Have you ever climbed on the “shame train”? I’m talking about that moment when you face the fact you’ve missed a week of workouts, or downed a pint of Haagen Dazs. You feel like a failure, and in your disappointment with yourself, you let one slip lead to another.
Shame never really serves you. In fact, shame leads to an internal conflict between the part of you that wants to indulge yourself and the part of you that is prone to judge and punish yourself. Once you get caught in that cycle, it is very difficult to break out and reclaim your peace and sanity.
Many people would tell you the right response is stronger willpower. Be tough with yourself, and force yourself back into your diet and fitness routine. But in fact, a much better response is simply to forgive yourself.
Everybody slips up from time to time. Give yourself a mental hug, whisper a few words of forgiveness and encouragement to yourself, and gently begin again taking the actions that support your health.
Now the holiday season – and all its temptations – are in full swing, here are three steps that fitness instructor Sadie Lincoln calls “the three A’s:”
1. Acknowledge your behavior.
Quietly notice what your are doing, without judgment. “Here I am standing alone in my kitchen, eating all the leftover cake.”
2. Accept your actions.
Give yourself a break. It is human to occasionally succumb to temptation. “Yes, I’m eating cake. It’s wonderful! It’s been a long day, and this sweet treat is just what I’m craving.”
3. Ask yourself one simple question.
The question is, “What do I really need right now?” Pay attention to what you really need in that moment.
These steps may not change your behavior in the moment, but they can help you avoid feeling shame. Shame sets up a cycle of resistance. Self-awareness allows you to observe without beating yourself up, and that makes it easier to course correct when you’re ready to move forward once again.