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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by LaurenFlower.co to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

I’ve had so many clients come to me saying “I’m doing everything ‘right’ – taking all the supplements, eating all the ‘right’ foods, and working out everyday, but I still don’t feel my healthiest. I feel drained and guilty when I do something wrong.”

They feel frustrated and upset that all the work and energy they’re putting into their diet and exercise isn’t making them feel how they expected to feel. Often, they’re surprised when I don’t have the secret nutrient or exercise plan either.

That’s because you don’t need yet another supplement, diet, or workout.

What you need is self-compassion, which in my opinion is the most important nutrient for a healthy lifestyle.

What is Self-Compassion?

According to Kristin Neff, self-compassion is made up of three parts – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. She says:

“Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

It’s extending the compassion we have for others towards ourselves as well.

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, let’s think about how we can practice self-compassion.


When it comes to our diets, we can be very self-critical towards ourselves yet compassionate towards others. Think about if a friend has ever told you she “shouldn’t” eat a dessert and felt guilty for it – what would you say? I know a lot of people would be kind back by offering suggestions like “Get it and enjoy it! It’s okay to eat dessert” or “Savor it mindfully!”

Yet, when it comes to feeling judgmental towards our food choices, we may not offer the same kindness towards ourselves. In order to find joy and freedom with food, self-compassion is key.

It means countering the critical voices with kindness by reminding yourself that it’s okay to eat what you want and enjoy it. It’s being mindful and knowing that you are capable of listening to and honoring your body’s inner cues of hunger, fullness, and cravings.

Most importantly, it’s knowing that you’re not alone in your food struggles. So many people these days struggle with dieting cycles, disordered eating, or eating disorders but hide in shame. This is where you can tell yourself “Hey, I’m feeling guilty for eating this, but it’s okay. I’m not the only one feeling this way, and instead of staying stuck in this shame, I think I’ll practice self-care right now.”


When it comes to exercise, our common cultural belief is “more is better” and “no pain, no gain.” Yet, all our bodies are unique, and it’s more important to find movement patterns that feel good in your body and that you enjoy. Sure, some discomfort in movement is part of the process, but it shouldn’t feel painful, and that may be a sign of injury or overuse.

Practice self-compassion by understanding your body’s natural cycles – some days, you’ll feel energized and want to move while other days you’ll need to rest. Be kind to yourself by letting your body guide the way by knowing some days 10 minutes of movement will be enough while other days you’ll want to keep moving for an hour or more. Know that it’s okay if you sleep in late in the morning and miss a morning class because your body needed sleep more.

Be mindful with your movement patterns. Leave the fitness trackers behind and tune into how your body feels – do you feel energized, alive, tired, emotional, meditative? Be intuitive with your movement and honor how and how much your body wants to move each day. For me, this means some days I go for a long walk with my dog while others I do a sweaty yoga class and still others I do a really slow, gentle yoga class. This is joyful, intuitive movement for, but it will vary for you.

Body Image

Body image beliefs often are part of the underlying beliefs that lead to guilt or shame around your food and movement patterns. If you feel uncomfortable in your body, it can show up as feeling bad about eating certain foods or not exercising.

Practicing self-compassion towards our bodies is recognizing body diversity and the uniqueness of our own body. It means being kind and honoring your process. For example, it means knowing that most people have days we feel uncomfortable in our bodies, but we can choose to be kind to ourselves through self-care anyways.

Mindfulness shows up as tuning into how your body feels inside rather than how it looks outside. It’s letting yourself get comfortable with physical and emotional sensations within your body and recognizing your inner body. Your physical body is only one part of you, and it is the home for all the parts of you that make you you – including your heart. Feel your heartbeat inside you, notice how your breath lifts and lowers your torso, and observe the sensitive sensations on your skin. That’s your life-force.

Remember self-compassion is a process, so be patient with yourself along the way. We’re taught to be critical towards ourselves, so it takes time to unravel all the beliefs and patterns we’ve picked up through our lives.

Self-compassion is a practice after all. It’s reminding yourself to come back to being kind to yourself, practicing mindfulness, and recognizing common humanity. It may start as finding seconds of compassion but with time will grow to minutes and longer moments of self-compassion.

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