• A qualitative study of the understanding and use of ‘compassion focused coping strategies’ in people who suffer from serious weight difficulties.

      Gilbert, Jean; Stubbs, James; Gale, Corinne; Gilbert, Paul; Dunk, Laura; Thomson, Louise; Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Trust; Slimming World; University of Derby; University of Nottingham (Biomed Central, 2014-11-11)
      Abstract Background The physical and psychological health problems associated with obesity are now well documented, as is the urgency for addressing them. In addition, associations between quality of life, depression, self-esteem, self-criticism, and obesity are now established indicating a need for a better understanding of the links between self-evaluation, affect-regulation and eating behaviours. Methods Compassion has now been identified as a major source of resilience, helpful self-relating and affect regulation. Thus this study used semi-structured interviews to explore the understanding and experiences of compassion in 2 overweight men and 10 women seeking help for weight problems. The interviews examined people's understandings of compassion, their recall of experiences of compassion in childhood, their current experiences of receiving compassion from others, being compassionate to others, being self-compassionate, and whether they would be compassionate or self-critical for relapses in overeating. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis (Qual Res Psychol, 3: 77-101, 2006). Results Participants saw compassion as related to ‘caring’ and being ‘listened to’. However, their recall of earlier experiences of compassion was of primarily practical help rather than emotional engagement. Typically their response to their own relapse and setbacks were self-criticism, self-disgust and even self-hatred rather than self-caring or understanding. Self-critical/hating responses tend to be associated with poor weight regulation. Conclusions When people with weight problems relapse, or struggle to control their eating, they can become quite self-critical, even self-hating, which may increase difficulties with emotionally coping and maintaining healthy lifestyles and eating habits. Although turning to others for support and compassion, and becoming self-compassionate are antidotes to self-criticism, and are associated with better coping and mental health, many participants did not utilise compassionate strategies – often the opposite. It is possible that interventions that include mindfulness and compassion training could be helpful for these difficulties.