If you are like most Americans, the word “overweight” immediately brings up a judgment such as, “No!” or “Ick!” or “I don’t want that,” or some idea that being “thin” is better than being “overweight.” We even have the term “plus-sized” for people who require larger clothing, indicating that they are not a “normal size” in society’s eyes. Conversely, we do not frequently use a term such as, “under-sized” for people who are under average weight, because society does not have the same harsh judgment for this situation and may even encourage it.
If you would like to listen to this article, click here.
For many people, the concept of weight can immediately bring up judgments toward ourselves and others. Once we learn to practice the skill of Nonjudgment, this helps pave the way to get past those mental roadblocks that keep us from making changes to our health, including weight regulation.
If you are grappling with your own Body Image and/or Weight Loss, consider the following four elements as your skills to practice on your way to achieve mastery and confidence feeling comfortable and at home in your skin:
We discussed Awareness as it pertains to Body Image and Weight Loss in the first part of this series, and in this second part, we’ll take a look at nonjudgment and its role in helping to move past seemingly impossible obstacles.
A stance of being nonjudgmental and curious is imperative for you to begin to raise your awareness about what you are doing that is effective, and what you are doing that is not working for you at this point in your life. If you are judgmental (as most of us have learned to be) and feel shame when you notice your behaviors that are not working, it becomes so aversive to pay attention to these ineffective behaviors, that you start to tune out. When your awareness wanes, the change you want also goes out the window. When you learn to notice a judgmental thought and label it as such (“a judgmental thought just came into my mind,”) and look at your situation and behaviors with curiosity instead of evaluation, you are able to gain information about how you are feeling and behaving. Gathering data is the key to being able to change behaviors, and the stance of nonjudgment and curiosity allows you to do just this. This stance transforms an aversive and shameful situation into something interesting to notice.
Nonjudgment means describing things as they are, without adding opinions or evaluations. In other words, nonjudgment = truth. Now imagine applying the practice of nonjudgment to the issues in your own personal life that are keeping you from making a change. You will start to notice life go differently for you if you practice approaching problems with nonjudgment, which can then lead to compassionate and effective action.
Before attempting to apply the skill of nonjudgment to emotionally charged life circumstances, start practicing with more every day, ordinary, non-emotionally evocative situations. This approach will help you build the muscle of Nonjudgment. When you become stronger at applying this skill, you will notice more success when you gradually apply a nonjudgmental stance to larger, more significant events in your life and the world around you. To discover essential steps to get you started, click here.
The practice of Nonjudgment does not eliminate the pain. Rather, it can take the suffering down a notch so that you can breathe, get a bit of distance from the intensity of emotion, and regulate the emotions and/or solve the problem. If you are interested in further developing the skill of Nonjudgment, try the practice suggestions below:
- Practice noticing judgments throughout your day.
When you are aware of yourself (or someone else) making a judgmental statement, or you have a judgmental thought, say to yourself “judgment.” (Over time, noticing and labeling judgments helps us become more aware of them and gives us a choice about the most effective way to proceed.)
- Sit and focus on your thoughts for 30 seconds to a minute.
Imagine two different boxes, labeled “judgment thoughts” and “other thoughts.” For the next 30 seconds to a minute, notice any thoughts that come into your mind and imagine placing them in the appropriate box.
The next time you notice yourself being judgmental, see if you can describe (verbally or in writing) the same situation nonjudgmentally; truthfully and descriptively, without judgment.
After some time practicing, you may notice increased awareness of what is going on around you and in your life. When your eyes are opened, it allows you to take the steps needed on your road to change.
To listen to the Nonjudgment Practice audio, click here.
Take a moment to bring your attention into the present moment. You can use your breath as a grounding or focus point. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Every time your attention wanders away, very gently come home to the feeling of your breath in your body. If you’d like, you can try to gently notice your breath in the background as you listen to my words. Your breath is always in the present moment and you can always bring your focus back to your inhalation and exhalation when your mind wanders.
Now we are going to spend the next several moments paying attention to thoughts. However, rather than involving ourselves in the content of our thoughts, we are going to sit back and observe thoughts that come into our mind.
First, imagine that you have two boxes or containers in your mind’s eye. You can design and create them any way you wish. Now, imagine that one is labeled “judgment thoughts” and the other box is labeled “facts.” Your task, for the next several moments, is to observe any thoughts that come through your mind and place them in either the box marked “facts” or the box marked “judgments.” To be clear, facts are everything you take in through your senses – eyes, ears, nose, skin, mouth. Anything you add to this is an opinion or judgment. If I have the thought, “that painting is framed and has blue and green colors,” I will place that in the “facts” box. If I have the thought, “that painting is ugly,” I will place that in the “judgments” box. See if you can not only observe your thoughts, but also place them in one of these two boxes. We will do this in silence for the next 30 seconds. Remember, take the observer stance, notice any thoughts that come through your mind, and place them either in the box labeled “judgments” or the box labeled “facts.” I’ll let you know when 30 seconds has passed…
Now, gently let go of the images of the boxes in your mind’s eye. Bringing your attention back to your breath, notice that you are breathing, feeling your breath in your physical body. And now, reflecting on what you noticed during the 30 seconds of watching and categorizing your thoughts. Did you notice mostly judgments? Mostly facts? Did your mind go blank? Were you flooded with so many thoughts it was hard to catch them all? Did you notice not knowing whether your thoughts were facts or judgments and weren’t sure in which box to place them? Take a moment to reflect on what you noticed. See if you can do that without judgment (or, if you notice judgment, call it a judgment and return to the facts).
It doesn’t matter what you noticed during this practice. Your practice is first, bringing your mind back when it wanders (that’s mindfulness), and second, embodying a stance of curiosity and interest in place of judgment.
Practicing nonjudgment is just that: a practice. Nobody walks through their day without any judgmental thoughts, and we wouldn’t want to. Judgments are useful. By practicing nonjudgment, we expand our capacity to notice when we are judging and then allow for ourselves to make a choice whether proceeding forward with that judgment is helpful or harmful. The key to nonjudgment is repeated, daily practice, practice, practice, and then more practice. If you are interested in building the muscle of Nonjudgment, set an intention for your practice now. Make it short enough that you can practice daily – 30 seconds of daily practice can be useful. How will you practice? Will you watch your thoughts as we just did, take some of my other suggestions I’ve written about, or come up with your own practice?