The art and science of self-compassion

Today I had the good fortune to listen to a most excellent teleseminar sponsored by The Center for Mindful Eating. Jean Fain, LCSW, MSW, author of The Self-Compassion Diet, spoke about treating eating issues with loving-kindness.

She discussed research by Jean Kirsteller, PhD on the use of Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) for treatment of binge eating disorder as well as to promote weight loss without dieting. Not only was MB-EAT successful at decreasing binge eating and promoting weight loss, but it also decreased symptoms of depression, reduced fixation on food and body weight, and helped participants live more deliberately. Basically, instead of obsession about their bodies and what they were putting in them, they were better able to savor the everyday activities of living and just being.
Fain also referenced research on self-compassion by Kristen Neff, who is a pioneer in that area. Apparently, Neff has said (tongue-in-cheek) that self-compassion research is boring because the results are so predictable. In other words, self-compassion works! Self-compassion involves:
  1. Mindful Awareness (paying attention to the here-and-now, just as you are)
  2. Loving-Kindness (treating yourself with love and kindness, as you would with a loved one)
  3. Common Humanity (remembering that everyone suffers, and that you are not alone and don’t have to go it alone)

Neff’s research suggests that self-compassion:

  • Reduces emotional eating
  • Improves mood and outlook
  • Decreases depression and anxiety
  • Enhances attention and concentration
  • Decreases risk of heart disease (and some other diseases)

Yes, I think we need more self-compassion and less self-criticism and self-stigmatization of our bodies. If you would like to learn more, here are three excellent websites, chock full of information:

I know I posted Kristen Neff’s TEDx talk some months ago, but it’s worth repeating. Also, this weekend I’ll type up and share a simple loving-kindness meditation that Fain taught the teleseminar attendees.