Self-compassion on your path to better health

How would you rate your self-compassion on a scale of 1-10?

What even is self-compassion?

Self-compassion has been defined as:

“the capacity to comfort and sooth ourselves, and to motivate ourselves with encouragement when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate.” Chris Germer from the Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion

being kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings…” Kristen Neff PhD

So when it comes to your path to better health, self-compassion could look like:

  • Speaking kindly to yourself when things don’t go according to plan
  • Letting go of harsh criticisms of yourself i.e. the inner bully
  • Observing your “slip ups” with a non-judgmental attitude and learning from them rather than beating yourself up
  • Being your own cheerleader and believing in yourself
  • Understanding that perfection doesn’t exist and failure is part of the journey

Being kind to ourselves and showing self-compassion is becoming increasing difficult in today’s world. With a constant barrage of seemingly perfect others to compare ourselves to on social media, TV and advertisements, it’s no wonder that we can often we left feeling less than and telling ourselves we don’t measure up. These comparisons then become the ammunition for the mental weapon which we turn towards ourselves.

Sometimes the language of negative self-talk becomes so engrained into our psyche that we don’t notice it. How many times have you thought to yourself “I’m so stupid”, “I never get things right”, “What’s the point, I’m a failure”, “I’ll never be like that”. All of these thoughts create a mental environment that keep us stuck in our same old habits and routines, unable to break free and move towards our vision of better health and overall life happiness. Speaking to ourselves harshly sets off a cascade of chemical reactions in our bodies which then influence the trillions of cells and change the way they function.

Self-compassion and holistic health

Part of my coaching as a Women’s Wellness Coach involves supporting women to love themselves and believe in themselves more. Not only because having a positive self-image is part of holistic wellness but also because negative self-talk and lack of confidence can be a major barrier to change in all other areas of health improvement including diet, movement and stress management. Research shows that rather than being motivated by criticism from ourselves and others, we are more likely to feel like a failure and give up altogether.

On the other hand, self-efficacy, that is the belief that we can take action and succeed in a particular situation, is associated with positive behaviour change and health outcomes. Self-efficacy goes hand in hand with self-compassion because without kindness and understanding how can we expect to believe in ourselves enough to make change? If we believe that every time we fall off the wagon or don’t achieve the results we expect, it’s because we are a failure and not because the goal was unrealistic, we didn’t have the resources we needed or life just got in the way, how easy will it be to get back up and try again?

When we react to our mistakes with self-compassion, it is much easier to pick ourselves up and get back on track rather than enter a negative spiral. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) describes how our thoughts create feelings which in turn affect our behaviours and our physical state. Negative self-talk can make us feel worse about ourselves and not want to do things to take care of ourselves holistically. On the other hand, showing self-compassion creates more positive feelings of acceptance, gratitude and peace which are more likely to trigger us to act in ways that support our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Image credit: Toronto Psychology Clinic

How can we develop self-compassion?

Mindfulness

Developing self-compassion first requires becoming mindful of the thought tapes that are playing in our minds and where we could be harming ourselves with our self-talk. Whether you realise it or not, you are talking to yourself all day long via your thoughts! These can be thoughts about what is going on in the world around you but we often also have thoughts about ourselves and our actions or how other people see us. If you are not used to paying attention to your thoughts, this can come as a shock once you realise the constant chatter that is the backdrop for your life.

A useful experiment is to carry a small notebook with you over a 24 hour period and whenever you notice a self-judgement pop up, write it down. At the end of the experiment, reflect on what you have written. How many times did you judge yourself? In what situations? Were your judgements mostly positive or negative? If you find that you are often criticising yourself and your day is packed with negative self-talk, it’s maybe a good idea to focus on developing your self-compassion. Remember, if you find that your self-talk is very negative, not to use this as yet another thing to criticise yourself about. Instead see it as a starting point and something you can improve on over time.

Thought replacement/inner dialogues

Unfortunately, we can’t simply tell our brains to stop thinking, nor can we just turn off the thoughts we don’t like. Instead, we can create balance by countering any negative thoughts with more compassionate ones. This could look like a dialogue in your mind between your harsh inner critic and your kind inner cheerleader or coach. For example:

Inner critic: “Why did I eat so much food at the party? I wasn’t even hungry, why am I always so greedy!”

