If your Thanksgiving Day feast has already become last weekend's regrettable splurge, you're probably feeling lousy about yourself right about now. What's more, you're probably thinking that getting down on yourself for overindulging is part of the cure.
It seems to be deep in our culture to think that feeding yourself a steady diet of self-criticism will inspire you to rein in your eating. The overwhelming majority of dieters believe this, but they've just got it backward. Self-criticism -- calling yourself fat, disgusting and other mean, nasty names -- is really a recipe for emotional overeating and holiday weight gain. Self-compassion, the exact opposite of self-loathing, is a proven strategy for decreasing emotional eating and stopping a downward eating spiral before it starts.
But don't we already think too well of ourselves? Take my quiz, excerpted from "The Self-Compassion Diet," and see how you score. You may be surprised.
The Self-Compassionate Eating Quiz
This quiz measures your current state of self-compassion by helping you assess your mental, emotional, and physical reaction to diet, weight, and body image. When you can find a quiet moment away from distractions, take a pen or pencil and sit down to reflect on how compassionate you are toward yourself.
Check eight statements that come closest to reflecting your general experience. That is, they should reflect how you most often feel in the situation described.
___ 1. When I eat something "bad," like a donut, I can't stop thinking about how I've blown it.
___ 2. After an indulgent weekend, I trust myself to rein in my eating.
___ 3. I often feel alone with my eating issues, but I know I'm not.
___ 4. When I eat junk food, I try not to beat myself up too much.
___ 5. I may feel uncomfortable if I'm bloated or a few pounds heavier, but it doesn't stop me from enjoying social activities.
___ 6. I might never love my body, but I know I'd like it better 10 pounds lighter.
___ 7. No one struggles with eating like I do.
___ 8. I don't trust myself to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, but I'd like to learn.
___ 9. I can get down on myself when I'm bloated or a few pounds heavier, but I'll still go out in baggy clothes.
___ 10. Paying attention to my hunger makes me want to eat, so I try to ignore it.
___ 11. I'm always interested in what my body has to say about hunger and fullness.
___ 12. If I lose one to two pounds per week, I'll never reach my goal weight.
___ 13. I'd like to jumpstart my weight loss with a crash diet and then eat healthfully.
___ 14. I didn't stick to my eating plan the whole weekend; all my weight-loss efforts are for nothing.
___ 15. When I eat something less than healthful, I try to savor it all the same.
___ 16. I really indulged myself over the weekend; I'm afraid to step on the scale.
___ 17. When I feel bloated or especially fat, I won't leave the house.
___ 18. After overeating, I feel like punishing myself, but I know restricting and purging only make me feel worse.
___ 19. Overeating is a signal to care for myself more, not less.
___ 20. After I overeat, self-punishment (restricting food intake and/or purging, vomiting, or over-exercising) is the only thing that makes me feel better.
___ 21. My weight takes care of itself when I feed myself delicious, nutritious food.
___ 22. When I'm overweight, I feel gross; I hate my body.
___ 23. Everybody overeats and feels stuffed on occasion.
___ 24. I love and respect my body.
Give yourself 1 point per statement for checking any of the following:
1, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 20, 22.
Give yourself 2 points per statement for checking any of the following:
3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 13, 16, 18.
Give yourself 3 points per statement for checking any of the following:
2, 5, 11, 15, 19, 21, 23, 24.
Total Score: _____ Date: _____ / _____ / _____
Your Score and What to Make Of It
When it comes to self-compassion, 0-8 means you're sorely lacking, and you seriously need to go easier on yourself; 9-16, you've got some, but you could use some more; 17-24, you've got way more than the average American dieter, so you're in good shape. However, you can never have too much self-compassion.
Even if you're already pretty kind to yourself, know that even a slight increase in self-compassion can brighten your worldview, give you more emotional balance, help you get a handle on your eating and facilitate sustainable weight loss. (That is, if you are trying to lose weight.)
Tips for developing a kinder, gentler attitude are coming to my next blog. For a preview of what's to come, watch this YouTube video.
Jean Fain is a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist specializing in eating issues, and the author of "The Self-Compassion Diet." For more information, see www.jeanfain.com. Got a thing or two to say about any of the above? Please share in the comments section.