One of the most important concepts at the root of intuitive eating is self-compassion.
It’s the foundation on which all the practices and principles of intuitive eating are built, and the attitude that will allow you to navigate the sometimes difficult road to food peace without getting frustrated or disheartened.
Self-compassion means relating to yourself with understanding, warmth, and kindness, even if you want to change some things about yourself.
It means acknowledging your own suffering, recognizing that suffering is part of our common humanity, and offering yourself care and comfort rather than criticism.
Self-compassion is a huge key to intuitive eating—and to making pretty much any lasting change in your life. If you approach your struggles from a place of self-compassion, you’ll have a much easier time making positive changes than you would if you criticized yourself into changing.
In fact, research on self-compassion has shown that it’s a particularly important tool in helping people improve their physical health, psychological well-being, self-esteem, and body image.
Self-criticism, in contrast, only makes everything worse. It’s incredibly common among disordered eaters, and it’s one of the reasons people stay stuck in an unhealthy relationship with food. Berating yourself about your eating is not the way to change it.
So in this mini course, we’ll be using self-compassion to inform your work every step of the way.
Throughout the course, try this simple guideline to be more self-compassionate:
Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love. Use the same caring voice in your inner monologue that you’d use with a beloved friend or family member who was struggling.
Many of us are infinitely nicer to everyone else in our lives than we are to ourselves, and that’s just not right! We all deserve self-compassion, even if we aren’t totally happy with where we are at the moment.
We’ll have a much better chance of getting where we want to go if we’re kind to ourselves along the way.
Journal Exercise 1
For our first exercise, spend the rest of today trying to notice the quality of your mental self-talk. Are you speaking compassionately to yourself, the way you would to a loved one? Or do you catch yourself being self-critical, in a way that you’d never say out loud to anyone else?
Note any instances of self-criticism, and see if you can think of a kinder way to phrase them.
Note any instances of self-compassion, and give yourself a high-five! Self-compassion doesn’t come easy in our culture, especially when you’re struggling in your relationship with food, so celebrate and have gratitude for the moments of compassion.
Journal Exercise 2
Reflect on how your life might change if you could be more compassionate with yourself:
- How would you feel if you spoke to yourself the way you’d speak to a friend?
- Can you remember instances when someone treated you with compassion? How did it feel emotionally—did you feel a sense of relief, or gratitude? Maybe you felt like crying, maybe you burst out laughing, or maybe you just felt neutral? How did it feel in your body—was there a sense of relaxing and letting go, warmth in your chest, or tingling in your ears?
- What mental thought patterns would shift for you if you were consistently self-compassionate?
- What would your day look like if you approached it with more self-compassion?
Meditation: Self-Compassion Break
Try this brief, 4-minute meditation whenever you need a little self-compassion.