Self Compassion

Filed Under: Body Acceptance

22 January 2015 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

How can the practice of self-compassion help with overeating?

Can you believe that we are already at the end of the 3rd week of January!? I like to start my new year according to the Chinese calendar in the middle of February, it just gives me more time to adjust to the concept of a new year…This year, my intention is to practice more self compassion. I was introduced to the concept of self compassion by Kristen Neff – she has a wonderful TED talk. For some reason we believe that if we are kind to ourselves, we are being indulgent or that we are letting ourselves off the hook.

I spent many years being very unkind to myself and I know that being hard and critical of yourself is very painful and that pain drives you to all sorts of compulsive behaviour (my favourites were eating sweets, shopping and procrastinating).

According to Neff there are 3 main parts to self compassion:

  • mindful awareness – which means paying attention to what is happening right here, right now, with as much acceptance and as little judgement as possible
  • loving kindness – treating yourself with love and kindness, no matter what, regardless of how much you ate, your weight; how you got there; what you think you should or should not have done – you treat yourself as if you were your own best friend
  • common humanity – this is an acknowledgement that you’re not alone! Suffering is part of life and we all experience suffering at times.

A practice of self compassion can do wonders:

  • it reduces depression and anxiety
  • it improves attention and concentration
  • it decreases insulin resistance
  • it boosts body image and decreases emotional eating!

There are 2 research studies that deal with  body image and emotional eating… The study on emotional eating, was done in 2007, at Wake Forest University USA. The subjects were student dieters. The whole group had to eat a doughnut. Then the group was split. Group A got a compassionate message. Something like: ‘Everyone eats a treat, it’s not the end of the world if you broke your diet”. Group B didn’t get any other input – they were left with their guilt at having broken their diet rules. Both groups were then taken into separate rooms and the showed a movie with a big bowl of sweets.

What happened?

Group A – the group that received a compassionate message, had a few of the sweets.

Group B on the other hand – the group of students that was left with their guilt and no compassionate note ate  LOTS of the sweets

The study on body image was conducted at Fielding University USA. They found that after 3 weeks of listening to short self-compassion meditations, the participants had improved body image and lowered body dissatisfaction and self-consciousness.

Amazing isn’t it?

“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