Intuitive Eating Principle 7: Cope with Your Emotions Without (or with!) Using Food


This principle is all about learning to cope with emotions that may lead us to find food as comfort. Emotions such as anxiety, sadness can often make us use food to cope. It is perfectly normal to engage in emotional eating, however using food as an emotional comfort may only help soothe in the short term, and not serve you in the long term as an effective coping strategy. It is important to work towards finding the source of those emotions as food doesn’t actually address or identify the problem. The purpose of this principle is to provide healthful and sustainable coping mechanisms to help you connect deeper with your mind, body, and spirit. 


A big part of learning to eat intuitively is learning to connect and be aware of your emotions. The goal is to drop into the body and address our needs effectively or at least with awareness and intention. The following exercises may be beneficial to try when learning to become more in tune with your emotions. When you begin to feel an intense emotion, try asking yourself:

  • What am I feeling right now? 



There are many examples of feelings that may trigger emotional eating such as:

  • Boredom: Using food to pass the time or to procrastinate certain tasks.
  • Sadness: Using food as a comfort.
  • Bribery: Using food as a reward after working hard or finishing a task.
  • Anxiety: Some people may eat less when anxious, while others may eat in response to this emotion.
  • Excitement: Being excited to try a new recipe or planning a dinner party.
  • Stress: Many people will not feel hungry during times of stress as the digestive system actually slows down to try to conserve energy and resources to deal with stress. Some people may still reach for food during times of stress but may not be physically hungry.
  • Love: Using food as a way of showing your love by either making a meal or going out to dinner.


  • After identifying the emotion try asking yourself what is the quality of the emotion? Is it pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? 



After identifying the emotion you are feeling, you may find yourself looking toward food to calm, comfort, or distract yourself. If this happens, try asking yourself:

  • What do I need right now that relates to how I am feeling? (REMEMBER: It is okay if you are unsure of what you need as this takes time AND what you need could still be food).



It can be beneficial to think of and make a list of all your favorite ways to practice self-care that do not relate to food or could be paired with food to cope. Such things could include:

  • Going for a walk alone or with friends/family
  • Watching the sunset/sunrise 
  • Watching your favorite TV show or movie
  • Having a DIY spa day at home
  • Listening to music
  • Journaling

The above steps may take some time and practice to get better at. Years of dieting and other experiences often disconnect us from being in tune with our bodies. It is important to note if you are not eating enough for your body’s needs on a regular basis, you will still feel a very strong “pull” towards food during times of intense emotions. Making peace with food is key to building a healthy relationship with food where you don’t feel the need to rely on certain foods to bring you happiness or cope with hard emotions. 


This principle, and all of the following, are ones that often come much later in the Intuitive Eating journey. It can often take a long time to drop into our body and identify emotions in the first place. If we have used food to cope with stress or boredom or anxiety for a long time, it may take awhile to be able to utilize other coping strategies. This is a learning process and requires patience, kindness, and compassion, which can also be difficult to find. Remember, there is no wrong way to approach this principle. 


If you find yourself needing extra help and guidance, the team at Food Ease Co. is here to help! Click here for more info about our services offered.

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