The Psychology of Compassionate Eating

peace forkMake Peace with Food

  • Eat with Compassion for yourself & all of life
  • Stop Dieting
  • Recover the natural wisdom of Intuitive Eating
  • Learn the art of Mindful Eating
  • Learn to distinguish Physical from Emotional hunger
  • Explore Food Myths
  • Evidence based information on diet & nutrition
  • Guest Lecturer:  Dietician specialising in plant based diets, Gosia Desmond BSc, MA, MSc, PhD candidate will answer your questions on a vegan diet
  • Enjoyable ways to prevent most common Western health problems
  • Consider the implications of our food choices for ourselves, others and the environment
  • Live in peace & harmony with yourself and all of life
  • Subsidised Places Available thanks to a Pollination Fund Grant:

Eating without compassion is probably the greatest source of suffering on this planet.  For some people eating is an act that is undertaken without thought.  For others it is an act that causes immense suffering to the self, an act that destroys rather than nourishes, an act that is imbued with fear and violence.   For some, the impulse to eat, to nourish the body, is something to be dominated and controlled.  Compassionate eating, on the other hand, is about working with, instead of against, our need to eat, in a non-violent, nurturing way.

Many people realise the benefits of eating a plant based diet but have difficulty motivating themselves to change and maintain a more compassionate way of eating.  Some people have distressed eating or eating disorders that are psychological in origin, and which can be healed through self-compassion.  Many people have spent a lifetime, as well as large sums of money, on weight loss diets only to find that their weight is higher than when they started dieting.  The Psychology of Compassionate Eating can help you to stop dieting and to eat what your body needs to thrive.

Eating without compassion is not only a source of suffering to the self.  Some of the food we eat causes unnecessary suffering and large scale exploitation of other animals whose capacity to suffer is at least as great as our human capacity.  How we eat has a major impact on the environment we share with other lives; in fact, changing our food habits is the most immediately effective act we can engage in to stop global warming and destruction of the earth.

Our food habits can also cause immense suffering to the humans who are employed in food production, many of whom are exploited, underpaid, physically harmed by their work, and used as slaves.  Through our food choices we pay other humans to confine, hurt and kill other animals on farms, in the meat, dairy, fish, and egg industries, and in slaughterhouses.

Is this Programme for You?

This programme is suitable for the following:

  • People with eating distress such as emotional overeating
  • People who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder or Bulimia Nervosa
  • People who experience difficulty adopting and maintaining dietary and lifestyle changes recommended for the prevention and treatment of obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes or any other diet related health problem.
  • People who need help in breaking the cycle of restrictive dieting followed by mindless eating and weight gain.

The Psychology of Compassionate Eating is founded on evidence based interventions from Compassion Focussed Therapy (specifically CFT for Eating Distress (CFT-E)).  CFT is a transdiagnostic approach to psychological distress that draws on neuroscience, evolutionary, social, developmental and Buddhist psychology[i].  It is particularly useful for distress that is underpinned by high levels of self-criticism and shame (factors that are causal to, and help maintain, unhealthy eating habits).  Studies demonstrate clinically reliable and significant improvement in eating disorder symptomatology following compassion focused intervention.[ii]

The programme is also informed by the science of Intuitive Eating.   Intuitive eating is characterized by eating based on physiological hunger and satiety cues rather than situational and emotional cues.   We are born with the capacity to eat in a way that is physically and psychologically healthy.  However, socio-cultural mechanisms, including poor parenting skills and media advertising and reporting of inaccurate nutritional information, cause many people to lose this skill.  It can be regained and strengthened with practice.  Intuitive Eating is associated with increased psychological wellbeing[iii], reduced risk of eating disorders[iv][v], and is deemed a useful intervention for clients with diet related physical health issues[vi]

Participants are encouraged and facilitated to:

