Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Self-Compassion Diet by Jean Fain

The Self-Compassion Diet:  A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight by Jean Fain is a unique book to help with weight-loss and maintenance.  What makes this book different from so many other diet books is Fain’s commitment to making changes on the inside that will support a healthier lifestyle.  Instead of suggesting meal plans or exercise programs, the approach outlined in this book uses four essential tools: compassion, meditation, hypnosis, and community.

The bottom line, of course, when reading a book about weight-loss is whether the reader successfully lost weight while applying the methods outlined in the book.  I’ll get to my bottom-line in a bit.

I would recommend that anyone wanting to read this book begin by taking the four quizzes.  These measure where the reader is before even beginning to apply the principles Fain will outline.  It doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate the significance of how these assessments will help the individual.  By measuring one’s self-compassion, the likelihood of beating up on one’s self is contextualized.  Someone with a high self-compassion is obviously not going to beat herself up as frequently as someone with low self-compassion.  The same goes for the mindful eating quiz and the community support quiz.  Knowing where you are now will help you in the long run.

The thing is, if you already score very well on the quizzes then you probably already put into practice most, if not all, of her other suggestions.  If you’re interested in exploring hypnosis, there is an audio cd set that one can buy which includes the meditations and hypnosis components.  Otherwise, the tools recommended are not remarkable nor unique–food diary, journaling, weighing yourself only weekly, etc.

And yet, so many diet books never get to the heart of the matter.  A self-loathing person is not likely going to make healthier choices from day-to-day.  Learning new ways of thinking and feeling about one’s self are bound to create new and better habits.  This is why I think the quizzes are a great beginning point.  I downloaded the power tools on Jean Fain’s website and was disappointed.  Some people may find these useful but I really think that a reader could create their own resources, using the suggestions in the book, which are simply more useful.

So to the bottom line: Did I lose weight?

No.  I gained.  For one thing, I already use a hypnosis cd so that wasn’t something new.  I do a daily metta meditation which emphasizes compassion, beginning with the self.  I scored very well on all of the quizzes.  I could be the poster child for where most people want to be not that I scored perfectly but having room for improvement is different from having an area of weakness.

For me, weighing once a week has never worked.  And I have tried to figure out how to keep a found journal for a while, a method that works for me.  I finally have a method that works for me and I can incorporate Fain’s suggestions for a food log into what I am already doing but, over the years I’ve realized that I am not an emotional eater.  I prefer to cook for myself and enjoy eating mindfully.  (My family will tell you that I definitely taste my food as I often moan or say something along the lines of how much I love food, it’s so yummy, etc.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I think this is a great book and invaluable.  I would just encourage anyone to begin with the quizzes.  If you come out especially weak in one or more area then this is where you should begin.  If you come out strong across the board then you are probably not going to find any new ideas or resources here to help you lose weight although reading the book may still give you some insight into why the things you are already doing actually do work.  But if you score high and you’re not losing weight doing the things that Fain suggests then you may need to look elsewhere.  I was already doing most of what the author says will work and I am not going to stop meditating or eating mindfully or trying to keep a food log, etc.  Why?  Because the advice in this book is good, even excellent, and I can see why it is absolutely essential for everyone to at least recognize where they are in order to get where they want to be.

(To find the quizzes, look through the table of contents.  The Power Tools and Quizzes, although spread out throughout the text, are listed clearly in the table of contents.)

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