New Study Reveals How Self-Compassion Could Help Your Weight Loss Struggle (And How to Use This Tool)

Struggling with weight loss? Tired of feeling guilty after dietary slip-ups? Discover the power of self-compassion in transforming your weight loss journey. 

Learn how practicing self-kindness can reduce negative emotions and boost your confidence in managing your weight. 

Find out how to overcome setbacks and achieve lasting weight loss success in this eye-opening article.


Almost three-fourths of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. This increases their risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, and lowers their quality of life.

Losing even a small amount of weight can reduce these risks. However, sticking to a low-calorie diet is very difficult in today’s world. Diet setbacks, or moments when people don’t stick to their diet, are common during weight loss attempts. 

These setbacks can hurt progress by increasing calorie intake and making people feel discouraged, often causing them to give up on their weight loss goals.

Preventing these feelings of discouragement after diet setbacks hasn’t been studied much. 

Self-compassion could help people respond better to these setbacks. By being kind to themselves and focusing on improvement, people can boost their confidence and desire to keep dieting. 

Diet Setbacks and Their Impact

Diet setbacks happen when people don’t follow their low-calorie diet. These setbacks can stop weight loss by preventing the needed calorie deficit. Various factors cause diet setbacks, including hunger, tempting foods around, and stress.

Setbacks are common, with studies showing people have about 3-12 setbacks each week during weight loss programs. More frequent setbacks mean less success in losing weight. Besides increasing calorie intake, these setbacks make people feel guilty and like they’ve failed. These feelings can cause them to try less or give up on their weight loss goals.

Studies using moment-to-moment assessments show that diet setbacks are very upsetting for people trying to lose weight. They cause guilt and a sense of failure, leading to discouragement, lower expectations for success, and hurt self-esteem. This often results in avoiding efforts to reach their goals or giving up entirely.

Helping people respond better to diet setbacks is crucial for their weight loss success.

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion involves three main parts:

Self-Kindness: Being gentle and kind to oneself during tough times, like you would be to a friend.

Common Humanity: Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and has struggles.

Mindfulness: Being aware of and accepting your emotions without getting stuck in them.

Practicing self-compassion helps people accept their mistakes and understand that setbacks are part of being human. This perspective helps them recover from failures better. Research shows that self-compassionate responses to failure can lead to greater intentions to improve, better coping, reduced negative emotions, and less dwelling on failures.

Because of these benefits, self-compassion may help people stick to their diet better after setbacks.

Study Overview

This study looked at how self-compassion helps people respond to diet setbacks. Participants in a weight loss program completed six short surveys a day for seven days. The study examined if self-compassion after a setback would lead to fewer same-day setbacks and greater control over weight management.

Participants included 140 adults who were overweight or obese. They were recruited from the community and met criteria such as having a BMI of 27-50 and being willing to lose weight and be active. The average age was 51.64 years, and most participants were women (88.6%).


The study found that higher self-compassion and its parts were linked to feeling less negative after a diet setback. However, self-compassion didn’t predict fewer same-day setbacks.

Higher self-compassion and self-kindness were linked to greater perceived control over weight management after a setback. Common humanity and mindfulness didn’t show a strong link to perceived control.

How to Practice Self-Compassion for Weight Loss

1. Understand Self-Compassion

Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding as you would a friend. It includes three main parts:

Self-Kindness: Being gentle with yourself during tough times instead of being critical.

Common Humanity: Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and has challenges.

Mindfulness: Being aware of your feelings without being overwhelmed by them.

2. Be Kind to Yourself

When you face a setback, avoid self-criticism. Instead, speak to yourself kindly. For example, if you overeat, instead of thinking, “I’ve failed,” tell yourself, “It’s okay to have setbacks. I can get back on track.”


Use gentle, encouraging words.

Treat yourself with the same compassion you’d show a friend in the same situation.

3. Recognize Common Humanity

Remember that everyone makes mistakes. You’re not alone in your struggles. This understanding can help you feel less isolated and more connected to others.


Remind yourself that it’s normal to have ups and downs.

Share your experiences with supportive friends or groups.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness means being aware of your thoughts and feelings without judging them. It helps you stay present and not get stuck on negative thoughts.


Notice how you feel without trying to change it.

Take deep breaths to calm your mind.

5. Reflect on Your Progress

Focus on how far you’ve come rather than just your setbacks. Celebrate small victories and acknowledge your efforts.


Keep a journal to track your progress and reflect on positive changes.

Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.

6. Set Realistic Goals

Set achievable goals for your weight loss journey. Unrealistic goals can lead to disappointment and self-criticism.


Break larger goals into smaller, manageable steps.

Adjust your goals as needed based on your progress.

7. Develop Healthy Coping Strategies

Find ways to cope with stress and emotions that don’t involve food. This can help prevent emotional eating.


Engage in activities you enjoy, like walking, reading, or listening to music.

Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.

8. Seek Support

Surround yourself with supportive people who encourage and uplift you. They can help you stay motivated and remind you to be kind to yourself.


Join a weight loss support group or online community.

Share your goals and progress with friends or family.

9. Forgive Yourself

When you experience a setback, forgive yourself and move on. Holding onto guilt or shame can hinder your progress.


Practice self-forgiveness by acknowledging your feelings and letting them go.

Focus on what you can do differently next time.

10. Make Self-Compassion a Habit

Integrate self-compassion into your daily routine. Regular practice can strengthen your resilience and improve your overall well-being.


Start each day with a positive affirmation.

Set aside time for self-care activities that make you feel good.

By practicing self-compassion, you can create a supportive and nurturing environment for your weight loss journey. This approach not only helps you recover from setbacks but also encourages long-term success and a healthier relationship with yourself.


These findings suggest that self-compassion, especially self-kindness, helps reduce negative feelings and boost perceived control after a diet setback. This means self-compassion can help people stay committed to their weight loss goals.

Although self-compassion didn’t reduce the chance of another same-day setback, the increased perceived control with higher self-compassion and self-kindness highlights their importance in weight management.

Implications for Weight Loss Programs

These results suggest practical steps for weight loss programs. Including self-compassion training, especially focusing on self-kindness, could help participants stick to their diets and be more resilient.

Encouraging self-kindness can help people recover quickly from setbacks, maintain their goals, and succeed in losing weight long-term. This approach supports creating effective interventions to help people handle diet setbacks better.

By using self-compassion strategies, weight loss programs can improve participants’ ability to manage setbacks, increasing their chances of success.


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