Everyday Inspirations: Responding with Curiosity and Compassion

While I was visiting my family in Minnesota last month, I went to a yoga class and was inspired by a phrase. We spent a few minutes meditating at the beginning of class and our teacher was offering suggestions for mindfulness during our practice. She encouraged us to be present while moving through poses and to respond to our bodies “with curiosity and compassion”. This phrase stayed with me after class and got me thinking about how it applies to the weight loss journey. So here we go:

Have you ever kept a food log? It’s a common recommendation for people who are working towards weight loss goals. Food logging promotes awareness and accountability which typically helps people to stay on track. If you keep a food log, you are encouraged to review it regularly, such as at the end of each day, to see what can be learned. Sometimes you might not be proud of the choices that you made that day but reviewing a food log shouldn’t be a reason to judge yourself or feel guilty. That’s not productive. Instead, I encourage you to look at your food log with a mindset of ‘curiosity and compassion’.

Be curious. Why did I make that choice today? Would things have been differently if I packed my lunch at home or if I took a few breaths to relieve stress before eating that brownie in the break room? What is triggering me to make these choices? How can I prevent it in the future?

Have compassion. These choices don’t make me a bad person. I am faced with a lot of choices every day and I might not always make the best ones. But I am motivated to reach my health goals and I know I can continue to improve.

While I’m using the example of a food log, this can be applied to other situations too. You can reflect on any past behaviors with curiosity and compassion. Instead of getting trapped in an unproductive cycle of self-blame, this mindset allows you to respond more productively to behaviors that you would like to change. Curiosity helps you to think about choices from a neutral and unbiased perspective while having compassion encourages self-kindness and a no judgment zone. Are there areas of your life that could use more curiosity and compassion? 

Everyday Inspirations: Acknowledge Your Practice Without Judgement or Praise

Acknowledge your practice without judgment or praise. One of my first yoga teachers used to say this at the end of every practice. It didn’t really make sense to me. At the time, I was new to yoga and I was so excited to learn new poses at each class. It was a fun challenge and at the end of class, I did want to praise myself for doing those poses. And yes, maybe I was a little frustrated with myself for not being able to do other poses but I never felt like I was judging myself.

It took a few months of practicing yoga before this phrase made sense. Making cool shapes with your body is not the main point of yoga. Yes, it’s fun to learn a new pose but if that is all you get out of yoga, you are missing the bigger journey. It’s not about whether you were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at yoga. It’s that you took time to nurture your body and to practice self-awareness.

How does this apply to the bariatric surgery journey?

Let’s change one word in this phrase. Acknowledge your weight without judgment or praise. Easier said than done, right? So often, people’s bariatric surgery journeys get distilled to one thing: weight. How much weight did you lose? How quickly are you losing weight? Have you regained any weight? I’m not saying that we should completely ignore weight. We are still acknowledging that number but we need to put it into context instead of making it the only measure that matters.

The bariatric surgery journey is not just about weight loss. I would argue that people who are focusing only on weight are in a less healthy place mentally, and sometimes physically too. When you focus only on weight, you don’t give yourself credit for all of the quality of life successes that happen after surgery. Greater energy levels, ability to walk further without getting winded, taking your kids on rides at the amusement park without worrying about weight limits, feeling comfortable in an airplane seat, bending over to tie your shoes… these are all huge quality of life successes!

When we acknowledge our weight with judgment or praise, we are turning our weight into a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ number and that can be toxic for our mental health. We shouldn’t think of weight as being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ number. But ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can apply to quality of life. If you are not able to do the things you enjoy, you are not having the best quality of life that you deserve. For example, if you can’t play with your children or grandchildren, does it really matter what your weight is? If your weight is so low that you don’t have energy or strength to go for walks on the beach, is that still a ‘good’ weight? If your weight is higher than your “ideal body weight” according to a chart but you are able to wear the clothing you love and dance the night away at a party, is that a ‘bad’ weight? Your mental and physical health is most important for your quality of life and that isn’t always reflected in a number on the scale.

So next time you get on the scale, don’t let your weight become a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ number. Don’t judge yourself or praise yourself. Just acknowledge that number for what it is (a number) and focus on the quality of life milestones that really matter.