Intuitive Eating/Eating Disorder

IE Principle #7: Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food


May 6, 2019 Lex Daddio


“Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover, but food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.” (pg. 313-314)

I found this quote from the book, Intuitive Eating, to be so relatable and so powerful. I wanted to share the full quote, because honestly, this was my life for so long. I constantly ate out shame, guilt, frustration, discomfort, you name it. I’d use food as my friend. As my comfort. When everything else around me failed me or didn’t meet my expectations, I knew food would always be there for me. It’s okay to eat emotionally here and there and you don’t always have to eat exactly when you’re hungry, etc, but this whole principle is just addressing something much greater. I used food for every emotion I felt. Happy, sad, tired, scared, disappointed. Instead of actually FEELING my feelings, addressing them, and moving on, I stuffed them down. I share this because I remember for SO long, constantly just praying, wishing, hoping one day I could just eat to eat and it wouldn’t have to have so much emotion tied to it. Let me tell you, you can. It’s not always perfect, hello we’re human, but there are a lot of helpful things you can use to hlp you learn how to cope with your emotions without using food!

First and foremost, when you’re dealing with hunger, ask yourself if you are biologically hungry and if you are, please eat! Don’t try to analyze that! It’s important to eat and take care of yourself. If it’s not biological hunger, here are some other things to ask yourself and to help you deal with any emotions if there are any!

If you find yourself searching for food/ thinking about it and you’re not actually hungry, take a step back, breathe, and ask yourself what you are really feeling. Maybe you’re tired, lonely, bored, frustrated, sad, hurt, anxious, etc. If it’s any of these, try some things that can help you feel these feelings. Things like journaling or calling a friend always helps me. Or taking a walk and just letting myself decompress, feel, and let go. Talk to someone you trust, a counselor, mentor, etc. Try talking it out, or actually acknowledging and feeling those feelings so you can move on from them.

Next up, ask yourself what it is you need. Maybe you’re dehydrated and need water. Or need some sleep. Or maybe you just need a hug. Human connection and touch is so important, that’s why I’m a hugger but I also just love hugging haha. Food won’t fix this things, unless what you really need is food because you’re hungry. But if you really need sleep, food won’t replace that. Food won’t replace water and it certainly won’t replace human connection. So try to see if there is a different need that needs to be met before reaching for food!

Sometimes when you need these things, you need to ask for help. Not everyone likes asking for help, because it’s way more normal to think/ feel like you have to do everything on your own. Maybe you don’t have a lot of help around you, and that’s okay! But having people/ quality relationships in your life that you can trust and rely on when you need an extra hand, etc is a beautiful blessing! Pray for those kind of people if you don’t have them yet!

There are also things you can do to help you feel nurtured. Basically like self-care, but trust me, it doesn’t have to be complicated, a spa day, etc. It can be so simple. Trust me, coming from a mama of an 11 month old, I know there isn’t always a lot of time to yourself no matter what your situation is. Some of my favorite forms of self-care these days are: putting my phone on airplane mode at 8pm to take a break and read a book, or taking a hot shower after T goes down to bed, taking T on a walk and listening to a podcast or music, buying flowers when I’m at the grocery store to brighten the house, calling a friend to catch up. They’re simple but they’re things that bring my joy and brighten my days! They also make me feel good, rested, and fill up my tank so I can pour out my love! I find when I’m fuller on these things, I don’t reach as much for a pint of ice cream or food to stuff down my feelings. There’s nothing wrong with ice cream haha, I’m a huge advocate and love keeping a pint or two in the freezer! It’s about what’s happening in your mind that matters, not the actual ice cream. Anyway, here are some other examples of taking nurturing yourself:

  • Resting/ Napping/ Relaxing

  • Taking a bath

  • Listening to calm music

  • Playing games with friends

  • Going to a workout class you enjoy

  • Getting a massage

  • Doing an at-home facial

  • Spending time outside

  • Trying something new

  • Getting creative: coloring, painting, DIY

  • Giving out hugs

  • Playing with animals or babies

  • Spending quality time with friends

  • Getting a manicure or pedicure

  • Read a book or watch a good movie

  • Clean something out (closet, drawer, etc)

  • Dance around

  • Go on a leisurely walk

  • Listen to an audiobook

  • Etc, etc, etc! Whatever makes you feel good!

If you end up having a time when you use food to cope again, don’t be ashamed or frustrated. Instead, see it as your body/ mind trying to tell you that something is out of whack in your life. It might be a red flag that you have some stressors in your life: divorce, change of jobs, a new baby, death of someone near to you, etc. It can even be something simpler are taking on way to many responsibilities and obligations and feeling burned out. This is all okay. Instead of feeling defeated, recognize that it’s a gift letting you know that something has to change.

“Once you learn new ways of coping, think about how food can continue to nurture you in a constructive way. You have the right to feel good– and that means not just not feeling stuffed, but also feeling satisfied with your food choices, being healthy now, and reducing future health risks. Your relationship with food will become more positive as you begin to let go of food as a coping mechanism and bring it into your life as a nonthreatening, pleasurable experience.” (pg. 165).

Practice this one this week and see how it can make a difference once your needs are met. Maybe you won’t find yourself reaching for that food just to avoid something. AGAIN, if you are biologically hungry, please please please eat! Next time is all about respecting your body, have a great week!


Tribole, E. and E. Resch. 2012. Intuitive Eating, 3rd edition. St. Martin’s Press, NY:NY.


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