How to stop self-criticism

How Do I Stop Self-Criticism?

Today I’m going to help you uncover your self-critic. Self-criticism is the number one emotional reason I see for comfort and binge eating, so today I’m going to talk all about it.

Hi, I’m Shelley Treacher from the Stress and Anxiety Podcast.

I help people with the emotional side of comfort eating. You can find me at the moment on most of the social media channels with a big campaign about emotional eating.

This week is about the self-critic. In this podcast, you’ll get my most personal viewpoint, but you may want to follow, subscribe, or add yourself to any of my media channels to get the full picture. For regular listeners, this is an amalgamation of many of the things that I’ve talked about before, all brought into one podcast.

So it might be helpful for you to revisit some of the material and refresh your thinking around your self-criticism because it is such a big deal with comfort eating. For anyone new here, thank you so So, so much for joining us. You are very welcome. Today, you’re going to get some information about how comfort eating usually has a self-critic behind it.

It is my mission on this planet, I believe, to replace that self-criticism with compassion. It’s surprising how powerful that can be in trying to quit or recover from comfort eating. So stay with us. In my work with overeating, what I see the most is people who are very hard on themselves. This is one of the main reasons that people overeat.

You may identify with this, maybe there are people in your life who say that you are hard on yourself. I’m willing to bet that most people listening to this get that comment at some point or other. So this week, I’m going to talk about how self-criticism goes hand in hand with comfort eating. I’m going to show you ways to understand this for yourself and to begin the journey of stopping giving yourself such a hard time because that is what’s needed to stop overeating.

Self-criticism is at the heart of the reason for most comfort eating and what’s more, dieting is based around it. But the solution lies in not trying to be perfect, in approaching food without a diet mentality, and learning to address real needs, rather than finding a fix outside yourself or about how you look.

Self-criticism can take on so many different forms, but here’s one that you might relate to. As I mentioned when I was talking about what comfort eating is and the emotional side of comfort eating in the last two podcasts, which if you haven’t heard, are going to flesh out what’s going on today.


Why do I criticise myself so much?

One of the most common things that my clients come in with is talking about how their doctors, their trainers, and even their family and friends might have pointed out their weight and tried to restrict their eating with encouragement to exercise. So these people might say, you’re putting on a bit of weight.

Why don’t you just cut back on carbs and go to Weight Watchers or something? Or they might give you smaller portions or try to take your food away from you in an attempt to help. When they say this, I believe that they are trying to be well-meaning. But the result is often that the person listening, that’s you, feels criticised and ends up thinking, Why can’t I stop eating?

There must be something wrong with me. Some variations of this sentence in itself may be very familiar to you. This is something that I hear from people over and over again. And it probably makes you want to eat when you think this thought. Overeating here is an instinctive, natural, normal response for you.

How are you going to manage how you feel when you feel rubbish about what someone’s just said about your behaviour? With all those suppressed feelings and a lack of understanding around you, you’re going to use what you usually use to feel better. You’re going to want to eat. Can you recognise that?


Self-criticism No. 1 – “Why am I so lazy?”

Does that sound like you at all? This is a sign of the self-critic. Another way that comfort eaters criticise themselves is by characterising themselves as lazy. This is painful when I hear this one, because I hear the tone of voice they use when they say it. It’s often scathing, frustrated, even bitchy.

So I want to start by explaining my take on laziness and comfort eating. Firstly, I think it’s vital to start to change that tone of voice from one of deep disdain for yourself to one of curiosity, gentleness and compassion. Something that might not be familiar to you. This is something you’ll hear me encourage you to do frequently, even if it’s not easy at first.

So just have a check on what it would be like if you started asking, what is it that makes me want to be lazy? And I’m putting that in inverted commas here. What is it that makes me want to sit on the sofa and eat rather than do anything else? Instead of, I’m such a lazy cow, all I can do is eat, what the hell is wrong with me?

Can you feel the difference there? One approach encourages exploration and so then possibly understanding and then being able to address it. While the other is soon going to lead to self-hatred and angry eating. This is really destructive and absolutely the opposite. So, I’m asking you to stop and notice how you’re talking to yourself.

It makes a massive difference. Laziness, as far as I understand, is something that we all, as human beings, have a natural propensity towards. We want to conserve energy for survival or pleasure only. So just bear that in mind next time you call yourself lazy or you think someone else is judging you to be lazy.


Self-criticism No. 2 – “Why can’t I stop being greedy?”

Calling yourself greedy is another way that people who overeat can level criticism against themselves. Here’s a comment I received in text once. I have in five minutes eaten a big bag of Maltesers and I’m struggling to understand why. I have feelings of numbness and not caring, but also guilt. I’m getting worse.

I feel greed is a big thing as I’ve been greedy since a child. I just want to stop. I feel sad when I read this because I imagine this person feels desperation, frustration and confusion. I’m guessing that most of you listening to this can relate to it. I notice that this person feels numbness when they eat, whilst at the same time accusing themselves of being greedy.

But really, the two experiences cancel each other out. Numbness inspires greed and is also a result of it. Greed is a judgment word, but greed could be described as an out-of-control desire to seek pleasure from eating. Remember what I said, we seek pleasure. Using the word greed in our respective cultures implies that there should be shame for doing this.

As I said earlier, with any self-criticism, this will definitely make you feel worse. So you can see here the relentless cycle of shame, eating and numbness. You can see it so clearly. This person may have eaten that bag of Maltesers for a whole host of reasons that we cannot see. But we can see that at least one of those reasons was feeling bad about herself in the first place.

In the back of her mind is always that judgement, I’m a greedy person. What would your response be if someone said that you were greedy? Would you be happy about it? No, of course, you wouldn’t. You’d most likely be angry or depressed. Or anxious. I know if someone told me I was being greedy, I’d instinctively feel ashamed or angry.

I would now be able to reason with them that I’m not greedy and that the word greed is a derogatory term to use, that probably says more about the person who’s saying it than anything about me, but I would also still wonder, on an unconscious level, whether I was greedy. That’s just normal. It’s a direct path to shame.

Shame comes when we’re afraid that we don’t fit in with people, so pretty quickly we have a whole host of feelings that are difficult to manage, which is when of course you’ll turn to food. So you might be at this point wondering what on earth can I do? The first thing to understand is how you’re criticizing yourself.

What kind of self-criticism have you got? In my introductory podcast or video, Are You A Comfort Eater? I asked you to think about when it is that you overeat and what was happening just before. It also really helps to ask yourself exactly how you talked to yourself, because there’s often self-criticism involved somewhere down the line.


How do you criticise yourself?

What are the exact words that you have in your head just before you give up? Are you putting yourself down in some way? What’s the tone of voice in your head? Are you being nasty to yourself? Do you have certain phrases that put you down that you repeat over and over again to yourself?

See if you can recognise any of these kinds of thoughts and behaviours:

One, comparing yourself to others.

Two, perceiving only negative things about yourself and feeling not good enough.

Three, feeling guilty.

Fourth, all-or-nothing thinking.

Five, focusing on the negative.

Six, punishing yourself.

I had one client who realised she was saying you silly cow with pretty much everything she did.

She’d just walk into a room and she’d think, “Oh, you didn’t do that right, you silly cow.”

That’s horrible, right? That’s being nasty to herself over and over all day long. And she didn’t even realise she was doing it. So that’s why I’m here, to get you to start thinking about how you might be doing something like this.

It’s also really typical to be doing this. It’s so typical you might assume it’s normal and okay to talk to yourself like this, but it’s probably making you eat.


The root of self-criticism

In the last section here, I want to start mentioning your childhood beliefs. Often what happens when you start exploring the reasons for overeating and you’re self-critic is that you find that the way you now treat yourself is a direct continuation of how you learnt to treat yourself early on.

It’s also an interpretation of how you were treated as a child or how you’ve perceived that you were treated. So the self-criticism that you now have in your head is a reflection of, and a learned response to, the criticism that you perceived from a previous time in your life. In a nutshell, you internalised what you thought others thought of you.

