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Healing Your Relationship with Food Part 3: Embracing Self Compassion

If you've been on the rollercoaster of restrictive diets, labeling certain foods as "bad," and internalizing harmful beliefs about certain eating habits, know that you're not alone. I know the frustration that stems from this cycle—how it can leave you feeling trapped and disconnected from the joy that food should bring. And, it’s not your fault!

There’s a LOT of misinformation out there, a lot of pressure to jump on a “quick fix”, plus the unrealistic images of wellness often promoted by the media. I’m here to tell you it's time to release those negative associations and embrace a new narrative—one that empowers you to nourish your body and soul without guilt or restriction. This 3-part series is a journey together towards liberation, where food becomes a source of pleasure, energy, and vitality, guiding you towards a path of lasting well-being.

girl smiling and practicing self care

Why do we need self compassion?

In a world that constantly bombards us with dietary advice, food trends, and notions of what is "right" and "wrong" to eat, it's easy to fall into the trap of self-criticism and guilt. We often forget that our relationship with food goes far beyond the physical act of eating; it's deeply intertwined with our emotions and self-perception. Cultivating self-compassion is the key to breaking free from the guilt and shame often associated with our food choices. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of self-compassion in our dietary journey and discover how it can help us lead healthier, more balanced lives.

The Guilt and Shame Cycle

The guilt and shame associated with food choices often result from unrealistic expectations and societal pressures. We're constantly bombarded with messages that certain foods are "bad" or that we should adhere to strict diets. When we inevitably deviate from these ideals, we feel guilty and ashamed, perpetuating a harmful cycle. It can sometimes feel like an invisible weight, pressing down on your shoulders—a mixture of guilt and shame. These emotions, though distinct, often intertwine, creating a cycle that can be challenging to break. But here's the brave truth: you're not alone in this journey. Many of us have experienced the guilt and shame cycle, and it's okay to seek understanding and healing. This cycle is often referred to in 4 parts:

  1. Behavior: The guilt and shame cycle often begins with a specific behavior, an action that you believe to be a mistake or wrongdoing. These behaviors can range from minor slip-ups to more significant actions. Remember, it's brave to acknowledge your actions and their impact on your emotions.

  2. Thoughts: Guilt typically starts innocently enough. It often stems from a feeling of wrongdoing or falling short of our own or others' expectations. It's that inner voice that says, "You should have done better" or "You shouldn't have done that." Guilt can serve as a moral compass, guiding us towards more responsible actions. However, when it lingers or intensifies, it can morph into a destructive force.

  3. Emotions: Negative thoughts can lead to emotions of guilt and shame. Guilt typically revolves around feeling bad about a specific behavior or action you've taken. On the other hand, shame goes deeper, making you feel flawed as a person. These emotions can be overwhelming and distressing, but it's crucial to welcome them with open arms, understanding that they are a natural response to your thoughts.

  4. Consequences: Here's where the cycle gains momentum. Guilt can trigger shame, and shame can intensify guilt. It's a loop that feeds on itself, leading to overwhelming feelings of self-blame, self-criticism, and self-judgment. You may find yourself caught in a never-ending cycle of feeling guilty for experiencing shame and ashamed for feeling guilty.


Breaking free from this cycle with self compassion

The guilt and shame cycle is a formidable adversary, but it is not invincible. With bravery, warmth, and self-compassion, you can navigate these complex emotions and emerge stronger on the other side. Remember, you are worthy of love, forgiveness, and healing. It's time to break free from the cycle and embrace a brighter, more compassionate future. Self-compassion, a concept popularized by psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff, involves treating ourselves with the same kindness, understanding, and support that we would offer to a close friend in times of suffering or difficulty. It comprises three main components:

  1. Self-kindness: This involves extending warmth and gentleness to ourselves, especially when we make mistakes or face challenges. Instead of harsh self-criticism, we embrace self-encouragement and understanding. When you make a food choice that doesn't align with your goals, instead of criticizing yourself, offer kind and supportive self-talk. Treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend.

  2. Common humanity: Recognizing that we are not alone in our struggles is a vital aspect of self-compassion. We all make food choices that may not align with our health goals from time to time, and that's perfectly normal. Understanding our shared humanity helps us avoid feelings of isolation and inadequacy. Remind yourself that everyone has moments of weakness or makes less-than-ideal food choices. You are not alone in this journey, and perfection is not the goal.

  3. Mindfulness: (are you noticing a theme here?) Mindfulness involves being present in the moment without judgment. When it comes to food, this means being aware of our choices, enjoying the experience of eating, and letting go of guilt or anxiety surrounding our decisions. Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your food choices, savoring the flavors, and eating without distractions. This can help you make more conscious and satisfying choices.


My final tips to embrace self-compassion on your wellness journey

  1. Vulnerability: Vulnerability is your superpower in this journey. It takes courage to share your struggles with someone you trust—a friend, family member, or therapist. When you open up about your guilt and shame, you allow the light of understanding to shine on those dark emotions. Remember, vulnerability is not weakness; it's the path to healing.

  2. Community: Connect with a supportive community or therapist who can help you navigate your relationship with food and self-compassion. Sharing your struggles and successes can be empowering.

  3. Celebrate your wins: Whether it's a small achievement or a significant milestone, treat yourself with warmth and appreciation for the progress you've made. Every step counts, and acknowledging your efforts is a crucial act of self-kindness.

  4. Affirmations: Affirmations are your secret allies in self-compassion. Create positive affirmations that remind you of your worth, strength, and resilience. Repeat these affirmations regularly to reinforce your self-compassionate mindset.


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In your journey to heal your relationship with food, remember that self-compassion is your most treasured companion. It's not about perfection; it's about progress, understanding, and embracing your beautifully imperfect self. Celebrate every step, silence your inner critic with a welcoming voice, and seek support when needed. Unplug from comparisons, practice gratitude, and affirm your worth daily. Your path to a healthier relationship with food is brave, warm, and full of growth. You are not alone on this journey; we're here together, supporting and cheering for your well-being.

I hope you've enjoyed Part 3 of Healing Your Relationship with Food! What did you think, did you learn something new, or do you still have questions?

Share them with me wherever you like to hangout!

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Steph Genco, plant-based wellness & nutrition coach for women.

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