  • develop Interoceptive Sensitivity[vii] (ability to perceive and process bodily signals) particularly awareness of and respect for physiological and neurochemical signals of hunger and satiety
  • challenge myths and cognitive distortions that create and maintain unhealthy eating habits
  • learn emotional regulation and self-soothing techniques that replace emotional eating
  • learn the practice of mindful, intuitive eating

Diet & Nutrition

The programme encourages participants to focus on healthy eating rather than on the deprivation mentality of being ‘on a diet’.  In fact, it encourages participants to stop dieting.  Based on the literature pertaining to the role of diet in the most common disease burdens in the Western World[viii][ix] the programme encourages participants to adopt a satisfying, healthy diet that includes reduction in the intake of processed food and transition to plant based foods.  This way of eating is thought to have a distinct advantage in terms of body mass index, as well as in the prevention and/or treatment of dementia, diverticular disease, gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis[x], and to significantly reduce the risk of developing many cancers.  In addition, this way of eating has demonstrated effectiveness in the prevention, treatment and even reversal of diabetes,[xi][xii] hypertension and heart disease[xiii][xiv].  These aspects of the programme will be presented in conjunction with Gosia Desmond, BSc, MA, MSc, Dietician. 

There are many additional reasons for choosing a plant based diet including ethical, economic, ecological and social.  In the vein of Positive Psychology, the programme will promote the practice of eudemonic living and compassion for others as well as for the self, based on the theory that strengthening of moral emotions not only helps guide a benevolent lifestyle but is also a guiding mechanism for personal happiness.[xv]

The Programme will take place in group format.  One to one sessions are also available. 

Programme Details

Six week programme

Cost:  E180 (Please enquire if you would like to avail of a subsidised place funded by The Pollination Fund Grant from the World Peace Earth Foundation)

Venue:  Dowdstown House, Navan, Co Meath

Places strictly limited

Bookings:  0872325832 


[i] Gilbert, P (2009) Introducing Compassion Focussed Therapy, Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15: 199-208.[ii]Gale, C, Gilbert, P, Read, N and Goss, K (2012) An Evaluation of the Impact of Introducing Compassion focused Therapy to a Standard treatment Programme for People with Eating Disorders,  Clin Psychol Psychother. 2012 Jun 28. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1806.[iii] Tylka, T.L., & Wilcox, J.A. Are intuitive eating and eating disorder symptomatology opposite poles of the same construct? J of Counseling Psychology, 2006;53, 474-485.[iv] Young, S. Promoting healthy eating among college women: Effectiveness of an intuitive eating intervention. Iowa State University, 2011, Dissertation 147 pages; AAT 3418683.[v] Denny KN, Loth K, Eisenberg ME, Neumark-Sztainer D (2013).  Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors? Appetite.Jan;60(1):13-9.[vi]Weigenberg, MJ. Intuitive Eating Is Associated with Decreased Adiposity (2009, Abstract). [vii] Herbert BL, Blechert J, Hautzinger M, Matthias E., Herbert C.. (2013). Intuitive eating is associated with interoceptive sensitivity. Effects on body mass index. Appetite, 70(Nov):22–30.[viii] Vegetarian Diets J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Jun;103(6):748-65[ix] American Dietetics Society Position Statement on Vegan and Vegetarian Diets, J Am Diet Assoc.  Volume 109, Issue 7, Pages 1266-1282 (July 2009)[x]Leitzmann, C (2005) Vegetarian diets:  what are the advantages?   Forum Nutr. (57):147-56.[xi] Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al (2006) A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 29:1777-1783. [xii] Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al (2009) A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 89:1588S-1596S. [xiii] Hu, FB (2003) Plant-based foods and the prevention of cardiovascular disease:  an overview, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 78 no. 3 544S-551S.[xiv] Esselstyn, CB (2001) Resolving the Coronary Artery Disease Epidemic through Plant-Based Nutrition , Preventive Cardiology, 4: 171-177[xv] Athota, VS, (2013) The role of moral emotions in happiness, The Journal of Happiness & Well-Being, 1(2).  

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