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Accountability Versus Shame
After deciding to create a habit tracker for my clients and myself, I got to thinking about shame and accountability.
Most of the time, I am working on myself right alongside my clients.
Something interesting I have learned throughout the years is when something doesn’t go right in our lives, we tend to look inward and blame ourselves. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to dieting. We go on a diet, we lose the weight and then gain it back and boom, we fall right back down that rabbit hole of not enoughness. “I lack will power.” “I can’t stick to anything.” “There is no point in trying.” The common laments I’ll hear from my clients and then again in my own head.
But what if this had very little to do with discipline and willpower. What if your diet didn’t work because the system of dieting doesn’t work. We now know that 90-95% of people who lose weight on a diet, will gain it back within the first 5 years. That means you didn’t fail the diet, the diet failed you. Yet, time and again, we continue to buy into the lies of a diet and we kick ourselves when we can’t succeed.
You’re rolling your eyes now. Your thinking “stop going so easy on me, I know myself and I messed up again. I need tough love. REAL accountability. Scream at me if you have too. Tie my hands behind my back, then I will succeed.”
Maybe. Maybe that would work for you.
Might I suggest a gentler approach.
I find that what a lot of us do need is a way to systematize things. Why? This brings accountability. We may need some hand holding and some help coming up with the system. The real clincher is…wait for it….habit change is baby steps.
I know that’s not what you want to hear but seriously, slow and steady wins the race. Better yet, let’s just take “win” out of the equation.
The concept of CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – is that our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings create our behaviors. If you’re frequently thinking “you are such a loser, why can’t you stop eating” or “what’s wrong with you, just get into bed at a normal time.”
Those thoughts will likely not leave you feeling light and fluffy. You will most likely be feeling hopeless, embarrassed and angry. When we feel hopeless, embarrassed and angry – we act hopeless, embarrassed and angry.
The point is not to sweep all your problems and shortcomings under the rug, the point is to cultivate a self compassionate voice. This is not some hippy dippy approach to make nice to yourself, this is actually a well researched approach to help develop habit changes.
Let me give you a funny/not so funny example from my own life.
A few weeks ago, a friend visited me from out of town. She’s not used to the NY amenities, and when the ice cream truck came happily down my block, singing its infamous tune, she ran and gladly got her and her kids some ice cream. Now, I couldn’t be the big bad mommy who doesn’t let my kids get ice cream when my guests are having ice cream, so again, I shelled out 20 + dollars for ICE CREAM (when it costs 5$ at the local grocery store down my block). I felt that familiar anxiety bubble inside me. A knot in my stomach. Some additional sweating. And besides for feeling anxious about spending so much money on ice cream, I heard myself say to myself “what is wrong with you, how many times are you going to have this reaction over ice cream, its soooo not a big deal.”
Later on, I discussed this with my therapist and she politely reminded me about self compassion.
Can we change that inner dialogue to “wow, spending money unnecessarily is really hard for you, you really don’t want to do this. This makes sense coming from your background and how hard it is for you to spend money.”
I think about this conversation a lot because money is a sore topic for me. It’s a sore topic for a lot of people. The gentler my voice is to myself, the better I fare that day.
That being said. Systems are important, and they lead to greater accountability.
Systems help us stay organized and if it doesn’t work, we pivot. We don’t blame ourselves. There is no winning or losing, there is just trying to do better the next day.
This is why I created this habit tracker. Hang it up and glance at it throughout the day. If you have some down time or notice a mood shift, check in and see if you can do one of those things. Joyful movement – like a 5 minute walk outside – there are so many health benefits to movement and to being outside. Have you eaten in the last 3 hours – perhaps you need a snack or a meal? Have you taken your medication yet? These all play a role in our physical and mental health. Use it in any way it helps you and change it whenever necessary.
To quote one of my mentors and role models, Perl Abramowitz– this is about effort. Effort equals success. The more I focus on effort, the more effort I will put in.
If you are interested in making peace with food through the principles of Intuitive Eating and the practices of self care, go ahead and schedule a free call via my website. You can work with me one on one or sign up to be in one of my intuitive eating online support groups via Zoom.
Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. Asa teenager, she was faced with constant ha talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food, she smuggled with disordered eating.This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a on-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.
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