Is Your Self-Care Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss?

By Guest Blogger   |  28Comments|

Exercise. Avoiding sugar. Green smoothies. These are brilliant weight-loss tools. However, just like exhaustion and high cholesterol tend to be symptoms and not a diagnosis, consistently making sound nutritional choices and moving your body are “symptoms” of self-care.

When working with my clients, the self-care basics of bio-individuality nutrition, exercise and manicures and massages helps to re-organize depleted energy, frustration and weight-gain. They start to feel better, lose a couple of pounds and then BAM, life happens. A party or a depressing day results in the infamous getting “off-track.” No smoothies, no gym, and no resisting the cookies.

Logically, you know weight-loss occurs when staying “on-track” consistently. But, emotions trump dieting rules. That is until you shift from organization to renovation mode.  Renovating your life for weight-loss means restructuring weight and food from ruling your self-worth. To accomplish this, you must move into deeper, more strategically designed self-care.

While each of my clients lives are unique, there are three main self-care themes that I consistently see in them and others who have successfully lost weight and not lived in fear of food or gaining it back. We are a small 5% minority so I suggest taking great notes.

The first theme of deep self-care is to reframing your weight not as a problem but as a doorway into a lighter, better designed life. I’ve never met a client with a self-diagnosed food problem who has a food problem. When I first started working with Sarah*, her entire body was in pain, she could barely stay awake at a teaching job she loved and she wanted to lose 30 pounds. After changing her diet, her pain and bloating disappeared while her energy and clarity increased. I asked,  “What does your weight-loss goal want from you?” She knew she had to start focusing on her self but wasn’t sure how. But this curiosity helped curb the 30 years of wicked self-judgment of her weight. Most importantly, it also provided space for the deepest form of self-care: self-compassion. Not to mention she received some brilliant answers.

The second theme of deep self-care is space. Answers, cooking and the energy to exercise don’t happen if your schedule is full. To create space, you must create boundaries around your time. For Sarah, this meant leaving school two days a week when school was out (she previously stayed to do extra work) and opting not to lead a big school project in 2012. We also worked on taking a personal day once a month. At home, she started asking for support from her daughter and husband in cooking and grocery shopping. And with her extended family, she stopped being the go-to problem solver. Her sugar cravings plummeted and her free time and energy increased. Sarah was then able to go to the dance classes she enjoyed and even clean up a room in her home to start being creative and crafty again. By researching her “shoulds” versus “wants” in her life, it became clear her body was matching a life weighed down with obligations. There were still “off-track” meals, but Sarah quickly found herself back to her basic self-care routine (she was craving the freshness of green smoothies to match her more airy life).

Now all of this didn’t happen for Sarah over night. Simplifying life is a complex process. Underlying energy and time leaks is the third theme of deep self-care: knowing you are enough. Most women who overeat have a Vitamin D (as in Deservability) deficiency. We all want to be recognized, loved and accepted. It’s in our biology, down to the oxytocin that relaxes us and releases when we connect and bond with others.

However, when you overextend yourself by working extra hours and thinking you are only worthy of attention and acceptance by being an over-the-top, back-bending friend, Mom, or daughter, cookies and ice-cream become your favorite people to hang with. They ask nothing more of you. Being a people pleasing version of yourself leaves you bloated with resentment and will eat at you forever (like toxic mold), putting weight back on as protection against a world where your true self feels vulnerable.

While Sarah has lost seven pounds (and counting) in three months and no longer lets her weight or food rule her life (she isn’t even swept up in the New Year’s dieting frenzy with all the women at work), most importantly she is gaining a deep self-respect and love by trusting that her 8-4 teaching skills are enough, and that a great mother shares one of the most powerful lessons with her daughters: You deserve time and space for yourself. Her self-care foundation is being renovated with material that can withstand any weathering, including other’s judgments.