Inner coach: “Ok, perhaps you ate more than you planned to today. Why was that do you think? Is there something that you need? Is there something you could do differently next time?”

Inner cheerleader: “Parties are for enjoying! You ate really healthily this week and you noticed the benefits. Let it go and carry on with your plan”

If it helps, you can actually imagine these different perspectives as characters. Naming your inner critic or your inner bully and visualising it as a saboteur that creeps around your mind can really help you to separate you from your thoughts and judgements about yourself. These are thoughts that are occurring automatically and you are the one that is witnessing and experiencing the effects of these thoughts.

If you struggle to do this mentally, you can also put the dialogue on paper. As you review your thought journal, pick out some key themes or areas where you criticise yourself and experiment with writing a response from a more compassionate perspective. This might feel uncomfortable or be challenging at first but the more you practice, the easier and more natural it will become. If you have children, it might come more easily as we usually try to see the best in our children and see the bigger picture of what might have influenced their actions rather than blaming them personally.

Positive affirmations

Another way to counter negative self-talk is to try to crowd out the negative thoughts with more positive or neutral thoughts. Affirmations are statements that we can repeat to ourselves to program our minds to think differently. We are always making affirmations whether we realise it or not. Our thoughts create pathways in our mind and the more a thought is repeated, the deeper and more defined the pathway becomes making it easier to automatically think that thought again in the future. This is why over 90% of our thoughts tend to be the same from day to day!

If our habitual thoughts (i.e. affirmations) are negative judgements of ourselves, this is going to affect our ability to feel positive emotions and create the life we wish to live. Consciously repeating positive affirmations can help by planting the seed of more positive thoughts that are in line with our goals and our ideal vision of ourselves. Affirmations don’t have to be extreme and cheesy, in fact, if they are too outside of our current view of ourselves, they can have the opposite effect.

For example, someone who looks in the mirror and finds themselves ugly might repeat an affirmation such as “I may not be perfect but I accept myself the way I am and I know I am more than my physical appearance” rather than “I am beautiful” which might feel unrealistic and difficult to relate to.

Repeating affirmations like these just for a few minutes each day can start to change the usual narrative of thoughts that we experience. Even if initially it is only 1 positive thought followed by 99 negative ones, it is a start and a foundation to build on. Like any habit, conscious repetition leads to mastery. So whilst it might seem too simple to work, practicing positive affirmations daily can really work wonders over time.

Practice acceptance and forgiveness

Self-compassion is not about believing that we are perfect and never make mistakes. It is more about understanding that inevitably, because we are human, we will have flaws and act in ways that we later regret. It is being able to continue to show unconditional love for ourselves through these moments and not to take everything so personally. Instead of that age-old saying of treat others like you would like to be treated yourself, self-compassion is treating yourself as kindly as you would others you love.

In moments where you feel the inner critic rear its’ head, take a deep breath and let it go. Remind yourself that you are only human and we all make mistakes or feel like we don’t measure up. How many times have others in your life made mistakes or been less than perfect? How many times have you forgiven or accepted others just the way they are? Start to offer this acceptance and forgiveness to yourself and you will be on your way to developing self-compassion.

Meditation to develop self-compassion

An excellent way to combine these three elements of developing self-compassion (mindfulness, thought replacement and positive affirmations) is through guided meditations. My absolute favourite channel for guided meditations on Youtube is the Mindful Movement and I always recommend their meditations to my clients. Try out this meditation for connection and compassion below.

Over to you…

Let me know your thoughts on this interesting topic! Please like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more useful posts on nutrition, yoga and holistic health.

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. My specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting but I also help anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and find the perfect balance for their body. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

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Change talk: identifying with the change you want to make

I had an experience this week which got me thinking about the importance of truly identifying with the change you want to make if you want to be successful in reaching your goals. For anyone who didn’t know, I am currently shifting away from one career path into making my nutrition and health coaching business full-time. It has been a three year process of completing all of my training, building my brand and my website and starting to take on clients. It’s not something that happens overnight and so right now I am in the awkward grey area where when someone asks me what I do, I’m not quite sure what to say.

