Self-compassion, body image, and disordered eating: A review of the literature

Body Image. 2016 Jun;17:117-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Mar 31.


Self-compassion, treating oneself as a loved friend might, demonstrates beneficial associations with body image and eating behaviors. In this systematic review, 28 studies supporting the role of self-compassion as a protective factor against poor body image and eating pathology are reviewed. Findings across various study designs consistently linked self-compassion to lower levels of eating pathology, and self-compassion was implicated as a protective factor against poor body image and eating pathology, with a few exceptions. These findings offer preliminary support that self-compassion may protect against eating pathology by: (a) decreasing eating disorder-related outcomes directly; (b) preventing initial occurrence of a risk factor of a maladaptive outcome; (c) interacting with risk factors to interrupt their deleterious effects; and (d) disrupting the mediational chain through which risk factors operate. We conclude with suggestions for future research that may inform intervention development, including the utilization of research designs that better afford causal inference.

Keywords: Body image; Disordered eating; Eating disorder; Eating pathology; Protective factor; Self-compassion.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorders / psychology*
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Empathy*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept*