The #1 Skill for Weight Management – Kindness


 Resilience - key predictor of weight loss success Last week, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff said in US News that the No. 1 skill for weight management is the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on with it. No doubt, this is absolutely a critical piece, but in order to be resilient, kindness toward yourself helps you remember that it’s not about the food. 

We focus on the food that we eat, why we shouldn’t eat the food and what is wrong with us for overeating, but offering yourself kindness after overeating brings the focus back to what will help you get back on track. Kindness is what really makes a difference when it comes to weight management.

We use obsessing about food, counting calories, and exercising to burn calories as a way to beat ourselves up again and again. What we say to ourselves, how we feed ourselves, and what kindnesses we offer ourselves after “eating out of control” create a fork in the road where we can go down the path of despair and self-loathing or the path of accepting that it is what it is and moving on.

The more you focus on the food and what was wrong with it or you, the more likely to eat out of rebellion, or look to numb your feelings because of the self criticism.

Freedhoff says:

First, you need to respect reality. The fact is, life happens. If you don’t respect the fact that as a species we have comforted and celebrated with food since time immemorial, then the inevitable guilt, shame and frustration you’re going to feel when you exercise your right as a human being to use food for purposes other than fuel may well lead you to throw in the towel.

Second, you need to like the life you’re living while you’re losing. This truism is perhaps the one most regularly forgotten by newly minted dieters. Ultimately, if you don’t like the life you’re living while you’re losing, even if you lose a great deal, you’re eventually going to head back toward the life you led before you lost weight.

In addition to Freedman’s advice, there are 3 steps we recommend for offering kindness to yourself after overeating, so you can pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

1. Move from judgment to observation:

Review what happened. What were my triggers or stressors? What can I learn from this?

2. Move from scary stories (or self bullying) to non-freak-out self talk.

Reduce scary stories like “OMG, I am going to gain 900 lbs” or “I have to work out like a fiend” to “I use food as fuel mostly, but overeating sometimes is part of life for everyone.”

3. Stop focusing on the bad, and start looking for what feels good.

Focus on what feels good or tastes good, not just what you are doing wrong. Pleasure is the gift our body has to give us in so many venues. Add pleasure to each day so food isn’t your only option to feel like you are getting something for yourself.

Read more from Green Mountain about other important skills for kickstarting and keeping your healthy weight. And let us know if you think there is a different #1 skill for weight management.

Image by No 9 Images


11 responses to “The #1 Skill for Weight Management – Kindness”

  1. megan kealy says:

    Brilliant! Thanks for the sage advice!

  2. Alyson Foster says:

    Thank you, Darla. This is wonderful stuff, and I love focusing on kindness — it just feels like the right path to health. Thanks.

    • darla Breckenridge says:

      Thanks Alyson. Kindness comes so easily to us when we are giving it away…to someone else. Even just a little bit towards ourselves make such a difference. Darla

  3. Sonjia Fourie says:

    I can not thank you enough for this column, this is what I need now, as I am struggling with the guilt trip for cheating. Thank you so much

  4. harriet krivit says:

    I do all 3 and still I have what I call “eating food attacks”.
    What’s wrong with simply not wanting to be an uncomfortable, unhealthy and yes, unattractive (even as a 78 yr. old)very large person? Mind you I couldn’t care less about wrinkles, grey hair, stretch marks and (parden me) but breasts down to the waist. And I
    very rarely weigh myself. The number itself means’s more of my body moving most comfortably and in balance, sitting
    comfortably as well. Physical activity changes(often more limiting) for most as old age catches up. This makes keeping my body at a comfortable size harder..and if I didn’t focus on what I’m eating? Rich foods are not my enemy…just amounts of all foods. Nuff said.
    It’s the amount and ending a meal

  5. Deb says:

    Oh, I like the ‘like the life you’re living while you’re losing’ quote. In reality I can’t help but wonder if liking the life I’m living (ie. liking me and the world around me) will actually ultimately result in weight loss.

    Sure I (and we) binge eat when stuff’s not going well, but I also binge because I’m suffering some vague discontentment which I often can’t identify!

  6. Harriet Krivit says:

    realized something last night:
    I overeat to stop the desire to eat

  7. Nancy says:

    Wonderful insights

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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