Usually something along the lines of “well.. I am an Engineer working in environmental protection but I am also a qualified nutritionist and yoga teacher and I am trying to build my own business as a Women’s Wellness Coach” is what comes out of my mouth. Sounds confusing and wishy-washy right?! Recently I realised that this may be the truth but it is not the language of success which will get me to where I want to go. Words like BUT and TRYING TO are exactly the type of words which keep us stuck early in the change process, unable to move on to action and maintenance stages of change (see below).

The word BUT suggests ambivalence, that is simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings towards something. In my case, between wanting to succeed in becoming a full-time Women’s Wellness Coach and being afraid of leaving my old career behind and stepping into something new and completely unknown. Using the word BUT keeps us retuning back to the Contemplation stage of change. On the other hand, using the word TRYING TO highlights the common loop that many people get stuck in which is moving back and forward between Preparation and Action stages of change. This occurs when we are sure we want the change and have started to take action but we are lacking the self-confidence to really make the change last and keep falling back into old ways of thinking and behaving.

On top of that, my uncertain response to the question “what do you do?” is highlighting to others that I am not quite there yet and I am still attached to my previous identity. Recently I realised that if I want to build a successful, full-time business, I need to start identifying fully with my vision of being a full-time nutritionist and yoga teacher. When people ask me what I do, I need to say that I run my own business as a Women’s Wellness Coach And this is scary! Letting go of my former career and stepping into a completely new identity is pretty terrifying actually. Not only because of my own doubts, fears and insecurities but also because by creating a new identity you also have to deal with changes in how others respond to you.

In my case this is the difference between being viewed by others as an Engineer and as a Women’s Wellness Coach. On your health improvement journey, it could be the difference between being someone who likes to stay up all night partying and a person who likes to get up early and practice yoga in the morning. Or between always being the one to suggest ordering takeaway on a Friday night to cooking a healthy meal with your family at home. Whenever we make a big change we always have to process the changes in how we see ourselves as well as how others see us. This can be a tricky stage to move past but it in essential to fully identify with the vision of yourself as the person who you want to become and allow your own view of the world and others’ to adjust accordingly.

The thing is, often we make assumptions about how other people will view this change in us. Unless we ask them directly for their opinion it is our own opinion that is reflected back to us. We project our own thoughts and beliefs onto the other person. When I believe others will take me less seriously as a Women’s Wellness Coach than as an Engineer or that they will think I am less intelligent or scientifically-minded, that is me thinking that and not them. In truth, I don’t really know how others perceive this change and in reality, it doesn’t really matter. I am making this change for me because it aligns with my own core values and where I see myself thriving in a career that I love.

The same goes for changes that you wish to make for your health. You might believe that your friends will find you boring if you opt for an earlier night, or that your family won’t enjoy the food that you cook at home but perhaps this is not the truth. Maybe your friends are also waiting for the opportunity to live a more active lifestyle and your family much prefer the time spent cooking and eating together at home. But even if they don’t, it is not your responsibility to keep others happy and you should find the inner strength and belief in yourself to make the changes that are right for you and bring you more in line with your happiest, healthiest vision of yourself.

What does this look like in practice? The main thing is to watch your language and look out for words that suggest uncertainty or a lack of commitment:

I want to.. feel more energetic and healthy

I could.. start eating more fruits and vegetables

I might.. think about walking more often

I’m trying.. to go to bed before midnight

Instead, replace them with strong statements that identify with the change you wish to make:

I am.. feeling more energised and healthier each day

I do.. go for a walk every evening

I will.. eat fruit or vegetables with every meal this week

I like to.. go to bed earlier and get a good nights’ sleep

So next time someone asks me that dreaded question “what do you do?”, I will smile and say:

I am a nutritionist and yoga teacher and I run my own business as a Women’s Wellness Coach and I write a health blog at Moon Life Yoga. I like to help women let go of chronic dieting to find true health, vitality and optimal fertility!

Sounds much better right? By aligning our thoughts and language with the identity we want to create for ourselves, we gain clarity and direction and are much more likely to remain committed to our goals, even during the challenging moments. Maybe take a moment to reflect on your own health or life goals and see where this idea of identifying with a change could apply and how you could change your language to better reflect the person you see yourself becoming.

