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G Force

A kinder approach to dieting

(Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Sarah Mupo
Globe Correspondent / December 23, 2010

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Q. Does “The Self-Compassion Diet’’ mean losing weight by being nice to yourself?

A. Absolutely. “Kind’’ is more accurate. “Nice’’ somehow conjures a Pollyanna and other horrible things my mother wanted me to be. I call it a kinder, gentler, more effective way to lose weight than dieting. So it doesn’t involve the standard counting of calories, carbs, or points. But it’s a step-by-step plan that shows you how to lose weight and gain health and happiness by doing a number of practices that are compassion-enhancing. There are actually four roots to sustainable weight loss in the book. Self-compassion is one of them, and it sort of ties all the roots together. But the four roots are: self-compassion, mindful eating, hypnosis, and social support.

Q. How does one practice self-hypnosis?

A. It’s not that complicated if you have ever gotten lost in a good book or movie, which I’m sure you have. You already have a sense of how to hypnotize yourself, which is essentially focusing your attention, deepening your breathing, and then opening your mind to new ideas and experiences.

Q. How does that relate to losing weight?

A. Well, rather than read “Eat, Pray, Love,’’ which is going to make you want to really enjoy pasta and other things like that, you can feed yourself suggestions, positive suggestions, that make sense to you. Like, “More and more I am craving nutritious and delicious food.’’ Or, “Every day and every way I am appreciating the natural sweetness of whole foods.’’ Whatever seems motivating and important to you. You could give yourself a self-suggestion and repeat it to yourself in a relaxed and focused state.

Q. Do you find that a lot of people are receptive to using hypnosis to achieve weight loss?

A. Some are, and some really aren’t. So for those who are, yippee, because it can make it so much easier and more effortless. And for those who aren’t, well they don’t have to do it.

Q. So this isn’t a diet in technical terms, and there are no specific foods people are supposed to eat?

A. That’s correct. It’s more a “dieta,’’ in the Latin sense of the word, which is a way of life, a way of living, breathing, and eating, which does not come with “eat this, not that’’ charts or forbidden foods or however you want to put it.

Q. How long does such a weight-loss transformation take under this program? It’s common for dieters to look for quick-fix solutions, especially around the holidays.

A. The answer is almost immediately. They, whoever follows it, will start feeling calmer, wiser, and more hopeful. And in that state, weight loss is so much more possible . . . If their life’s pretty calm already, and they have some time to devote to themselves and some interest, yes, they will start reaping the benefits. But to say that each person who does this will lose X number of pounds in X number of weeks, well, it doesn’t work that way, right? It just doesn’t.

Q. What are the advantages of this plan over traditional diet regimens?

A. Most diets and other weight-loss plans revolve around deprivation and neglect, in my opinion. You’re supposed to stick to the plan no matter what. If you’re starving, keep eating the tiny portions. If you’re exhausted, keep moving. No pain, no gain. If you go on vacation, keep counting calories, carbs, and points. And while you’re at it, pack all your diet food and put it in your luggage. It’s not compassionate. It’s not effective. And it’s not fun. So what I’m saying is, how about something different that actually works? Why not treat yourself with some self-compassion, so that you are more likely to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, rest when you’re tired, and move when you feel energized? And when you do that, you will lose weight naturally. You don’t need a calculator.

SARAH MUPO

Interview was condensed and edited. Sarah Mupo can be reached at smupo@globe.com.

WHO
Jean Fain
WHAT
A Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist based in Concord who specializes in eating issues. She is the author of the forthcoming book “The Self-Compassion Diet.’’