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The positive impact of self-compassion on disordered eating and associated risk factors

Self-compassion is associated with improved affect regulation, adaptive coping strategies and various measures of wellbeing. It has also been suggested as a protective factor against characteristics considered to maintain eating pathology. Specifically, cognitive theories of eating disorders suggest that dysfunctional assumptions and negative beliefs regarding shape, weight and eating lead to ego-dysfunction characteristics (perfectionistic concerns, experiential avoidance, low self-esteem) which increase eating disorder risk. The following study explored the hypothesis that self-compassion is a critical protective element in ameliorating vulnerability factors related to disordered eating behaviours. These relationships were explored in an adult community sample (N = 423). Dysfunctional assumptions and beliefs related to eating predicted disordered eating behaviours, and this relationship was mediated by low self-esteem and experiential avoidance, but not perfectionistic concerns. Self-compassion was negatively associated with disordered eating, and was found to moderate each of the relationships between disordered eating and perfectionistic concerns, experiential avoidance and low self-esteem. At high levels of self-compassion, the relationship between the risk variables and disordered eating was no longer significant. The current study supports the use of self-compassion in prevention and intervention of eating pathology.

This abstract was presented in the Peter Beumont Young Investigator award finalist stream of the 2014 ANZAED Conference.

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Correspondence to Tiegan Holtham.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Holtham, T., Dyck, M. The positive impact of self-compassion on disordered eating and associated risk factors. J Eat Disord 2 (Suppl 1), O4 (2014).

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