Over to you…

Let me know your thoughts on this interesting topic! Please like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more useful posts on nutrition, yoga and holistic health.

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. My specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting but I also help anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and find the perfect balance for their body. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

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Dieting vs. Non-diet approach to health coaching

How many here have ever been on a diet to lose weight? Weight-watchers, Slimming World, low-calorie, low-carb or low-fat… how many have you tried??

In 2016, Huffington post shared an article claiming that 57% of British women had been on a diet to lose weight in the last 12 months and of those, two-thirds reporting being on a weight-loss diet most or all of the time. That’s pretty shocking! Dieting in the traditional sense is not easy. It takes effort to go against your bodies’ natural signals and purposely eat less food than it is asking for in order to lose weight. Yes you might lose weight but sustaining this tension between “want it” and “can’t have it” over a long period of time depletes your mental and emotional energy reserves, intensifying cravings and leaving you feeling drained and vulnerable to over-eating which undoes all of your hard work.

It’s no secret these days that diets don’t work but still many people continue to try for lack of a better option. I’m here to tell you that there is a better option! It’s called the Non-Dieting Approach to health coaching and it’s the method that I was taught to use with clients as a health coach. The Non-Dieting Approach is based on researched methods of health promotion including Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size® which encourage working with your body rather than against it in your pursuit of health.

So what exactly is the non-diet approach to health coaching and how does it compare to traditional dieting methods?

Traditional dieting methodsNon-diet approach
Main goal is weight loss, body shape change or size reduction. Encourages you to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, regardless of weight, shape or size
Advises control of food quantities by weighing, measuring and counting portionsTeaches you to regulate eating based on internal signals of hunger and fullness (intuitive eating)
Often recommends using a food diary to count calories or macros with targets set based on goalsRecommends you use a food diary to understand eating behaviours or the effects of different foods or meals
Categorises foods as good or bad based on the rules of the specific dietRemoves all moral labels from food and teaches you to accept nourishment in all forms
Uses exercise (especially cardio) as a way to burn calories or fat and offset the food eatenSupports you to find ways to move your body that bring you joy and build self-appreciation
Self-monitoring of progress is typically weighing, measuring or taking photos of your physiqueSelf-monitoring is based on behaviours and may include a journal of thoughts and feelings.
Often any weight lost is regained within a 5 year period after the dietDoes not always result in weight loss but lifestyle changes and health benefits can be sustained long term
Risks of increased body dissatisfaction, reactive binge eating, chronic or yo-yo dieting, further weight gainEncourages positive self-image and body acceptance, boosts confidence, improves happiness and vitality

The Non-Diet Approach is exactly the method I used to recover from chronic dieting and find true health. Through this method I was able to get back my period after 8 years of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea caused by restrictive dieting and over-exercising, both of which I believed were healthy at the time. I was able to reintroduce foods I loved that I had been restricting for many years believing that they were bad and eating them even in moderation would make me unhealthy (and these were the same foods that I used to then go and binge eat in secret when I couldn’t hold myself any longer). I was also able to let go of my rigid exercise regime which was getting in the way of my social life and impacting my family relationships.

These days I have a very balanced approach to food. Unlike my expectation that lifting dietary restrictions would lead to a life long junk food and sweets binge, I found that actually I settled into a natural pretty healthy dietary pattern with plenty of treats sprinkled in without the guilt. After letting go of my gym obsession, I found more enjoyable ways to move my body which feel like a hobby rather than a chore or a punishment and I genuinely look forward to these activities! And what about my weight? I quickly settled into a natural set point weight for my body type and have remained there within a 5lb range for the last 5 years without any real effort other than maintaining the healthy lifestyle habits I built.

I want this type of health and wellness for you too! If you are sick and tired of restricting and punishing your body to lose weight and want to let go of dieting for good, I can help. We will work together to gain clarity on your vision of true health, develop goals and strategies to get there and I will offer you support and accountability in taking action. Breaking free of chronic dieting takes a 180 mindset shift and the unravelling of some deep held beliefs about what it means to be healthy but together we can get there!

If you are interested in learning more about health coaching with the Non-Diet Approach or want to apply for one of my coaching spots opening up this week, head over to the Contact page of my site or drop me an email at lovemoonlife.mail@gmail.com.

