Beating yourself up….does it work?

by | October 30, 2018 | Diet and Nutrition, Fitness, Health, Sport performance

“You’re a piece of slime – get back on your diet”
“I can’t believe you ate that doughnut, fatty…go back to your hole and die”
“Get your ass to the gym, you sorry excuse for a human”
Could these be the taunts of a school-yard bully? 
Or a hard-ass trainer? 
Or how about the words you speak to yourself? 
Beating yourself up seems like it would work to motivate you, 
Work to get you back on track,
And work to get you back in shape, 
But it turns out that isn’t the case. 
Turns out there is a better option….
And it involves being nice.
Being nice to yourself. 
The term is called “self-compassion”
And before you go writing this off as a cushy, 
Here me out. 
Self-compassion does not have to be a soft, airy-fairy, life-is-all-sunshine-and-rainbows kind of thing. 
It can be a real, genuine, authentic way of dealing with setbacks,
And hurdles. 
It turns out that people who practice self-compassion not only lose more fat, 
But they also live healthier and more productive lives. 
They even perform better, 
Choking less under pressure
And feeling more competent in their abilities. 
But, don’t get it twisted, you’re not going to let yourself off the hook completely. 
Self-compassion is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. 
It’s a method that empowers you, 
Makes you more resilient, 
And more successful as an athlete, parent, business person and human in general. 

The self-compassion study 

When I first read this study I didn’t believe it. 
I thought there were some confounding variables that mucked up the results. 
Turns out it is a pretty reliable study. 
Here’s how it went down. 
Groups were told they were being brought in to test the relationship between TV-watching and eating behaviour. 
But, this was a ruse…
The researchers had another agenda on their minds.
They sorted them into groups, 
Gave them a doughnut to eat. 
Turned on the TVs and let them go. 
After the participants from the first group ate the doughnut, the researchers read them a statement saying “it was okay to eat doughnuts every once and a while, everyone does it. We don’t see any point of beating yourselves up over it” 
The second group was told nothing. 
After this, the group that was told nothing felt more shame about eating the doughnut…
No surprise there. 
But, here’s the kicker:
Both groups were then given the opportunity to “taste-test” some candy after the study. 
Turns out the group that did not receive the compassion statement….
Ate more candy! 
You can’t tell me that’s not fascinating. 
So, less compassion = more guilt and shame = more over-eating. 
Does this ever come up in your own life? 

More benefits of self-compassion

So, based on the results of the study, you can clearly see that practising self-compassion actually helps you feel less guilt and shame and therefore decreases emotional eating. 
Here are some other benefits of self-compassion:
Increased productivity
Increased life-satisfaction
Greater resilience and “bounce-back-ability”
Greater learning and development
Fewer feelings of anxiety and depression
Better relationships
And check this out…
More fat loss and improved ability to keep it off
Less “eff it, I am eating this” moments 
And decreased impulsive behaviour. 


Again, self-compassion is not a strategy for letting yourself off the hook. 
It’s actually quite the opposite. 
You still acknowledge your mistake, 
You call it out, 
You call a spade a spade, 
But you just forego the negative self-talk that accompanies that mistake.
No, you’re not a piece of crap. 
No, you’re not a failure. 
No, you don’t always mess things up. 
Self-compassion is objective, 
And truly, 
There are three parts to self-compassion. 
The first one is self-kindness. 
Again, this is not “airy-fairy, head-bands-and-frolicking-in-the-wheat-grass” kind of stuff. 
This is being truly decent and generous to yourself when something stands in your way, 
When you mess up, 
Or when you make a mistake. 
The best way to use this method is to ask yourself “What would one of my favourite coaches tell me right now?”
The coach might say “Man, you definitely dropped the ball on that one, but you’re still here. You didn’t die. Everybody messes up every once and while. Even the best in the world mess up. Just go back there next time, keep your head on a swivel and you’ll make that pass” 
In that statement, we also eluded to the next part of self-compassion – common humanity. 
Common humanity is the concept of the greater whole.
As in, “you are not the only person in the world to make this mistake. People make mistakes like this all the time. 
Even the best athletes, 
the fittest folks on the planet 
and the best business minds make mistakes”
Common humanity ties us all together and makes you feel like you are not alone. 
Your mistake was not privy to you. 
You are not the only person in the world going through this right now. 
The last part of self-compassion is mindfulness. 
Again, not airy-fairy, 
But real, 
Authentic observation of your feelings and emotions. 
What are you experiencing at that moment? 
For example, “Ah, man! I feel embarrassed after missing that shot”
Not: “I’m such a piece of crap for missing that shot.”
Or “I feel upset with myself for eating that whole bag of Doritos”
Not: “way to go, fat-ass, you just effed up your whole week of healthy eating”
Or “Man, that really sucks that I didn’t close that deal”
Not: “Well, you did it again, you loser…you lost another one”
So, as you can see, 
You can be real. 
You don’t have to hide the negatives and not address them.  
That could produce its own set of issues. 
Just notice and name what you are actually experiencing, 
Eliminate the story about how this makes you a loser, 
And stick to the true facts of where you’re at. 

Okay, I’m in, how do I do it? 

Again, it could be as simple as asking yourself:
“What would my favourite coach tell me right now?”
As long as you’re not some deranged athlete that craves punishment, 
They will likely keep it real with you but do it in a way that is somewhat kind. 
These statements don’t have to be long and drawn-out. 
They can be quick “re-frames” of some of your most common put-downs on yourself. 
Here’s an example of what not to say:
“Way to go fat-ass, you just ate a whole thing of Oreos.”
And here’s what to replace it with:
“Damn, I’m upset I ate those Oreos (mindfulness)”
“But it’s okay, everyone goes a little over-board. I’m normal (common humanity)”
“The next time I have an Oreo I am going to eat it slowly and enjoy it. That will hopefully derail the binge (kindness)”
Here’s another example of what not to say:
“Way to go you piece of crap, you just lost your team that game”
And here’s what to replace it with:
“Man, this sucks that I fumbled that puck (mindfulness)”
“But, hey, remember that time when Patrick Stefan fumbled the puck on an empty net? Even the best in the world make mistakes (common humanity)”
“I’m going to regroup, get my head straight and then come back and dominate next game (kindness). 


Many of us think a good kick in the butt is just what we need to get back on track. 
Turns out that isn’t the case. 
Turns out a little love is what it’s all about. 
That love is what turns a mistake into a learning opportunity, 
A weakness into a strength, 
And a blunder into a comeback. 
Use the tips in this article to perform better, 
Be more productive, 
Lose more fat, 
Get into better shape, 
And to live a healthier and happier life.

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