By Heather Patterson Meyer, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist

Shame is an amazingly powerful emotion.  It leads people to believe that they are bad…in the core of their humanity…not just that they did something bad.  Those who seek treatment for an eating disorder often grapple with a mountain of shame about the way that they look or the way they feel about their bodies.  For that reason, working through that shame can be a powerful way to diffuse an eating disorder’s power.  One way to heal is through utilizing self-compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research, describes self-compassion in the following way:  “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect” (  She continues by outlining the three elements of self-compassion:  self-kindness vs. self-judgment, common humanity vs. isolation, and mindfulness vs. over-identification.  (Read more at

Studies show that self-compassion—not self-criticism—leads to true holistic health:

If you’ve felt a little down in the dumps lately, examine your thoughts about yourself as well as your behaviors. When was the last time you showed yourself a little kindness?

Below is a list of a few practical ways to practice self-compassion. Commit to following at least one of these tips every day this week in order to boost your physical, mental and emotional health.

  1. When you first wake up, name three things you love about yourself.
  2. Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry, rest when you are tired, and surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength.
  3. Create a list of people you admire (those who have contributed to your life, community or the world). Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
  4. Examine your life for any toxic behaviors or relationships and take steps to freeyourself from those poisons.
  5. Wear comfortable clothes that express your personal style and that help you feel good about yourself.
  6. Choose self-mantras that inspire you, such as I am enough or I am worthy of love or I am strong. Write them on sticky notes and place them around your living areas. Take occasional “compassion breaks” and say them out loud to yourself.
  7. Find a method of movement or physical activity that you enjoy; do it regularly, not to lose weight or be fit, but because it makes you feel good and strong. Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness and Friendship.
  8. Create a list of all the things your body lets you do. Read it and add to it often.
  9. Schedule time in your week for you to recharge. During this time, do an activity you love, whether it’s going to see a movie, reading a book, going for a walk, etc.
  10. Practice guided meditation. (Visit the following website to access Dr. Kristin Neff’s self-compassion meditations:

For more information on using self-compassion in eating disorder recovery, please reference the following articles:

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