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What is health coaching? How a health coach can help you reach your goals

Health coaching is becoming more and more popular but what exactly is a health coach and how can a health coach help you to reach your goals? This year I have been training to be a women’s wellness coach and I have learned a lot about the health coaching practice and how to best support my clients. I am already a qualified nutritionist and yoga teacher but there is so much more to coaching and often it is misunderstood. In this post I want to share what I have learned through my training and through reflecting on my early health coaching experiences. I hope this will help anyone who has been considering hiring a health coach but is uncertain about the real purpose of a health coach and whether they can actually help to improve your health.

Knowledge and education

I am mentioning education first as it is usually what health coaches see as their main role. I know for myself, my first few health coaching clients I believed the same! I was so excited to share all of my knowledge and give my clients value for money by packing as much information into our sessions as possible but reflecting back now I would have done things differently. Whilst imparting knowledge and educating clients is an important part of health coaching, it is not the main purpose. Especially nowadays when there is so much freely available information online and we have access to scientific literature and endless informative books on health and wellness, a health coach needs to do more than just inform and educate clients. Yes we can share our expert knowledge and perhaps save time and effort for clients’ by streamlining this large amount of available and often conflicting information, especially in the nutrition world. However, the communication should be a two-way and collaborative exchange, rather than the typical one-directional authoritative approach from the coach to the client. As I always say, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our health and so really understanding the client and their needs means that a health coach can offer tailored information and personalised advice.

Clarity and goal setting

One of the important roles of a health coach is to help their clients’ gain clarity on their desired health outcomes and setting meaningful goals. I wrote a post as part of my Real Health January series about setting SMART goals for your health and this is something that a coach can support clients in doing successfully. People seek out health coaching for many reasons and for the best results it is important to be clear on both the what and the why i.e. what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Yes you can do this alone but a health coach can offer a helpful mirror to reflect back your thoughts and gain clarity on exactly what it is that you want to improve about your health and your overall vision for a healthier and happier life. On any transformational journey it can be difficult to remain focused on the initial aim and become distracted by the smaller, action-related goals. A health coach can help clients to set realistic and achievable goals which are in line with your overall aim. For example, perhaps you want to lose weight to be able to play more with your children but if you decide to go about this by setting a goal to spend 10 hours a week in the gym and it takes up all of your free time. A health coach may reflect back to you that perhaps you have gone a little off track and help you to set a more appropriate goal.

Decision-making and action

As I mentioned earlier, these days most of us have access to information which, in theory, would help us to reach our health goals. A quick google search can offer you diet plans, workout routines, guided yoga and meditation classes for all sorts of health conditions and levels of fitness. Then why do so many people still struggle with their health? There is so much information available that many people get frozen at the stage of deciding on a plan of action. Often complexity gets in the way of action and a simple, straight-forward action plan is what is needed. A health coach can guide a client through this decision making process, not taking decisions for them but offering options and helping them to gain the self-awareness needed to decide on an appropriate action to work towards their goals. Another common problem is that people know the what but not the how. For example, in the UK we have a freely available Eatwell Guide which shows the recommended diet composition for optimal health but without knowing how to prepare meals using these ingredients or how to navigate the supermarket, this information often does not lead to action. Through discussing potential barriers to implementing change, a health coach help their clients to put in place strategies to overcome these barriers and continue to take action without feeling stuck and unable to move forward.

Encouragement and accountability

In my opinion, encouragement and accountability are two of the key reasons why hiring a health coach has a much better success rate than going solo. We often speak harshly towards ourselves and our inner-critic has a field day when we embark on a challenging journey such as trying to improve our health. A health coach offers an outsiders view of their clients’ actions and will understand their strengths and highlight their successes, even when the client cannot see it for themselves. A good health coach will improve a clients’ confidence and self-efficacy so that they believe they do have the skills and power to make change. On the other hand, a health coach is also there to help their clients stay on track with working towards their goals and to offer strategies to get back on track when they fall off the wagon. It is so easy for one small slip up to lead to giving up altogether but a coach can help to see the big picture that one mistake does not meal total failure and can offer a helpful reminder of the clients’ overall aim and their why to keep them moving forward. Health coaches also use strategies for accountability to help clients’ build positive habits which support better health to replace negative habits which result in poor health outcomes. Usually it is this initial phase of habit replacement which takes the most time and effort and having a coach to be accountable to on a daily basis really can improve your chances of success.

