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Intuitive Eating Principle 7: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Dealing with our emotions is hard!

For many people, food is easy to turn to when we are bored, scared, upset, sad, or lonely. It offers us comfort in the short term, and can help distract us from feelings that may seem overwhelming at times.

But food won’t solve the root cause of why we are experiencing the emotion in the first place, and in the long term it’s not going to make us feel better. Finding alternatives to process our emotions and making lifestyle changes when possible to better care for our mental health give us alternatives to just using food to alleviate negative feelings.

However, as we’ve talked about before: if you’re feeling physical hunger you should always eat!

If you’re not biologically hungry but still feel like eating, try to listen to what you are really feeling. Is there an emotion you are trying to avoid or don’t want to experience? Is there something else that could help you other than food?

First identify what emotion you are feeling. There are more emotions than happy, sad, and angry! Looking at a feelings wheel can help you better name your emotions.

Then, see if you can meet your needs in another way: support from a friend or loved one, taking a nap, or getting help.

A few ideas for self care, both short and long term:

  • Journaling

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Deep breathing

  • Coloring, crafting, or other hobby

  • Reading a book

  • Spending time in nature

  • Calling a friend or family member

  • Playing with your pet or child

  • Massage

  • Therapy

  • Making a to-do list or getting organized

Remember that using food to cope might still happen from time to time. There’s no need to feel guilty about this! Simply look at what you can learn from the experience and how you can better take care of yourself and meet your needs in the future.

It can be really hard to face some of the root causes of our negative emotions. We are strong proponents of seeking out a therapist that can help you work through these emotions. A dietitian can definitely help you with the food side, but we like to lean on our counterparts in the mental health field to help our clients process things such as trauma that may impact their relationship with food.

To find a therapist near you, visit:

Are you interested in learning more about how the Intuitive Eating approach can help you reach your health goals? Reach out to us and set up a consultation with one of our Registered Dietitians today, or click this link to sign up for our 6-week online Intuitive Eating Program!

Author: Becca Sprague, MS, RD, LD

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