Self Compassion

22 January 2015 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Filed Under: Body Acceptance

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?

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