Role model and leadership

Finally, the role of a health coach in general, not only for their clients, is to demonstrate that a healthy lifestyle is possible and be a positive role model for anyone looking to improve their health. By this I do not mean that a health coach should have the perfect body, the perfect diet or the perfect exercise routine or that they should never drink alcohol, stay up late or get stressed and overwhelmed. Rather a health coach can show a realistic view of a healthy lifestyle which is achievable for everyone and show that you do not need to be perfect to be in good health but that a strong foundation of healthy habits can take you far. They can share their personal health challenges and how they overcame them to give motivation and empowerment to others to do the same. We are all humans often living in societies that do not support optimal health but health coaches can act as leaders to show that there is a way to support your health, even in a less than supportive environment. Visualisation is an excellent tool to support you in achieving your goals and having an effective role model can help clients’ to create a vision for their health and expand their beliefs of what is possible and achievable. Again, this is not to say that clients’ should compare themselves to their coach or idolise them as the perfect vision of health, but more that seeing others success can help you to create your own vision of health and start out on the path of working towards your goals.

Over to you…

These are my thoughts on the role of a health coach and how a health coach can help you to reach your goals. Let me know in the comments below what YOU think a health coach is and whether you think coaching is helpful in improving your health. As usual, please like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more useful posts on nutrition, yoga and holistic health.

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and I am currently training as a women’s wellness coach with Well College Global. My specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting but I also help anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and find the perfect balance for their body. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

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power of the mind

Real health #24 To change your habits, first change your mind

Yesterday I shared about how taking consistent, simple actions can set you on the road to success when it comes to reaching your health goals. But we all know we are creatures of habit and often in the beginning behaviour change is hard! Our brains are designed in such a way that all of our past experiences shape who we are today. We wake up in the morning and after a split second all our familiar thoughts come flooding back. We realise who we are, where we are and our mind already has an idea of how the day will go. We get out of bed, have our familiar morning routine and get on with our day, mostly in autopilot.

This isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually our brains’ way of making things easier for us. It allows us to go about our day without thinking too much, following the familiar path that we have created through our habits. But what happens when you want to change those habits and your life? If you want to act differently, you have to start to think differently first. In order to start eating healthier you have to let go of the image of you as an unhealthy person who hates vegetables and start to see yourself as the type of person who loves to nourish their body with good food. To become someone who enjoys exercise and keeping fit, you have to stop telling yourself that you are lazy, unfit and that you hate exercise. Or if you need to gain weight for your health you need to let go of the image of yourself as the skinny one or the fit one and start to embrace a new version of yourself that is more relaxed and free around food and exercise.

In short you want to create a new identity for yourself that aligns with the positive changes you want to make. You want to see yourself as the type of person who just does these things without even thinking about it, even if you aren’t there right now. We are all chattering away to ourselves most of the day without even realising it and these thoughts create our identity. To change this idea of yourself, start to think about the type of thoughts that your ideal self would have, then start telling yourself those things! I don’t mean just thinking them half-heartedly and deep down thinking otherwise but really feel and believe this as a possible reality and take actions based on those thoughts and feelings. It might feel unnatural at first but over time the nerve patterns in your brain will be hard wired and the new thoughts will become your default.

Whether you think of this as affirmations or you focus on the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy theory that the way you think affects the way you feel and the way you feel affects your actions, it’s the same idea that your thoughts become your reality. I have seen this play out in my own life with one of the biggest health challenges I have had – overcoming insomnia. The hardest thing was that after months of struggling with sleep, my brain was programmed to expect that I would sleep badly and wake up during the night. I would go to bed telling myself “I’m going to have such a good sleep” or “tonight I will sleep like a baby” but my sub-conscious mind didn’t believe it. Deep down I believed that things would be the same as always and that is how the same pattern ended up playing out for years!

