Book Review: The Self Compassion Diet by Jean Fain

The Self Compassion Diet by Jean Fain is a book about the latest scientific research regarding self compassion and relationships. It’s about building a healthier relationship with ourselves, as well as being more mindful and aware of our day-to-day interactions. It’s also a practical guide on how to effectively manage your emotions during a stressful situation or moment of doubt or self loathing. The reader is introduced to ten different techniques which can be used to overcome negative beliefs and emotions they have that may be holding them back from happiness and success in their life.

As a counsellor that specialises in working with people experiencing body image, eating disorder and weight concerns, I am always on the look out for self care resources to recommend to my clients.  I believe that counselling with a professional can be enhanced immeasurably with extra reading, activities and exercises and after reading ‘The Self Compassion Diet’ by Jean Fain I’m pleased to have found something else to recommend.

I have never recommended someone follow a particular diet.  The reason why is simple.  It wouldn’t be ethical for me to do so because research tells us they unequivocally do not work in the long term, and in fact, for many people, are incredibly dangerous and can have significant negative impact on their mental and physical health.  Diets don’t work.  They just don’t, but unfortunately they continued to be aggressively marketed by weight loss companies and so called diet guru’s as the answer to anyone’s weight loss prayers.  None ever tell the full story, only the advertising and marketed one, and I would hope if you have been a reader of Beautiful You for some time now, you will know that such marketing and advertising does not have your best interests or the truth at it’s heart.  It’s all about profits and having you contribute to them.

The Self Compassion Diet by Jean Fain

elf Compassion Diet
Book Review: The Self Compassion Diet by Jean Fain

I’m making an exception with The Self Compassion Diet however as it prescribes the steady cultivation and consumption of self compassion and self love rather than prescriptions of what you should and shouldn’t eat, why you have no willpower, how to measure food and how to punish yourself with deprivation.  Such is the basis of so many traditional diets, but The Self Compassion Diet instead shows its readers who may not be comfortable, happy or balanced in their relationship with food and their body, a different way.  As Jean says

“Most dieters try to ‘kill cravings’ and break habits with self discipline but only self kindness can help quiet the shame that traditional diets instill and establish a harmonious relationship with food.”
Jean’s approach to developing self compassion and love as a way to heal a negative relationship with food is soundly supported by a growing body of research which she details in the book.

The Self Compassion Diet is filled with positive and helpful ways to bring more self love and compassion into your life in direct relation to how you may be relating to food and doing things such as emotional and binge eating.  Like I do, Jean believes that kindness and emotional healing is the missing ingredient in all traditional diets – not discipline or will power.  She provides quizzes, exercises and examples on how to cultivate the four main areas she considers to be most powerful in addressing weight and diet issues which are self love, mindfulness (including mindful eating), self-hypnosis to develop more positive self talk and support.  All are focused, gentle and supportive, never blaming, over promising or quick fix in outlook.  I truly believe if everyone was to cultivate the type of self compassion and self love Jean recommends we would not have the epidemic of disordered eating in the Western world we currently do.  I think it highly likely we would all be much happier and more at peace with ourselves in a general sense, not just in how we relate to food and our bodies.

If I had one criticism of the book it would be it’s use of the words ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspired.’  They are directly related to eating disorders, in promoting it as a lifestyle choice rather than a devastating mental illness, as this definition clearly states.  Rather than talking about weight loss in terms of becoming thin or that being someone’s chief motivating factor in adressing concerns they may have with food, I think it much more fitting of the book to espouse that learning to love yourself, cultivate self compassion and learning to eat mindfully and peacefully is the ultimate destination in itself.  If that happens to come with weight loss and was something someone desired without harm to themselves – well and good. 

When we really learn to listen to and love our bodies however, it may actually come with weight gain, or no loss of weight at all, rather the much more important loss of self hate and loathing.  We all have a set weight where our body feels at it’s most comfortable, healthy and beautiful and I truly believe this is best achieved by practising care and love for ourselves the way The Self Compassion Diet promotes.  It does not however mean that this set weight will mean we will all be thin.  What it should mean instead is that we are happy, enjoying a balanced relationship with food and a loving relationship with our body – no matter what our size.

The Self Compassion Diet is a must read for anyone who is currently in a battle with food, their body or even themselves.  It is perfect for any long term dieter that has had their heart and will broken over and over again by empty diet promises that do nothing to promote the self love and compassion most desperately need to be happy and content with their body.  I will leave you with the lovely Jean Fain with her own words on The Self Compassion Diet which I hope becomes the best selling “diet” book of 2011!

If you’re looking for a book that will teach you how to develop and practice self compassion, The Self Compassion Diet is a great choice. Written by Jean Fain, this book is packed full of practical advice and tips on how to overcome difficult times and build a foundation of self-compassion. Featuring worked examples and exercises, The Self Compassion Diet is an easy to read and follow guide that will help you achieve your goals. If you’re interested in finding out more about the benefits of self compassion, be sure to check out our review of The Self Compassion Diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does self-compassion help you lose weight?

According to research, when we are kind to ourselves, we are more likely to get back on track. We revert to the harmful habits when we shame and blame ourselves (or when we are shamed and blamed by others). When we feel comfortable, supported, and understood, we are more likely to take risks and try new things.

What is main component of self-compassion?

Neff (2003a) identified three elements of self-compassion: self-kindness, shared humanity, and awareness. Self-kindness is the choice to be nice to oneself in difficult circumstances as opposed to being harsh with oneself and demeaning oneself.

What is the goal of self-compassion?

Self-compassion training can help people retain a growth mindset in the face of difficulty and failure (Cook-Cottone 2015b; Neff 2011), and it may also aid in self-control (Iskender and Akin 2011; Van Vliet and Kalnins 2011; Vettese et al. 2011)…

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