Feeling like you are enough is a process. It’s something I practice even after losing 30 pounds myself. Starting to experiment with being enough in one area of your life will have a ripple effect throughout all parts of your life. My favorite way for clients to practice feeling like enough is trying to buy less stuff. When you go on a retreat, to visit relatives or even out to dinner, practice leaving the bells and whistles that distract from the real you at home.

Remember your process informs your destination. With deep self-care engrained into your weight-loss goal, you’ll arrive at the wardrobe you’ve been dreaming of with a unique radiance that only you, as the designer of your life, could have tailor-made.

Ali Shapiro is a 20-year cancer survivor, regular NBC Philadelphia contributor and works with individuals and groups to show them how to simplify their relationship to food by simplifying their diet and life.

Photo credit: Teresa Robinson

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28 responses to Is Your Self-Care Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss?
  1. I found i had to learn to love myself and to my best friend.

  2. I agree Deborah. I find sometimes though we 1. Don’t know how we don’t love ourselves or 2. How to get “there”. I think looking at habits we’ve tried to change but can’t are a great place to start.

  3. Provocative article Ali and beautifully said without judgement. I think we also have to give ourself space in our kitchens – reclaim them over the take out line. And when we go out of town, don’t take make up along! And thinking about what we always wanted to be (a painter, a writer, an athlete) but didn’t have time to do because it didn’t make any money….find the time to do them.

  4. Excellent points Terri. I couldn’t agree more. I think a great theme is quality not quantity…in food, the stuff that takes up space in our kitchen, in our relationships, and how we spend our time. When you focus on quality, it’s amazing the resources that free up.

    And to your point about doing the things that don’t make money, you end up reclaiming the parts of yourself that need loving self-care the most. And when that part of us has a seat at the table, it’s much easier to feel that deep self-love because you feel whole, not the hole.

  5. Ali, I love the idea of going from organization to renovation mode. Just that flip makes weight loss seem easier. With my clients I also find each of them to have a vitamin D deficiency. It’s amazing how we all get sucked into the “not enough” trap. We think that once we do it all we will be worthy but as you said, the key is finding worthiness and space right now. Not in who you think you need to be but who you are. Much love and thanks!

  6. I appreciate your tenet of the importance of self-love. As an older adult, that idea in my youth was called being “selfish”! There is a balance between egoism and martyrdom. As reflected in your article, the latter makes one feel more lovable, more worthy. Low self-esteem, perhaps, contributes to that unworthy feeling. I’m going to be aware of seeking the balance!

  7. Tears in my eyes…I feel like this was written for me. Thank you.

  8. @Jamie – I think it’s the human condition but I find women have it to the extreme. It’s a silent epidemic with all of us. It goes against the “good girl” archetype many of us are unconsciously striving for. Yes, a complete renovation is helpful! But you need a good contractor 😎

    @Mary – yes, a balance for sure. And we each have to find it ourselves. I think it’s important to understand the guilt associated with self-care. Once we do, we realize we are more giving, love more, etc. because it comes from a real place versus obligation. And learning is a life long process…it’s fun to be in the classroom together 😎

  9. I love this – thank you so much for your wise words. What you say makes so much sense – thank you. xxx

  10. Your welcome Debs. Thanks for “listening”. I always tell my clients who thank me…I can have a message but I need someone to listen to me!

  11. Wonderfully written article! I’ve worked with Ali in the past and have a completely new outlook on my life/relationships as a result. Glad to see you are changing so many lives for the better!!

  12. Wonderful post Ali! Thank you so much for the great advice. As always, you are inspirational. I always appreciate your words of wisdom.

  13. Your second theme of creating space is quite important in today’s modern lifestyle where many of us feel we hardly have time for the basics. It takes an authentic conversation with myself to challenge the notion of being “too busy” for some of these things. If I’m really honest with myself, I’ll usually find an hour or two that I did not spend wisely that I could have devoted to a more positive contribution to myself. Whether it’s TV, Internet surfing, etc. Rarely is my life SO efficient that there is NO place to cut and make better choices. The “I’m too busy” excuse presumes a superior level of efficient decision-making. Thanks for a wonderful blog.

