Self-compassion and Overeating | TMOHP 004

We can’t talk about making real changes with your relationship with food without talking about self-compassion. Believe it or not, self-compassion is a lot more important than tough love if you want to leave overeating struggles behind.

There’s some confusion about what self-compassion really is, and a lot of busy women are using poor substitutes for the real self-kindness they deserve (and then wondering why it feels so unsatisfying). 

Listen to this episode and discover the critical relationship between self-compassion, mindset, and your relationship with food.

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What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • The questions to ask to reconnect with real self-compassion
  • Why there is no list of activities that are self-compassion and why it all begins with mindset
  • What self-compassion has to do with overeating
  • How to start generating more self-compassion
  • The attitude of self-compassion and the power you can generate from it

Listen to the full episode:

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Full episode transcript:

If you're somebody who is trying to make a change with overeating or emotional eating, then we need to talk about self compassion. Let's talk about self-compassion what it has to do with overeating and why you need it to create freedom from overeating and peace with food. So, first of all, self compassion is not a cupcake. It's not a brownie. It is not a big bowl of ice cream at the end of the day, but it also isn't as simple as the advice you read in magazines, which is usually something like take a bubble bath. Recently, I was talking to somebody who was doing some research on emotional eating, and they were asking me for a step-by-step process. So we were talking about triggers and things that trigger emotional eating. And she said, okay, so now, you know what your triggers are? What is the first step?

And what I heard myself saying was something that I say all the time, which is the process of creating freedom from over eating always begins with understanding that a there's a reason that emotional eating is happening or any other kind of overeating. And we have to approach that habit, that over eating habit with compassion, with self compassion, and then later we were talking about progress and creating results for yourself and staying on track and how easy it is for smart busy women to get stuck in cycles with perfectionism and feeling like it has to be all or nothing. You've either succeeded or you failed and endlessly starting over. And again, as I was thinking about this and explaining it, I heard myself saying that we can only create a path forward that's workable. And that feels right for us. When we start from a place of having compassion for ourselves and compassion for our feelings and compassion for our needs and, and compassion and respect for our hidden hungers, this issue of compassion and the importance of finding a way to connect with your own self compassion is so important on this journey.

And it's something that comes up a lot in questions that I get on social. And particularly in coaching in my group coaching program, a question that comes up a lot is what does self compassion look like? What are some things somebody does if they are having self-compassion like recently in my coaching program, somebody said, you know, I know there's things like bubble bath or taking walks, but those aren't always possible, especially in the middle of my Workday, what are some things I can really do if I'm trying to practice self-compassion and then as we were talking about it on this group, coaching call, somebody else said, well, what's the difference between self-compassion and rationalization? How do I know if I'm being compassionate with myself, or if I'm just being overly, um, air quotes here, overly gentle and nice to myself, and I'm being too easy on myself.

So I just don't move forward. So this idea of compassion is really important, but it's also a place where smart high-performing women can sometimes get stuck. So I want to talk a little bit today about what self compassion really is and what it isn't and why it is so integral to creating a different relationship. One that works for you with food and putting an end to overeating and emotional eating. Let's start by talking about what self-compassion is and why you need it to make peace with food. Now self-compassion is frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted, and mis-characterized especially in marketing and in the media, and also by busy women who are juggling stress or overload. So I think it's really important to be clear about what self-compassion is not self-compassion is not a binge or an overindulgence that leaves you feeling guilty or frustrated with yourself or, or despairing, right?

Self-compassion is not numbing out or mindlessly wasting time procrastinating or rationalizing or endlessly avoiding or skipping something that's important to you. That is not self compassion, right? Self-compassion is not putting a bandaid or a big, huge bowl of ice cream on top of whatever is bothering you. Instead of addressing it in a way that isn't going to allow it to evolve or heal or allow you to move forward. The thing is that often when we're too tired or too busy or too stressed, then we confuse short-term fixes or band-aids that will maybe quickly boost or transform or numb our feelings. We confuse these things with self-compassion. We focus on the short-term relief that maybe we're going to feel, but we ignore the bigger, and sometimes the eventual boomerang effect that might happen, right, where you feel frustrated or bloated or mad that you missed an opportunity, or that you got, you lost an hour getting sucked into the internet rabbit hole, or that you ended up eating the whole pint of ice cream, because you went into this mindless eating thing, telling yourself that you deserved it, right?

