4 Ways To Be Kinder To Yourself When You Eat

“Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance.” - Tara Brach

Filed Under: Mindful Eating

4 August 2023 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

When you start being kind to yourself, ending your struggles with food becomes so much easier. There are certain things we can do to bring an attitude of compassion to our relationship with food.

Before I discovered Intuitive Eating, my experiences with food were fraught with tension. Food was the enemy. Even though it relieved pain, it also caused pain.

So what would compassionate eating look like? Let’s start by looking at the opposite: unkind eating.

When we are filled with contempt and criticism about what we eat and how much we eat, there is so much judgement that we are taken over by guilt and shame. So, what do we do? We shut down as a way to cope. By bringing an attitude of compassion and curiosity to our behaviours with food, we open a door that leads to insight into what food is doing for us. We are able to learn more about our conditioning, our habits and triggers. We are able to identify our needs.

Here are 4 ways to bring more compassion to your relationship with food…

Notice Your Self-Talk

When you eat, is there running commentary on what you should or shouldn’t be eating? Do you beat yourself up for eating too much or if you eat certain foods?

Do you see eating cake and carbs as a big failure?

Respond Kindly To The Voice

Once you have noticed all the negative comments. Notice how that feels.

Does it encourage skilful actions? Or do you react rebelliously? When you notice a harsh comment replace it with more gentle or neutral comment. For every cruel comment about your eating or your body, have a kinder counter comment ready. For example:

Negative comment: Eating cake is bad and unhealthy

Counter comment: I choose to eat for both nourishment and pleasure, both are healthy.

Embrace The Middle Way

Diet culture emphasises good foods and bad foods. Can you see food as neutral? Neither good nor bad, reminding yourself that kale and cake can co-exist. Happy and healthy eating is flexible. It makes room for nourishment and pleasure. Satisfaction and pleasure is good for our emotional, mental and physical well-being.

Tune Into What Your Body Wants

We spend a lot of time in our heads. The mind judges, the body has an innate wisdom.

This week a client shared a story with me. Her “strict” voice was telling her she should eat eggs but she didn’t feel like eggs. What she felt like was toast with blueberry jam. We’ve been working on permission to eat what she wants for a while, so she allowed herself to eat what she wanted. She felt so satisfied with the toast and jam that food simply did not preoccupy her for the rest of the day. She felt peaceful and calm.

Treating your relationship with food with self-compassion is about talking to yourself the way you would talk to someone you respect, value and see goodness in. We are brought up to believe that self-criticism is a way to motivate, when in fact it leads to our confidence being undermined and leads to fear of failure. Motivation from a compassionate space leads to action from a place of care versus a sense of inadequacy and judgement.

Having compassion for yourself and your relationship with food, is not about never overeating or eating perfectly or never binge eating. It’s more about developing care for yourself EVEN WHEN you feel you’ve “messed up”. It isn’t about letting yourself “off the hook” and “getting sloppy”, it’s more about connecting with yourself to gain deeper insight.

May you treat yourself more kindly,

“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen L, Denver, USA

“I felt hopeless and helpless in my daily struggle with mindless eating for many years. Then I found Xen which is exactly what I needed! My decision to work with her helped me to finally repair my relationship with food. It's changing my life for the better, one day at a time. Now I have control over the food, instead of it having control over me, which is the way it should be. I highly recommend Xen to anyone who has a desire to overcome similar food struggles. Xen, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Karen J, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

“Working with Xenia was amazing. She armed me with a bunch of tools to help me through difficult times. Xenia is the kind of person who really cares for helping you in the long run. Her work will forever have an impact in my life.”

Daniela Velásquez, Ottawa, Canada

“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

Heather B, Cork. Ireland

“This is the answer for those of you that struggle with food and all that surrounds it. Xenia said that I could make peace with food and it seemed at the time like an impossible dream. Turns out it isn’t. I recommend Xen and the mindful eating / intuitive eating approach unreservedly. If you have any questions about my experience, please get in touch. Thank you Xen. My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Xenia was a walking, living, breathing example of what can be done. I laughed and cried my way through a short course in this fascinating and invigorating programme with her, and have gained a designer tote full of coping skills that go way beyond containing kilogrammes. I feel infinitely lighter. I am doing this for me and, yes, you can do this for you too! And believe me, I’m cynical!”

Diana, Vancouver, Canada

“I don’t obsess about food like I used to. I am thinking differently about food and feeling so much more relaxed around all types of food. It’s wonderful to have pleasure and satisfaction from eating.”

Sarah, Illinois, USA

“I learned a new way of thinking about food. I have learned that food is not the enemy and that it can actually be enjoyed with no guilt.”

Sandy, London, United Kingdom

Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating