When Shame Influences Our Goals
With the season of resolutions upon us, I encourage you to apply self-compassion on the path ahead.
When we change through acceptance of ourselves, we create the space to uncurl, to expand. When we change through rigidity, high (or unrealistic) expectations, we confine ourselves. The former is long-lasting change, the latter is temporary.
Determine how you want to navigate change this year. Remember, change feels uncomfortable, but true (as in, sustained) change doesn't feel shaming, rigid, or impossible.
If you're loathing yourself based on the goals you set (or some program set for you), it's unlikely that these changes will stick (not to mention, you'll likely feel like crap, you'll lessen your relationship with self, and dim your light).
Change is a difficult, but empowering experience. While it's uncomfortable, the journey of sustained change will also feel like home, like you're getting to know yourself better and better as you go along. You are in the process of celebrating who you are, and you also have permission and the gusto to change specific aspects of yourself. It's an evolution.
It's tempting, at this time of year, to get caught in the rigid approach to change. When people and media around you talk of their resolutions and the rapid-fire pace at which they plan to achieve their goals, it can result in you feeling pressure to do the same. Stay the self-compassionate course and know that not only will your change be long-lasting, you'll also feel at home on your journey.
You may still run into tricks, however, so I've listed some 'red flags' for health + well-being industries. If organizations/programs say the following, they're likely promoting short-term, shame-inducing tactics:
Any program that promises that X amount of weight will be lost in X number of days.
Any program that severely restricts foods/food groups. There may be ‘foods to eat, foods not to eat’ lists
Any program that provides you the food you’re expected to eat.
Any program that requires you to purchase their branded shakes, bars, snacks, etc.
Any program that restricts whole foods (like bananas, for instance), but promotes consumption of processed foods (like protein powder, for instance). I’ve seen that this is a current trend among gyms/fitness programs.
Any program that primarily focuses on numbers (caloric count, pounds lost, marcro nutrients, fats, proteins, sugars, points, etc.). While numbers are important to help guide our eating choices, and essential to some groups (people who have diabetes, for instance), they narrow the focus to just one aspect of food instead of looking at the bigger picture of our relationship with food).
Any program that requires you to buy many supplements/vitamins, etc.
Any program in which you don’t eat regular meals (as in, you replace certain meals with shakes or bars).
Any person who provides you a nutrition plan, or advice, but whose background does not support this sort of direction. My point here is that you do your homework. Be sure you’re happy with the credentials of the person who is supporting you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about credentials, experience, and the long-term experience of previous clients.
Any program that has you eating 5-6 “small meals” per day to “keep your metabolism going.”
Any program that works for you M-F, but you abandon every weekend (likely because you’re feeling deprived). It’s a sign that the program is too stringent and will keep you in an ‘on/off’ mode.
Programs that promise you miraculous results.
If programs prey on your shame, they can more easily take your money. They're unlikely to be interested in anything but and actually induce more shame in you to keep their programs running. For example, the person/program will set unrealistic goals for you, and, when you don’t achieve said unrealistic goals, you’re shamed and want to work harder (read: purchase more of the person’s/program’s services) instead of calling out the program itself.
On the contrary, here are some aspects that typically align with sustained-change:
You explore your relationship with food from multiple perspectives (emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, etc.).
You set small steps toward your goals.
You prioritize whole foods, but you eat all types of foods. There are no ‘good food, bad food’ lists.
You’re able to sustain your program every single day (weekends, holidays, and social outings included). Some days may look different from others, but overall, you feel confident and satisfied by what you eat on a daily basis.
You’re not in a hurry and you still see consistent change.
You learn about yourself in the process of change (you leverage your learnings to guide your next steps).
Your path feels unique to you. It couldn’t be reproduced for the masses. You and your coach have not used a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
You feel supported and heard by your coach/the program.
Stick to your path and appreciate every move you make on your journey. Know that if you purchase a service for support, the process may feel challenging, but that you shouldn’t be made to feel at odds with yourself. If you do, give some thought to whether the program is really right for you. My personal, and Haus of Ojas, mantra is to “feel good and keep it real.” This can be a quick way to spot if something is right for you. Are you feeling good? Does it feel real/realistic? In my opinion, we need both for sustained, happy change.
Whether you’re on-board with resolutions, or not, I hope this post provides some helpful tips for pursuing health + well-being support that honors you, sans shame-inducing tactics.
I'm sending you love on your way. Happy new year to you and yours!