These things are not self-compassion. The thing is if you have been using short-term fixes or numbing as a substitute for self-compassion, you may draw a blank. When you start to ask yourself what self-compassion really looks like for you. Number one, I want to say that's okay. It is okay to not know how to use a muscle that you haven't been using very much. It is okay. If that muscle is weak, number two, it doesn't mean that asking the question isn't valuable. We learn and grow. So by being asked and by asking ourselves questions that we don't know the answer to right away, that is how you stretch. That is how you learn. That is how your mind and your thinking and your beliefs start to expand. So thinking about this whole self-compassion topic, it might push buttons for the perfectionist in you who doesn't really know what that looks like for you.

And that does not mean it is not valuable. And that may exactly mean that this is a really valuable place to be putting your attention. Just beginning to ask, what does self-compassion look like for me? So one of the things that comes up sometimes in my group coaching program, your missing piece is requests for lists of activities that are quote unquote self-compassion right. Can you give me a list of things that I can do when I'm trying to generate? Self-compassion what I'm trying to show myself self-compassion but the thing is there is no list of activities like that. Self-compassion, isn't a list of activities. In fact, there are a lot of activities that might feel like a real act of kindness and compassion for one person or in one setting, like maybe giving yourself time to connect with some friends on Facebook and that same activity for somebody else or in a different set of circumstances or done in a different way, could be just a complete numbing rabbit hole and avoidance, and maybe the opposite of self-compassion for somebody else.

The thing about self-compassion is that it is a mindset self-compassion is an attitude and a point of view, right? We can only figure out how to show ourselves self-compassion and we can only get into that place of, okay, what does that look like for me? What do, what do I need to do when we're in a place of feeling self compassion? When I have decided I am deserving of self-compassion and I am ready to give that to myself, then I can start to experiment with what feels good to me. Now, I'm going to talk more about why we're talking about self-compassion and what self-compassion has to do with overeating and emotional eating in a minute. But this point that I've made here is really important that self-compassion has everything to do with attitude and your thoughts and your beliefs. It's so much more of that than it is a specific action, right?

So to give you another example, think about going for a walk, going for a walk and feel fairly different, depending on your attitude, a walk could feel peaceful and rejuvenating and calming and anchoring. It could be a huge expression of self-compassion or a walk could be a should. It could feel like punishing yourself. It could feel like I have to do this because I have to get 2000 more steps, right? Depending on the place that it comes from, depending on what you're thinking or feeling and why you made that choice actions can represent very different things. So let me say a few more things about how you can start to respond to yourself with more self-compassion. And here's why this is important. If you are somebody who has been around the block a few times with struggles and attempts to change emotional, eating and overeating, a part of that cycle has quite likely been you feeling frustrated with yourself, maybe even angry with yourself, perhaps some guilt at not being successful in making the changes that you want to make, and sometimes even shame.

And self-blame now a big part of diet culture sets us up to think about making changes with food and eating and overeating is to blame ourselves, right? If a plan didn't work, it's your fault. You didn't try hard enough. You didn't run on the hamster wheel fast enough to somehow transform that hamster wheel into something that would take you somewhere. The whole process of traditional process, the process that processes that don't work when it comes to changing your eating and your overeating and the processes that get us trapped, have to do with dead end roads that are created when we blame ourselves. See, here's the thing. When you get mad at yourself, when you get frustrated with yourself, when you tell yourself it is all your fault, you have been the judge and jury, you have solved. The problem you have told yourself, here is the problem I failed.

And I'm, this is an air quotes. This is what you're telling yourself, right? Or it didn't work. Here is the reason it is my fault, right? The verdict is I am, I am a lazy person, or I don't have enough willpower. I didn't try hard enough for whatever that thing is. When you end up being judge and jury to yourself, when you end up using self-blame as the explanation for why you are stuck in cycles with food and overeating, you've closed off all roads of exploration, you have closed off your ability to be curious. You have closed down your ability to explore the reasons. And there are reasons remember that you are overeating or emotional eating or grabbing something to eat when you're not hungry or snacking all afternoon. There's a reason for that. But once you decide, Hey, it's all my fault. I just need to be stronger.

You lose the ability to be curious. You lose the ability to explore hidden hungers. And because of that, you can't address the reason that food has all the power in this equation, and you can't change the cycle, that it just leaves you running harder and harder and trying to get faster on the hamster wheel. That doesn't take you anywhere. So let's talk about self-compassion Kristin Neff, who is the biggest chief expert researcher on self-compassion has a really lovely three-part way of explaining the process of experiencing or giving yourself self-compassion. So the first step in that process is noticing your suffering or your pain or your discomfort, just noticing. So I'm sad or I'm having a hard time or the system I'm having a really difficult day. That meeting was really stressful, right? This is a new step for a lot of women who are struggling with emotional eating or overeating it's it's, it's the step that allows you to stop and say, Hey, something's going on right over eating always happens for a reason.

