What’s self-compassion got to do with eating disorder recovery?

lotus compassion

I just finished researching the topic of self-compassion and eating disorder recovery. Part of the reason I chose this topic to research is that I have witnessed both personally and professionally, throughout the years, how at the root of true and lasting recovery self- compassion is present. I interviewed 21 women, all with 3 or more years of sustained recovery, and found out that, number one, sustained, long-term recovery is possible, and that two, self-compassion is the driving force, the “action-former” that took them through all the phases of recovery.

I labeled self-compassion as the holding in the recovery process.

Self-compassion allows for a different way to hold oneself during the challenging moments of recovery and supports one to feel a sense of safety. Self-compassion helps to promote change by increasing one’s ability to deal with the really tough stuff in recovery. It supports and holds difficult emotions, and behaviors.

The most important aspect of self-compassion is that it is something that is obtainable.

When in the midst of recovery it may be difficult to access any feelings of self-love but I am not speaking about self-love, rather, I am speaking about finding a way to be kind to yourself. One of the best ways to consider this is to close your eyes for a brief moment and call to mind one of your best friends. Now think about what you would say to her/him. Do you say the same words to yourself when you are struggling?  See what it would be like to say these same words to yourself the next time a rough thought comes in or a behavior comes your way.

I have much more to say about self-compassion and recovery but for now try to keep these points in mind:

  • You don’t have to love yourself, but you do have to find a way to be kind to yourself
  • One kind thought sparks one more
  • You have a choice each day to meet yourself with kindness and compassion
  • If it’s difficult to come up with a kind thought, place a hand on your heart and just feel the warmth of your hand to your heart.
  • Know that each time you take a breath your body is receiving compassion
  • Even during the worst day we can still intend to be compassionate towards ourselves.

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2 Comments

  • The suggestion to imagine talking to a friend that is struggling really hit home for me. I did actually imagine talking to my daughter if she were struggling in any way. Self compassion is so important as without it the criticism and self hatred take over thus leaving little room for recovery to be practiced. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Madi,

      Yes, you are right on about that. As a matter of fact, all studies show that one of the number one perpetuating factors of ED (especially anorexia) is self-critical perfectionism. Self-compassion has also been studied as a number one factor in mediating that.

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