And this comes to the surface again when you feel people are thinking badly of you in the present. Your self-criticism can run deep. And just like any habit, It can get stuck with us. Of course, it may also be that you learnt to feel bad about yourself early because of the conditional love of your primary caregivers.

In this case, you may ask yourself, how old were you when you first thought that you weren’t good enough in some way? If your story is chronic, likely, this feeling came first when you were very young. The body brings back memories into the present over and over again, triggered slightly by anything similar.

You could have interpreted not being good enough and not fitting in from different events in your history, from the perceived rejections of childhood, adulthood, and even birth. You could have interpreted disapproval from any criticisms or ideals that you felt you had to live up to in any of your relationships.

This disapproval is registered and then becomes internalized. We can never get enough approval. In daily life, when your self-esteem takes a hit, you will usually find it reflected in the way your family communicates or the people around you. This can include your culture. Thinking we’re not good enough comes from trying to adhere to other people’s values, either historically or in the present.

Generally, most of us are trying to please others, especially in my English culture here. All of this needs unpacking, with compassion and understanding, to relearn how to be kinder to yourself to shift your unconscious beliefs. And to uncover your natural resources and ways to feel better. Binge eating disorder is known to stem from a traumatic history, particularly developmental trauma.

That’s your relational development. So comfort eating recovery may not be complete without healing from trauma. Here is where shame in the body may have begun. You’ll find a lot of my future podcasts will be about coping with developmental, relational or complex trauma. Next week, I’m going to start talking about your inner child.



What I’ve talked about here today is about paying attention to how you’re talking to yourself, particularly around eating.

I mentioned that being self-critical might make you want to overeat more.

Then I asked you to challenge your assumptions about laziness and greed.

After which I offered you some questions to start understanding your self-critic.

Then finally I introduce the idea that your critic may come from somewhere previous in your life and the influences you’ve had relationally. What’s often missing in the mind of an emotional eater is a kind of self-concerned voice. You need to start asking yourself what you’re saying to yourself, because calling yourself a stupid cow, an idiot, a bitch, even in passing, is never going to make you want to stop comfort eating, and will only make you want to eat more.

So start to notice all the ways you give yourself a hard time. I’m willing to bet that it’s a lot more than you even realise. If you want to comment here, I’d be interested to hear what criticisms you level against yourself. And you’d be giving voice to the criticism of many other people, I’m sure, so you would be helping people to express themselves and to feel validated and connected with and understood.

This is powerful in itself. Belief in yourself is everything with comfort eating recovery. Because not far from comfort eating is usually feeling bad about yourself. It’s underneath every harmful act and most emotional pain. Every single client in therapy will explore this in most therapy sessions. So today I’ll leave you with this thought.

Who has the power to judge us? It’s not our doctor, our teacher, our parents, our partner, or our boss. It’s only us. That’s it for today, although I will be doing a bite podcast this week, so keep an eye on that. This one will be about self-worth and self-confidence. If you want to go further, if you need more help with your comfort eating and regulating your emotions or feeling better about yourself, please be in touch or join me on my social media channels.

You can find me most prolifically on TikTok, but also on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Shelley Treacher, Underground Confidence. I also have a support group that you can join on Facebook, the Comfort Eating Recovery Support Group. Please join us, we’re just getting going again after a long break. But I know that this can be one of the most helpful ways to recover from comfort eating.

By having support from peers. By having support from people who understand what you’re going through. Often, if I’m really honest, people get more out of the posts that you share than the education that I offer. So please do come and join us. As I say, I will be back again briefly towards the end of this week.

And then I’ll be back again next Wednesday to talk through your inner child. Thank you for listening. This is Underground Confidence Podcast with Shelley Treacher. I’ll see you again very soon.


Links to exercises that will reset your nervous system: TikTok or Facebook


For help recovering from self-criticism, low self-esteem, or self-deprecating limiting beliefs contact Shelley today.

How do I Stop Self-Criticism?