Intuitive Self Care: How to Cultivate Self-Compassion



I’d been seeing an eating disorder therapist for almost a year up until recently. Katie regularly stressed the importance of being compassionate with myself. The word she often used was “gentle.” As with many things Katie said, I heard her, I really did. I trusted her and knew the words literally coming out of this person’s mouth were the Truth. But I was not yet ready to internalize them. “Gentle” and “Self-compassion” were beautiful mirages, reserved for whom exactly? At that point, they were for the soft, the weak. To embrace self care would mean I’d given up and giving up. In my mind, it meant I was letting myself go. And that my friend, would not do. 

But the chinks in my armor are melting like the beautiful butter I now place on my sweet potato and taste with scrumptious delight.

Self care in small steps

Before writing this I decided to eat. Because I was hungry. As I made my lunch I created a dish based upon my preferences and desires. I found I wanted to add crushed cashews to my tuna as well as sun dried tomatoes. Oooh, a bit of avocado and kraut sounds good. Some cumin and pepper. Voila! I had what I wanted. Placing all of this in a larger bowl, I suddenly opted for a smaller one. I wondered to myself, “why?” In the past I’d learned that placing food in a smaller bowl made one (or so it’s been said) think they had more food.

I wondered to myself if my actions were coming from a place of dieting behavior (self-regulation). But it was actually a little more complicated for me. Part of my issue with overeating in the past, meaning eating past fullness and missing that cue, has been the thought that I don’t have enough. Not having enough, being enough, knowing enough, scarcity in general, has been an issue for me. Placing my food in a larger bowl could validate that, trigger that for me, right now. I don’t expect this to always be a trigger for me. 

Right now I’m realizing what serves me, what helps me, and that my friends is self-care as I see it.

Listening to my body is self care

Another example that’s not quite as esoteric and complicated: I’m currently learning to eat intuitively. As I practice, I’m eating what feels good. Choosing when my body tells me, “yes, this is what we want right now.” I love it when my body tells me as it did today, “meat protein is your jam today.” Sometimes I think about it a bit more. For instance I realized I haven’t had any substantial carbs today other than the milk in my coffee and I thought to myself, “I can change that.” So as I embark on my recovery and because I am a perfectionist as so many others with an ED, I want to do this well, right?! Which means to me, I don’t want to cut foods out of my repertoire as that could signal an issue. Hmmm….how then does my lactose intolerance fit in?

As I practice, I’m eating what feels good, the things my body tells me, “yes, this is what we want right now.”

Goat milk and sheep milk yogurt go down fine but cow milk anything starts trouble in my tummy and on my face (think acne). I think someone without an ED, might say, “So don’t fucking eat it. It’s not that hard.” I get that. But I’m slightly hypervigilant right now and I’m going to give myself the space (self compassion) to be that way right now. It’s OK. So self-care for me, even within the realm of recovery, means cutting out cow milk dairy. And in this instance it is not a form of self-regulation.

How beautiful is that? And how funny is it that I can find such a small thing so beautiful? But indeed I do.

The beauty in it is the honoring of my needs in particular. And the honoring of my needs means being good to self, for my individual definition of good health.

For so long I have mistreated my body and by extension, my Self. It is a glorious thing to take part in these small acts as if kissing my shoulder, my knee, my foreheadThis is no small thing when it comes to self care.

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