Self-care – regularly and adequately attending to our physical, emotional, and other needs – is a theme that underlies most weight gain and successful weight loss. Weight gain often results, in part, from not taking good care of ourselves. We are busy with work and home life so don’t eat healthy meals, we’re too tired to exercise, we have untreated sleep issues, we forget to plan time with family and friends, or we don’t nurture our spiritual and creative selves. We feel lonely, out of control, or despairing, so we often turn to food for comfort. Losing weight (and sustaining the weight loss) necessarily involves learning to care better for our bodies, minds, and hearts.
So what does “self-care” really mean? As a psychologist, I see self-care as a two-step learning process. The first step is “Surviving” self-care which means taking care of basics such as adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, and health care. The second step is “Thriving” self-care, such as making sure to spend time doing things we enjoy, with people we love who love us back, exploring our spirituality whatever form it takes, and pursuing creative outlets.
Many things get in the way of taking good care of ourselves. Besides the fact that work and home responsibilities often don’t leave much time for self-care, many people never learned as kids how to take good care of themselves or that it’s okay. They don’t know what good self-care looks or feels like. Or they might feel guilty about spending time caring for themselves - perhaps they fear it might take away from caring for their loved ones. Or they might feel ashamed about it. But good self-care is necessary for good living and good health.
Fortunately, self-care is a skill we can learn, just like learning to knit, play baseball, or read. We can make the weight loss journey a little easier by gently reminding ourselves to shift our perspective from “I hate having to do these things to lose weight” to “How can I take good care of myself today?” Try completing the following Self-Care Inventory to learn more about your self-care needs.
Do I ? Doing pretty well with Could use some work
Eat healthy foods
Regular health check ups
Have close, satisfying relationships
Regularly do things that give me joy
Have a spiritual and/or creative outlet
Have some “down time”
Now that you’ve taken an inventory of your self-care needs, what is one small thing you can do TODAY to take better care of yourself (for example, take 10 deep breaths, go outside and look at the sky for 2 minutes, eat an apple, call a friend, etc.)? Where or from whom can you get help with taking better care of yourself?