Self-compassion for the holidays & trusting ourselves with food
Suzanne Manser, PhD
Licensed Psychologist

Tool of the Day: 


The holiday season is really fun and festive for a lot of people. It can also be stressful, lonely, and painful for a lot of us. It’s an especially good time to make sure we’re focusing on self-care.


One act of self-care that we truly suck at is self-compassion. We either believe we don’t deserve it, or we simply don’t know how to offer it to ourselves.


Let’s start with some definitions:


Compassion is feeling concern for someone else’s pain and wanting to alleviate that pain.


Self-compassion, then, is feeling concern for ourselves when we’re feeling pain and wanting to alleviate our pain. It’s being kind and loving to ourselves when we’re in pain.


As simple as it sounds, it’s a challenging concept for a lot of us to grasp – the idea of being kind to ourselves when we’re in pain. We often get stuck on the reason that we’re in pain; we decide that we’re the reason we’re in pain – we did it to ourselves – and therefore we don’t deserve kindness for it. That’s missing the entire point, right? Self-compassion is being kind and loving to ourselves because we’re in pain, no matter why we’re in pain.


Withholding self-compassion doesn’t “teach us a lesson” or somehow motivate us to do it differently next time. In fact, just the opposite.


Self-compassion has enormous benefits: it increases our motivation to care for ourselves, eases pain, decreases stress, helps us to manage depression and anxiety better, and increases resilience. These are the effects of us being kind to ourselves. They are profound.


Self-compassion is a self-care superpower. It’s something we can all offer ourselves if we are in pain this holiday season, or any time. If you are stressed, lonely, or any kind of upset, treat yourself the way you would treat a friend who was feeling the same way. Give yourself extra love, patience, and understanding. Don't be a jerk to yourself. That's what it takes to reduce our pain and stress and improve our resiliency.


Take good care of yourselves, friends.



For more about self-compassion, including guided practices and exercises, check out this website.


Kristin Neff, PhD literally wrote the book on self-compassion.


I've also got an article with some more on the topic.

  Worth Checking Out  


Podcasts to help you through the holidays:


Dealing with Holidays at Work: Forced Cheer and Awkward Parties

How to Handle Holiday Stress

Holiday Survival Guide: Family Style

Surviving Holiday Diet Talk

Holiday Help without a Side of Diet Culture


Eating Disorders Corner

“Food is not the enemy. Self-hate is.”
— TheLoveYourselfChallenge

 This corner is devoted to addressing eating disorders, disordered eating, and body image. I have specialized in treating people with all of the above since 1999. It is a large part of my work and my heart. This corner is for those of us on the journey of disconnecting our worth from our size or what we eat.

How to Trust Ourselves with Food

In part 1 of this article, I wrote about diet culture deliberately teaching us that we can’t trust ourselves with food. We’ve been taught that we will make “bad” choices and overeat if we don’t follow some external set of rules that someone else has created.


That’s all wrong, of course. Diet culture’s rules exist purely to make money off of us. It turns out, our bodies are actually designed to do this whole eating thing and can actually be trusted. Even we can be trusted. Where we’ve gotten off-course is in trying to get our body to look like someone else’s body (that’s not how bodies work). We believe the lie that we are untrustworthy if our body isn’t as thin as we think it should be.


So we have to start there, by radically accepting that our bodies are not “wrong” if they are not smaller. That is the set-up for self-trust: believe our own body, not the people trying to make money from labeling it as “wrong.”


To trust ourselves with food, we have to throw away everyone else’s rules about what, when, and how much to eat. We need to start paying attention to ourselves. That’s the key. To trust ourselves, we need to be aware of how hungry and how full we are. Most diets have us ignore those extremely relevant cues altogether, which disconnects us from ourselves and breeds mistrust.


Start by noticing, at various times of the day, how hungry and how full you are. Use a Hunger Scale if you are out of touch with your cues.


Next, and very importantly, when you are hungry, eat, even if it’s “not time” and even if you just ate.


When you’re hungry, there are three relevant questions:

How hungry am I?

What am I hungry for?

What food is available to me?


If you’re not used to asking these questions, it may take some time to get in touch with the answers. Stick with it, keep asking the questions. This is how we learn our body and learn to trust it.


While you’re eating, pay reasonable attention to the food. If you pay no attention to it, you won’t feel satisfied or full when you’re done. This often leads to mistrust of hunger and body.


Finally, f you’ve learned that feeling full is “bad” or unnecessary, you may not know what feeling full feels like. Use a Hunger Scale to get familiar with what full feels like for you, and experiment with stopping eating when you feel that way.


If you’re already stuck in a pattern of eating more or less than our bodies want, then it may take professional help to get you to listen to yourself, but it is possible, and it is the way out of diet culture and the self-mistrust it promotes.


We can trust ourselves with food. It’s diet culture we can’t trust.



Books to help you unhook from diet culture and trust yourself with food:


The F*ck It Diet

Intuitive Eating

Reclaiming Body Trust

and a podcast:

Trust Your Gut: A beginner's guide to intuitive eating

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vol. 2, issue 4

My intent with each issue of this newsletter is to bring more ease, self-acceptance, meaning, and fulfillment into our lives.


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