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Self-Compassion: The New Secret to Being Slim, Fit, and Happy for Life

Try this: Encourage yourself the way you would a friend, with positive statements like: "If I go to Spinning, I'll feel great, and I'll probably fit into my jeans better, too." Neff says: "Motivate yourself to do the right thing not because you're inadequate, but because you want to be healthier, or land your dream job, or whatever your goal is. Keep your eyes on the prize, which is to be happy."

Lose weight
A 2007 study shows how going easier on yourself can actually help you drop pounds: In it, Leary and a co-author asked two groups of women to eat doughnuts. One group got a talk along the lines of "I hope you won't be hard on yourself. Everyone eats this stuff." A control group got no such pep talk. Next, both groups taste-tested candy. The result: Women who got the self-compassion speech ate fewer bonbons. "They didn't indulge in emotional eating like those left alone with their self-criticism," says Jean Fain, a psychotherapist, teaching associate at Harvard Medical School, and author of The Self-Compassion Diet. "Telling yourself mean things—'I shouldn't have eaten that,' 'I'm going to gain weight'—is a setup for overeating." That's because self-criticism stirs up negative emotions like anxiety and self-loathing, and we'll do whatever we can to get rid of them—like dipping into the Ben & Jerry's.

Try this: Next time you feel bad about scarfing down a brownie or snacking in front of the TV, let self-compassion give you some perspective. Instead of saying, "Screw it. What's the point'"—which could just lead you to eat three more brownies—try instead: "It's only one brownie. It's not the end of the world. I can go back to making healthier choices."

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