Intuitive Eating

Self compassion and shame

March 13, 2015

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

An article was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders last year highlighting the benefits of compassion-focused therapy (CFT) for ED recovery.  Results showed improvements in ED symptoms in as little as 12 weeks. 

According to the authors: "CFT..seeks to help self-critical, shame-prone individuals cultivate an attitude of inner-kindness toward their personal shortcomings and distress."

Compassion is something I not only model, but cultivate, in my clients.  They are so hard on themselves, especially when they are having symptoms of their illness.  When I introduce this concept most of them look at me like I grew a strange appendage or something.  They have no idea how to be compassionate towards themselves.  My trick is to have them say to themselves what they'd say to a friend in a similar situation.  Chances are they're not going to say the same critical things to a friend that they say to themselves.

Self compassion has been shown to decrease anxiety and increase behaviors that move us toward connection and vulnerability – two things that counter shame.  Shame has been correlated with ED symptoms. Brene Brown (one of my favorite authors ever!) is a shame researcher.  She writes and speaks about how connection and vulnerability are the antidotes to shame, and that most of us do 1 of 2 things when in shame: 1) Retreat inward and hide from the world so nobody can see our perceived flaws or 2) Lean in to what's causing us shame and try to "fix" it (I tend toward the 2nd).  Instead she proposes reaching out to a supportive person and talking about what's causing you shame.  By allowing the shameful topic to see the light of day it eventually dissipates.  This may sound difficult and even painful, but I promise it's much less painful than beating yourself up and further shaming yourself for the rest of your life. 

So the next time you're beating yourself up over something, redirect yourself to compassion.  It takes practice, but over time it will become more intuitive.  Here's some inspiration to get you started:

You are the same wonderful person regardless of what you do or don't eat.

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