5 Important Self-Compassion Tips for Eating Disorder Recovery

Dock in a lake

Eating disorder recovery can be a difficult process. Recovery often involves learning new ways to approach your relationship with food. This is often really hard because of the beliefs and emotions that are wrapped up in food.

People with eating disorders often experience distressing feelings, like anxiety or guilt, when they start making recovery-oriented choices. For example, someone may feel guilty if they eat a meal if they are used to restricting.

These disordered beliefs and feelings can make it extremely challenging to not engage in eating disorder behaviors. Some people may feel like they should just be able to just stop these harmful behaviors, and this can lead to self-judgment.

Self-compassion is really important during recovery. Self-compassion is treating ourselves with the same kindness that we would give to a loved one in the same situation. Here are five self-compassion tips for eating disorder recovery:

Eating Disorder Recovery Isn’t Linear

It is normal to have set-backs [1]. Recovery is less like a straight line and is more like a spiral. Someone can spiral up or down without it meaning they are back to square one. While going back to disordered behaviors can be discouraging, this is normal.

Relapse is part of recovery [1]. Relapse can reveal vulnerability factors and what areas someone may need more coping skills in. An example of this is if some relapses after going to a social event because they were triggered.

After the event, they can reflect on what triggered them and how they can cope with this in the future. This awareness can help move them farther in their recovery than they had been before because they learned something new [1].

Recovery Looks Different For Everyone

Painting of Lady in bath Comfort Yourself in Eating Disorder RecoveryEveryone’s definition of recovery is different. Try to focus on what recovery would look like for you. What would an eating-disorder-free life look and feel like for you?

Focus on this and how you are getting closer to this with each step you take towards recovery. Focusing on your personal journey instead of comparing yourself to someone else can help limit self-criticism.

Focus on the Positives

It can be intimidating to think about all the changes you might need to make to reach recovery. It’s good to have goals, so you know what you’re aiming for.

At the same time, it is important to recognize the progress you’ve already made. This can help keep you motivated and feeling positive about the changes you’ve accomplished.

Check for Double-Standards

Remember, self-compassion is giving yourself the same support and kindness that we would give someone else in our same situation. If you are feeling judgmental towards yourself, think about if you would judge a friend the same way. If you wouldn’t, then cut yourself some slack.

Let Yourself Receive Support in Eating Disorder Recovery

Accepting support from other people can be hard for people with eating disorders [1]. However, support from other people can be really helpful during the recovery process.

Allowing yourself to receive help and care from others can make recovery easier. Letting other people be there for you is a way of showing yourself some kindness.

Sometimes people in recovery feel a lot of shame for who they are or how their eating disorder has impacted their life. Regardless, everyone in recovery deserves compassion because eating disorders are a reflection of emotional pain [2]. Anyone who is hurting deserves kindness-including you.


[1] Costin, C. & Schubert-Grabb, G. (2012). 8 keys to recovery from an eating disorder. W.W. Norton & Company.

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published March 31, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on March 31, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.