Intuitive Eating Principle #7: Cope with your emotions without using food.

Using food to cope with emotions is a normal human experience, we all do it at some point in our lives. But some people do it more than others, and that is when emotional eating can take over your life.

Take a moment and look at the list below, then think about what feelings cause you to use food as a coping mechanism;

· Boredom

· Excitement

· Happiness

· Love

· Frustration or anger

· Stress

· Anxiety

· Mild depression

As with everything in Intuitive Eating, it starts with creating awareness. So, next time you are experiencing that feeling in your stomach, that urge to eat, take a pause. Instead of immediately going for your favourite coping food, consider asking yourself the following questions to find out what you really need.

Am I hungry? If yes, go grab something to eat. (if you have worked on your hunger/fulness signals, you will know if you are experiencing true biological hunger or not) If no, ask yourself question two.

What am I feeling right now? Take a minute to figure out what you are feeling AND what is triggering that feel. Once you’ve identified what’s going on, proceed to question three.

What do I actually need? If you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about a work project, instead of going for the ice cream , try sitting with this feeling for a while. The urge to eat may just fade away. If not, think of some stress management techniques you could do?

Much of the work around emotional eating comes down to understanding who you are and how you can effectively manage emotions. Depending on your situation, you may need some professional help to work through this. And always remember there are no rules in Intuitive Eating. There might be times when choosing that ice cream or bag of chips is the best option for your mental health. That’s perfectly ok, but that doesn’t always need to be the automatic go-to. Journaling your feelings and experiencing around emotional eating is incredibly helpful and having a list of a few different self-care activities you do on a daily or weekly basis can be useful to distract or calm yourself when you are feeling like this.


Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012) Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press

**Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this or any other blog posts on this site may not be suitable or apply to you, depending on where you’re at in your mental health and/or eating disorder/diet recovery journey. This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to be a substitute for medical or psychiatric advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before making any changes.

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