You don't have to be a fan of the The Biggest Loser to believe that punishing criticism is a great way to slim down and shape up. On the tele-battle of the bulge, harsh words are not only expected, they're almost welcomed. The reality weight-loss show makes it look like a good berating is for contestants' own good. This season, which finishes up March 18, compassion is for kids, not adults.
Weight loss by criticism is more than TV reality, it's the American way. If you want your body to be all that it can be, you can enlist a relentless trainer or do the job yourself. After all, you are your own worst critic.
In this self-critical mindset, you follow your marching orders no matter what. If you're starving, stick to the tasteless rations. If you're exhausted, keep moving. No pain, no gain. Like Biggest Loser contestants, you're not too concerned that your regimen is unsustainable. What matters most is getting down to size ASAP. Once you reach your goal, you'll find a more sustainable way to go.
Here's the problem with berating yourself thin: It only gets you so far. While focusing on your physical imperfections may initially motivate you to eat less and exercise more, it eventually has the opposite effect. Self-criticism turns out to be a better recipe for incremental weight gain than lasting weight loss.
Interviewing one of the Biggest Losers of all time, Ashley Johnston, I learned about the pervasive self-criticism that plagues past contestants, setting up too many to regain what they worked so hard to lose. Last I spoke with Ashley, she had just regained 20 of the 183 pounds she lost season nine.
"Body image is a huge and hidden issue with past contestants," she said. "Once we go home from the show, it's a real struggle. My body image improved drastically after [losing all that weight], but the self-beat up never went away. I have never been happy with my body."
The one time I interviewed Jillian Michaels, five minutes was all I needed to remember why I've never been a fan of punishing plans. Not only are they unsustainable, they can be dangerous, and they don't work. Jillian didn't want to discuss the risks of her regimen, but she did say it would make me puke.
"Everyone I train throws up," she told me on her last book tour. (The best-selling author is now promoting a new book, Slim for Life.) "Unless you're an athlete, you'll throw up if you haven't worked out in years. Whether you're a soccer mom or a contestant on The Biggest Loser, you'll only throw up the first week."
Personally, I strongly recommend taking it easier. If you've read anything I've written since my book, The Self-Compassion Diet, hit bookstore shelves two winters ago, you already know my best recommendation: self-compassion.
If you can't imagine how treating yourself kindly could help you slim down once and for all, consider this evidence-based conclusion: When you feed yourself a steady diet of self-compassion, when you treat yourself like a friend or a loved one, you're more apt to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full, rest when you're tired and move when you feel energized. When you do that, you'll lose weight naturally.
Unless self-compassion has transformed the way you look and feel, you undoubtedly have doubts. Seeing is definitely believing. So see for yourself. Watch this six-minute video every day for at least a week and discover what researchers have discovered -- a little self-compassion goes a long way toward ending emotional eating and bad body image.
Craving more evidence? Stick with me and find out how going easier on yourself is for your own good.
The Biggest Loser photos courtesy of NBC Universal
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