To Stop Binge Eating, Try Self-Compassion

Binge eating and self-compassion seem like they don’t belong in the same sentence. Anyone who struggles with binge eating probably struggles significantly with self-compassion and regularly engages in negative self-talk. Calling themselves names, beating themselves up and using shame based tactics in an effort “to get back on track” is often what comes after the binge. This rarely, if ever, works!

So, what does work? Instead of shaming yourself, get curious. What happened? What emotions were you trying to numb or avoid? What did you really need instead of food? We use food for so many emotional payoffs, but never get the satisfaction we crave because it never actually meets the need.

Kristin Neff, PhD (aka The Self-Compassion Lady) has conducted extensive research through The University of Texas at Austin on self-compassion. In an exercise she calls Self-Compassion Break, she encourages participants to think of a situation causing stress and visualize it clearly, including all of the details. In this case, bring up your struggle with binge eating. Now, say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering.” Using this word, suffering, is so interesting. Although, binge eating is, in fact, the definition of suffering, very few of us clearly identify it. It hurts. It is hard.

Next, say to yourself: “Suffering is part of life.” In this mindfulness step, Dr. Neff encourages us to see suffering as a global experience. We are not alone in our suffering, but it often feels this way. In fact, the more alone we feel, the more shame comes with the experience.

Finally, say to yourself: “May I be kind to myself.” or “May I give myself what I need.” What you need isn’t a kick in the pants. What you need isn’t more shame to add to your pile. What you do need is to figure out why you are hurting and find comfort without self-destruction. Often, food has been the “go to” for so long, we don’t know how to cope without it. If you want help in figuring it out, contact me today!

For additional self-compassion exercises, check out Dr. Neff’s workbook: The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.
Michelle Lewis

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