A+ Method™ – Step #1: Accept
Often when someone wants to make a change in their life, they simply choose a future goal and start working toward it. At the time, aiming at a goal and taking the necessary steps to achieve it seems like a great and honorable plan! However, it’s not always that simple.
Because our bodies and our lives are complex, ever-changing, and adaptive, it’s important to first accept where we are before making an action plan. By taking the time to first accept our current circumstances and offer ourselves compassion, we are better able to identify more efficient steps toward meeting our goals.
Acceptance in Practice
For example, let’s say that Mary wants to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date, so she decides to take steps according to conventional recommendations: reduce calorie intake and increase calorie expenditure. So, Mary starts eating significantly reduced portions and hitting the gym for intense cardio four times a week. Way to go, Mary! You’re working hard at improving your life!
But then something happens. Mary’s personal life circumstances start to get in the way, and she begins to burn out. She stops sleeping through night, becomes irritable with her friends, and she often “cheats” on her strict diet and exercise routine. Before long, Mary falls off the wagon, and she becomes depressed that she couldn’t “stick with it.” She quits all of her new habits, but because she has stressed her body out so much with intense training and calorie deficit, she gains back more weight than she lost.
This is a very familiar story for many people who are trying to become healthier, and it’s why the Accept step in the A+ Method™ is so important before making any changes – even changes that have nothing to do with weight loss or exercise.
Had Mary stopped to truly accept her current life circumstances and experiences, she may have discovered that her overeating and lethargy was due to overwhelming stress from factors such as work, expectations that she must do everything perfectly, and lack of adequate sleep due to playing games on her cell phone before bed. In order for her to be successful in reaching her goals, the stressors needed to be accepted and offered compassion before and/or alongside of her action steps for weight loss.
Without assessing the areas in her life that were robbing her of energy and contributing to her stress, Mary took on a new program that added more stress into her life instead of releasing it.
Studies demonstrate that shame, often associated with people who want to lose weight, is strongly associated with HPA Axis activation, chronic stress, and high cortisol, which negatively impact the metabolism over time. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is highly correlated with a soothed stress response, intrinsic motivation, and resiliency. Therefore, the Acceptance phase of the A+ Method™ helps us replace our feelings of shame and inadequacy with self-compassion.
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