the dialogue. You deserve better.
Did these examples help show you how you can talk kindly to yourself? How can you be more understanding toward yourself? Do you talk to yourself like you’re talking to someone you love?