Self-Compassion and Eating
Author: Rhea Lewandoski R.D.
This week (May 1-7) is Mental Health Week. We want to add our voice to promote mental health awareness and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health. Our culture continues to promote unhealthy messages about eating which contribute to disordered relationships with food. Healing our food relationship involves self-compassion.
Research shows the more understanding and forgiving we are of ourselves, the more motivated we are to do what we need to take care of ourselves, including nourishing ourselves.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-Kindness – Do I talk to myself like I talk to someone I love?
Common Humanity – Can I recognize what I struggle with others struggle with too? I’m never alone in my struggles.
Mindfulness – Being with what is in the present moment.
A lack of self-compassion closes the door to learning about our wants, habits, patterns, triggers and needs when it comes to food. By adopting a curious attitude, you can foster a healthy relationship with food. Curiosity over judgement.
How to Add Self-Compassion to Your Meals
Step 1: Get curious about black-and-white thinking.
Embrace the fact that nourishment is flexible and can include the permission to eat all foods for all reasons. This takes practice. It can be helpful to talk this through with an ED clinician.
Step 2: Become aware of how you talk to yourself when eating.
Does a tape start running in your head that tells you not to eat too much or not to eat certain types of foods? Or that you’re a failure if you do? Write down what you say to yourself.
Step 3: Write down kind, curious, true responses to your inner critic.
Have readily available responses or self-soothing techniques you can “turn on” when you hear yourself starting to go down the familiar road of hurtful self-talk. If this is difficult, take it to a session with your RD or therapist.
Step 4: Practice those responses to yourself.
Every time you hear the hurtful self-talk, take a moment to be kind to yourself. Try carrying around a small notebook or put sticky notes on the table. Remember, the first time you do something differently is the hardest.
How to practice self-compassion:
Pace your hands together on your heart.
Take a deep breath.
Think about what it is you are struggling with right now. Feel it in your body.
Repeat the following phrases aloud or in your head:
“This is hard.” Say aloud what you are struggling with. For example: “Fighting with my friend is really hard.”
“Hard things like this happen to lots of people. I know I am not alone. I know that I am not the only person who struggles with this ...”
Take a deep breath.
Repeat your “May I …” statement to yourself. Let the words sink in. Mindfully lean into the struggle, feel it, and let it go.
Take another deep breath. Notice how you feel. Notice any mind shifts. Continue with your day, the moment, etc.
Possible “May I …” statements:
Be true to who I am
Be gentle with myself
Be at peace
Live with ease