  14. Beautifully articulate. I just love it!

    Thank you for expressing what I’ve been feeling and thinking for the last few years. Especially around creating space. That’s a message that has been yelling from the sidelines for a while now. Also acknowledging that it’s a process and not a destination enables me to practice more self-compassion when I “fall off the wagon”.

  15. @Joe – thanks for your thoughts. I like your take that “I’m too busy” excuse presumes a superior level of efficient decision-making. If we were to take a time audit, we’d all find inefficiency!

    @Tahlee – it is always a process. We never arrive anywhere. Once we do, we are changed by the experience and want to go elsewhere! However, if we bring self-compassion and honesty with us, we will end up in a loving and true place. ‘

    Thanks @Katie and @Nicole for chiming in. Always nice to know the article spoke to so many people!

  16. A question I have had for a while now, how do you start to love yourself? Where do I start?

  17. I think this is the million dollar question Christine. It might be helpful to replace the idea of love with respect. Our culture tends to glorify an all consuming, delirious love when real love looks like respect, boundaries and not sacrificing ourselves for another. So I’d start with where you aren’t respecting yourself in your life. And then focus on what you want to change the most first. It will have a ripple effect and the success will build your confidence to tackle the next step. And remember, it’s a life long process so no need to rush in panic.

  18. Beautiful. Thank you.

  19. This is really lovely and it really hits home. Self care and finding out the true message behind your goals is so so important. Thank you for reminding us all of our path again.

  20. What a well thought out and provocative post, filled with the necessary nuance that is difficult to find anywhere else online. What I consistently appreciate the most about your posts is that you assume your reader is intelligent and that if it was a matter of will power, we would most likely have already figured it out. The point about “should” vs. “want” especially resonated with me. Hoe often do we go about our days feeling like we “should” be doing this or that and never taking the time to just be. It seems to me that us women especially have a difficult time saying no. I look forward to reading more from you soon, Ali.

  21. What an amazing post, this made me really think about some of the things in my life that I always say “I’m too busy”, one of which is eating more healthy. I recently had a bone density test and at the age of 43 found that I’m losing bone density in my hips and I’m not suppose to be going to get a Vitamin D deficiency test which I’ve been putting off, but after reading this I’m going first thing in the morning. I am about 50 pound overweight and constantly battling with my weight. I walk 2-3 miles 4 -5 times a week and really try to watch what I eat but often get caught up in the “I’m too busy” mode. I will be following your blog much closer now to get more insight in living a much healthier life. Thanks so much!!

  22. Hi Ali,

    Really great post, thanks for sharing with us. Losing weight in my opinion is a mix between huge ambition and healthy life style! If we believe in our goals and choose the right way for sure sooner or later we will reach the destination….so Never Give Up!

    Best ,

  23. Everybody seems to have a secret for losing weight. The truth is, in order to achieve and maintain a significant weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Flaxseed products may be able to help you. The oil is a powerful antioxidant that can help boost your metabolism. Whole or ground flaxseed provides you with dietary fiber that makes you feel fuller and omega three fatty acids that can possibly curb cravings for sweets. Thanks.

    • Weight loss is complex process but it is mainly soved in our heads.Our determination to change our body ca do it all.Great article !

  24. Exercises, Diets and Healthy Recipes are the quickest way of Losing weight naturally, we provide total solution of lose weight fast by using Healthy diets and Aerobic workout which is the best way for losing weight in one week.

  25. Really great information.I just love this blog – so clear and nice. From where can I suscribe ?

  26. Thanks for this post. Everybody knows diet and exercise are the key factors to lose weight. But you have provided here these tips nicely and differently.

  27. Hi, Ali. I wondered if you could say a little more about your “What does your weight-loss goal want from you?” comment. If I read you correctly, you mean to question the deeper intent behind setting the goal, looking for self-insight. Do you see any purpose behind goal-setting wrt weight-loss or do you think this is destructive?