Home » How to build a body compassion practice
Body compassion plays a significant role within the intuitive eating framework, and working on embodiment can also be an essential step in your quest to improve your relationship with food.
So what is body compassion, and how can we develop a practice to improve our self-esteem and cultivate positive embodiment? Read on to learn more!
There are several ways in which we can explain or understand what we mean by body compassion. Put simply, it can be defined as how an individual relates and experiences being in their body.
For years, people of all shapes and sizes have been shamed by diet culture, promoting the ‘thin ideal,’ which places smaller bodies above larger ones.
We live in a society where bodies, like foods, are labelled as ‘good and bad’ or ‘healthy and unhealthy,’ leading to weight stigma and food restriction. Where we are never perfect and constantly need to be improving our bodies, appearance and health.
However, it’s important to remember that body compassion is prolonged, difficult work. There is a lot of ‘unlearning’ involved, and it is impossible to reverse beliefs overnight.
However, there may be amazing benefits to working on our body compassion. A recent literature review found that having a stronger body compassion practice was protective against poor body image and eating pathology. Body compassion has therefore been linked to decreasing eating disorder outcomes and disrupting the risk factors that may trigger them. (1)
Other research has shown that major life events are less likely to trigger binge eating episodes when body compassion is present (2) and reduce feelings of shame and guilt. (3)
A body compassion study on young women was also shown to reduce social appearance anxiety, upward appearance comparison, body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, and increase body appreciation and compassion even when tested one month post-intervention. (4)
Body compassion practice is deliberate – it will help to set aside some time each day or week to commit to this form of healing. It can be great to familiarise yourself with these tools and techniques so they feel more natural when you might need them most. Below is some inspiration for what your body compassion practice may look like.
Making rituals and committing to them can be a fantastic stepping stone in your journey to body empowerment. Some examples you could include in a ritual might consist of:
You could write these as a list or in a diagram format to remind you of simple techniques and even add your own ideas too. Hanging this up on a wall or somewhere you will see it daily may act as a gentle reminder to embrace body compassion throughout your day.
Another step you could try is writing a letter to your body. There are plenty of ways in which you could address this, and examples may include:
Both of these letters may feel quite difficult to do but can be liberating and help you to reground with your values and what truly matters.
Ask yourself some questions to further understand your feelings around embodiment and to identify and even alter thought patterns. You could delve into some of the following questions:
Exploring these questions (and others that may come to mind) can be an excellent way of breaking down internalised beliefs, shifting the blame from ourselves to external sources that feed these beliefs.
Remember, practices can be dynamic and change over time as you learn and progress further and develop more skills and tools to better empower yourself. Stay tuned with future articles and learn how to beat diet culture and boost your body image.
This is extremely brave work, and you are doing amazing in beginning the journey of understanding body compassion.
Priya Chotai, BSc ANutr
EHL Team x
1. Braun TD, Park CL, Gorin A. Self-compassion, body image, and disordered eating: A review of the literature. Body Image. 2016 Jun;17:117-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Mar 31. PMID: 27038782.
2. Barata-Santos M, Marta-Simões J, Ferreira C. Body compassion safeguards against the impact of major life events on binge eating. Appetite. 2019 Mar 1;134:34-39. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.12.016. Epub 2018 Dec 14. PMID: 30557589.
3. Oliveira S, Trindade IA, Ferreira C. The buffer effect of body compassion on the association between shame and body and eating difficulties. Appetite. 2018 Jun 1;125:118-123. Doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.01.031. Epub 2018 Feb 7. PMID: 29427690.
4. Seekis V, Bradley GL, Duffy AL. Does a Facebook-enhanced Mindful Self-Compassion intervention improve body image? An evaluation study. Body Image. 2020 Sep;34:259-269. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.07.006. Epub 2020 Jul 24. PMID: 32717627.
Embody Health London champions food freedom, positive body image, mental health and emotional wellbeing through a uniquely blended scientific and holistic approach. The EHL team specialises in treating chronic dieting and eating disorders by coaching clients to build confidence and reduce anxiety around their eating habits and food choices.
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