Self-compassion and women athletes' body appreciation and intuitive eating experiences


Research has suggested that self-compassion may be a resource to protect against emotionally difficult sporting experiences; however, it remains unclear if self-compassion can directly benefit athletes who are affected by body and eating attitudes. The purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to explore the role of self-compassion in women athletes' experiences of body appreciation and intuitive eating. Six women athletes between 18 and 24 years, who identified being self-compassionate, appreciating their bodies, eating intuitively, and currently competing in a variety of team and individual sports at either local or regional level participated in a semi-structured one-on-one interview. Across three themes self-compassion was shown to help the athletes (1) recognize the uniqueness of sport contexts, (2) promote compassionate awareness, and (3) set realistic standards and expectations for themselves. Further, the women in this study suggested that the mindfulness and self-kindness components of self-compassion were particularly relevant and important to body appreciation and intuitive eating in their sporting experiences. The novel findings of this study suggest that self-compassion may play a role in promoting positive sport experiences related to the body and eating attitudes and behaviour for women athletes. Building on this study and others, future research could explore the effectiveness of self-compassion training on women's body image and eating.