Yes. It is, sometimes. And sometimes it is ensuring that you get up and train hard and eat your 5 cups of veggies. Walking the fine line between pushing yourself, or strictly watching what you eat to reach your goals and being compassionate with yourself when you don’t is a very personal choice and an ever shifting decision.
Here’s the Wiki definition of self-compassion:
Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Neff, K. D. (2003a)
- Self-kindness: Self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
- Common humanity: Self-compassion also involves recognizing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience.
- Mindfulness: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to one’s negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Negative thoughts and emotions are observed with openness, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.
Women are often very compassionate to everybody but themselves, giving kind words, encouragement, a soothing hug and a helping hand to everyone else, but heaping the criticism on themselves for perceived failures. Self-compassion is not a dirty word. It is absolutely not slacking off, it is simply giving yourself the same kindness, encouragement, compassion and forgiveness that you give everybody else.
Self-compassion is never an excuse to binge. However if you have been bingeing or slacked off it is the forgiveness that stops you from beating yourself up endlessly and helps to encourage you to get back up and get on with it.
The words “slacking off” are a self-judgement, which can be useful at times to help keep you on track if you are getting off course and your actions are not matching up with your goals. However it can become a tool to beat yourself up with and endlessly push for perfection, never reaching it.
I personally tend to define slacking off as when I’ve let my healthy habits slip to the point where my results are going backwards. I have a certain pair of jeans that are my guide. I know that when those jeans get a bit tight, it’s time to rein in portion sizes, bring my veggies back up to 5 or more cups per day, ensure I’m limiting my fructose and avoiding processed foods. I don’t define slacking off as a day off or even the occasional weekend off. I enjoy those times guilt free, eating whatever I feel like, enjoying the social aspect of food, knowing I will easily be back to my usual habits on Monday.
I have found it useful to think of my training and nutrition in phases, this gives me the flexibility to give myself time for rest and recuperation, or enjoy a holiday without guilt, and then push hard to reach body composition or performance goals at other times. All professional athletes use this method to a greater or lesser degree, there are times when they are ‘in season’ or ‘in training’ and times when they are off. In their on season they are very strict with their training and nutrition, and when they’re off they give themselves time to let off some steam, enjoy life and rest.
If you’ve been living with unhealthy habits for an extended time, you’re probably tired. It can be tough to get started from this place, to create the initial push to get yourself past the inertia of your current habits. Yes, it will be tiring the first few times that you need to get up to train, however this will soon begin a positive feedback loop that will propel you forward. Eventually you will find it difficult to stop.
If however, you’ve been training like a champion, 6 days a week for a few months and you’re tired, you might be over-training and may benefit from a self-compassionate full week off training, only doing light recuperative and restorative sessions. In this case you might think that giving yourself a week off is “slacking off” or that your results will go backwards, however what often happens is you give your body time to fully heal and you return stronger and more energetic than ever.
It’s just not realistic to expect yourself to be “on” your whole life. Yes, you can be consistently healthy when you incorporate some relaxed days or meals in your usual program, but who wants to live their entire life in some super strict, anti-social regime. This is diet mentality. It’s not sustainable. Take a few days off to relax, ease off on the rules, and see how your body responds, then reassess your plan, and you can get back into the swing refreshed.
The only way to know where you’re at and if you need to keep up what you’re doing, ramp it up, or give yourself a break, is to be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and what results you’re getting. Are you happy with your lifestyle? Are you happy with your body shape and fitness? Be mindful of the way you talk to yourself and your inner dialogue. Are you happy with that? What is working for you what what is not? Self-compassion is rooted in honest self-awareness, coupled with the understanding that everyone has off times and struggles. If you have been relaxed and want better results, then tighten up your routine, focus on just one or two leveraged changes. If you’re happy with your results and your lifestyle, keep up the good work! And if you’ve been pushing yourself and are tired, and plateauing, maybe it’s a good idea to take a break and shake it up with something different after some time off.
So cliched and so true. You need to find the right balance of your level of health, lifestyle choices, energy levels, food choices and exercise habits to optimize to your goals and values. Be compassionate with yourself about what you really want. If you really want to look like a fitness model, and have visible abs, your lifestyle is going to be very different to a person who just wants to be a “normal” healthy weight and still enjoy some dinners out and more relaxed daily eating habits. Neither is better than the other, its just different.
So please, be honest and compassionate with yourself. When you’re struggling, imagine what you would say and do for a loved friend who was going through the same situation and then do that for yourself.
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