I would also wake up in the morning and the first thought I would have would be about the time and how much sleep I got. I was so focused on my sleep that I let the amount of sleep I got dictate my energy levels and mood. The interesting thing was that during a period of letting go of obsessing about my sleep, I realised that some days I slept well and still felt exhausted whereas other days I slept less and actually felt more energised. I started to tell myself that my sleep quality and my happiness were two seperate things. Once I let go of the expectation, this gave me permission to be happy even when I slept badly and I actually started to feel better (and over time sleep better too!). Implementing this fully is a work in progress for me but it was mind blowing. And the same thing can be applied to other changes you want to make in your life too.

If you already predict the outcome that you won’t like healthy food or that you will fail at exercise then this is most likely what you are going to see happen for you. Instead, try giving yourself the chance to explore and genuinely see how you feel. Let yourself imagine the possibility that you will enjoy these things and be successful! If you’re interested in learning more about how to change your mindset and build habits I definitely recommend reading Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza and The Power of Habit by Charles DuHigg. If you are wondering HOW you can possibly change your thoughts and start to access your sub-conscious mind, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I will be sharing how meditation can help you to change your thoughts as well as how to start a meditation practice.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on changing your mindset to reach your health goals.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

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Real health #23 Keep it simple to lose weight easily

Following on from yesterday’s post on perfectionism, today I wanted to talk about how simplicity can be the way to reach your health goals with minimal effort. I’m not telling you you can lose weight by sitting on the sofa eating cookies all day. But you don’t have to be following some elaborate diet and exercise plan either, unless you are training for a bikini competition or some other competitive sport. Most of us just want to feel healthier and happier in our bodies, quit the obsession with food and exercise and just live and enjoy our lives. Right?!

If you want to make things as easy as possible for yourself, focus on simplicity and habits. Choose simple actions that you can take consistently until they become habits. When you first start to make healthier choices, of course it’s going to be a challenge. You might have to learn new information about which types of foods to eat, how to move your body and how to tune into your body (for example through tracking and syncing with your menstrual cycle!). You probably have to change some of your existing habits, try new things and get out of your comfort zone. You have to constantly be self-aware and make decisions about which actions to take. There could even be some uncertainty holding you back and you might not fully trust the process, especially if you have tried hundreds of times in the past to lose weight and improve your health. All of this means that there is a lot of mental focus at the start and you need to put in effort to keep yourself on track.

But as time goes on, if you continue to take consistent action in the direction of your goals, those actions will start to become habits. You won’t have to make so many decisions, you won’t even think about them anymore. It will become automatic and easy. For example, when I started my “diet recovery” process many years ago, I wanted to change the habit of eating low-fat foods as my goal was to gain weight and get my period back. In the beginning, my habitual action was to choose the low-fat version of everything and so every time I went to purchase a low-fat food, I had to stop myself and choose to act differently. This was difficult for the first few weeks but after that, choosing the full-fat option became my new normal and I didn’t even think about it anymore. The same process works for any habit you want to change, whether it’s starting to eat breakfast in the morning, going for daily walks, eating vegetables with your dinner or meditating.

It’s much easier to build habits when the actions you take are simple. If you need to use fancy recipes, have access to gym equipment or follow some 20-step process it puts you at a greater risk of letting things slip and giving up when you feel tired or when things feel too difficult. If the actions are easy they can become automatic to the point where no matter what is going on in your life you still do them without thinking. You want your healthy choices to become the easy option. On that note, I will leave you with some suggestions on building simple habits which will help you to stay consistent and meet your health goals with less stress!

  1. Have a fixed shopping list prepared with healthy items that you eat every week. Especially staple foods like produce, grains and dairy products. You can always add extra things to the list that you don’t need every week and rotate the list every couple of months. This will make your shopping trips much faster too as you’ll know where the items are!

  2. Limit your meal choices and rotate. I usually suggest having 3 breakfast ideas, 5 lunch and dinner recipes but it depends whether you like more variety or you’re happy eating the same foods on repeat. Eating similar meals day to day takes away some of the decision fatigue of choosing what to eat.

  3. You can also use “component based” recipes like I recommend to my health coaching clients where the base recipe structure is fixed and you vary the different ingredients e.g. porridge with different fruits and spices, stews with different vegetables and beans. This gives you enough variety to not get bored without having to learn loads of new recipes.