So just starting and noticing your suffering or your pain or discomfort is an act of self-compassion not only is it an act of self-compassion, it is completely different than stepping into that place of judgment, calling ourselves stupid, or going down that guilt spiral and the would've should've, could've kind of thinking that just leaves you feeling bad. And as I said, an example of noticing your suffering or your pain or discomfort is it's, it can be very simple. It can be as simple as just saying to yourself kindly I'm having a really hard time. Okay. The second part of the process is to respond with your heart, with warmth and a desire to, to be of comfort or to help in some way. And you can do this to yourself and for yourself. So sometimes people say, how do I do that? Or I don't know how that looks, you know, what does that look like?

Or I'm so mad at myself. I just can't do that. Often. The easiest path is to think about how you'd feel if you were helping someone else that you love or you're care about. Think about sitting down next to someone you really care about. Um, think about if you really want to pull out that self-compassion in an easy way, think about a small child that you care about and imagine yourself sitting down on the stairs beside them. And they're having a really hard day. And it's something that you can't fix, right? So how would you respond from your heart? What would you say to them? How would you treat them? What I find really helpful is to notice that you can most likely come up with some words or some acts or some feelings of warmth or kindness for somebody else. If you struggle with self compassion, you might find that you have all the skills and strengths inside you.

In fact, they may be your top strengths and skills. It's just that often they have gotten focused on others and not on you, or you're okay with expressing these in certain areas. But the relationship that you have with food and with your eating has gotten so fraught that it has been hard to access self-compassion in this area. Right? So ask yourself, how would you respond to a friend in this situation? The third part of Kristin Neff's model. And this is so important, is that along with noticing your pain and responding with your heart, your respect, that the suffering and the pain or the imperfection, or the difficulty that you're having is a part of your humanness. It's not a defect, it's not a personal inadequacy. It's just a part of being human, right? I will be talking about this. It's a whole different episode, but perfectionism is a major cause of overeating.

And when we acknowledge that we're as human as everybody else, and that we have bad days or difficult days, or we make mistakes. And it's just part of our adorable humanness, just that right there allows us to be kinder to ourselves. On top of this, when we approach imperfection from a place of it's it's human, when we approach it from a place of self compassion, it is so much more possible to learn and to grow from our mistakes or missteps or our bad days self-compassion changes everything. So let's pull this all in to what does self-compassion have to do with peace, with food and freedom from overeating, everything, really an attitude of self compassion is what allows us to break the cycles of guilt and self-blame and shame and perfectionism and attitude of self compassion is what allows us to be curious and to explore hidden hungers, to understand, and to learn more about the reasons that we are overeating, which if you remember the reasons we're overeating are the reasons that food has the power that it does in our lives.

So an attitude of self-compassion allows us to, instead of being judgemental and angry at our, our, at ourselves around our eating or our overeating or what the number on the scale was an attitude of self-compassion allows us to be curious instead of frustrated or angry or furious. And when we can be curious, not only can we learn and grow, grow in our understanding of what's going on, here's the thing when we have self-compassion and can be curious, then we can begin to ask ourselves what we really need and what we really crave that isn't food. And when we can start to address our needs in that way, instead of bypassing them, by going to the kitchen or putting a bandaid on them by, by getting something to eat, to push that thing back down, when we can be curious about what we really need and crave that isn't food and, and start to ask big questions about how we can take care of that or take care of ourselves, because we need that thing with self compassion, it changes everything.

It is only when we come from a place of feeling warmth and kindness and respect that we can begin to generate and creatively think about ideas and activities and new ways of thinking that might feel good. That might be nourishing. That might be comforting. And that's when you start to come up with a list of things that are self-compassion right, and they're going to be different in one moment, it might be a nap in another one. It might be a kindly kick in the to get out the door and to breathe some fresh air and to get some exercise. So here's what I want you to do when this episode is over. I want you to take some time and think about your own current relationship with self compassion. And I want you to think about your relationship with food. Where, where have you been closing the door to self-compassion? Where have you been dead, ending yourself with guilt and self-blame and talking meanly to yourself, right? Where could you benefit from showing yourself more? Self-compassion allowing yourself to be curious or allowing yourself to be kinder and more caring with yourself. I want you to take a few minutes and really think about this self-compassion is a game changer and it has everything to do with transforming your relationship with food.


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If you’re a smart, busy, high-achiever who’s tired of going in circles with overeating and emotional eating, and you're ready to create results that last, check out The Club today!

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