  4. Add daily walks into your routine. Walking is an amazing exercise for your overall health and weight loss, don’t underestimate it! Walking gets you outside in the fresh air, get your body moving in a gentle way and helps you relax your mind and de-stress.

  5. Have options for when you don’t have time. Especially have some go to meals that take less than 15 minutes to prepare and some at home workouts you can do in under half an hour (including walking!). You can spend more time on the days you feel like it but having a minimum that feels easy to achieve makes it much more likely that you’ll follow through.

  6. Stack habits together to help you build multiple habits at once. For example, taking a vitamin D supplement with a glass of water first thing in the morning or focusing on mindfulness and meditation when you are walking

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on keeping it simple to reach your health goals.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

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Real health #22 Is perfectionism preventing reaching your health goals?

Today I wanted to talk about perfectionism. It’s day 22 of this 30 day Real Health January series and I am proud of myself for writing and sharing an article every day so far! But today I had a lot to do so I missed my morning writing window. It’s now 9pm and I very nearly didn’t post anything because it is late and I don’t have time to write something as in depth as I usually do. Then I realised that this is perfectionism rearing it’s ugly head and the false belief that I should do everything well or not bother at all. This is definitely a trap that myself and the women I have coached have fallen into on our journeys to better health. The idea that if we can’t follow the a diet perfectly and we don’t have time for the perfect exercise routine then why even try?

The truth is that you don’t have to be perfect to reach your health goals. No matter whether your goal is to lose weight, improve your fitness, balance your hormones or get your period back, it’s what you do majority of the time that counts. For those of you with perfectionistic tendencies, even if 90% of your actions are aligned with your goals you will focus on the 10% that you did “wrong”. This can lead to negative self-talk, beating yourself up, self-sabotaging behaviour and often giving up all together. You can find yourself spinning in circles, constantly starting new diet plans or fitness regimes with the hope that this time it will work. At the start you feel super motivated and follow the program to the letter, but as soon as life starts to get in the way you quickly lose motivation and end up back where you started. Then you feel frustrated because you never see results you are looking for. I don’t mean to criticise, I am saying this from experience!

Perfection and procrastination go hand in hand. Know the feeling of spending weeks researching the perfect way to eat or the specific combination of exercises to achieve your dream body? Often perfectionists can get stuck in this phase, over-thinking and over-analysing to the point of paralysis. What is the anti-dote to this procrastination? It is to just start. Even if you’re not sure it will work, start making healthier choices for yourself. Make some simple changes that feel achievable for you right now and don’t worry about the details. Eat some more vegetables. Move your body more. Spend time relaxing. Try to get to bed early. You don’t have to do everything at once. Be kind and compassionate with yourself and be your own cheerleader. If you eat healthily all week, don’t obsess over the takeaway you had on Saturday night. Focus on the positive changes you have made and give yourself the freedom to “slip-up”. If your healthy habits get in the way of you living your life, they aren’t going to be sustainable long term. Life will always get in the way.

Yes you can enjoy souvlaki and cake and reach your health goals!

And not only can perfectionism prevent you reaching your health goals but it can actually be harmful to your health. Perfectionism has been linked with anxiety and depression as you are constantly comparing yourself to an exceptionally high or even impossible standard and feeling like you don’t measure up. You feel like you are constantly being judged by others as well as by the negative chatter in your head. Living with this harsh inner-critic and feeling like you are never good enough can be totally exhausting! Perfectionism can lead to insomnia, fatigue, stress and burn out just to name a few. Overcoming perfectionism, or at least learning to recognise and manage it is a key step on the road to becoming your healthiest self.

Letting go of perfectionism is something that I really focus on in my health coaching programs. Often women come to be expecting a detailed meal plan setting out exactly what to eat to lose weight or to fix their hormones. But what I aim to do is put you in charge, giving you the resources and a structure then guiding you to listen to your own body and your intuition when it comes to how to eat and move your body. You really don’t have to be perfect, it can be easy and natural to find your ideal, healthy body once you have the basic knowledge and set off in the right direction. I can teach you about the power of certain foods and how to build your plate and set up your day for maximum success but at the end of the day it is you that is in charge. Consistency and compassion for yourself are the keys to success, NOT being perfect.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experience with perfectionism and reaching your health goals.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

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