Intuitive Eating VII: Food is not Your Emotional Support Companion

Contributed By: Amber Sullivan UGA Dietetic Student


- What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is the art of listening to your body and eating whatever it desires whenever it desires it. Most importantly, intuitive eating is not a diet.

- Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
- Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger
- Principle 3: Make Peace with Food
-Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police
-Principle 5: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
-Principle 6: Feel Your Fullness

Principle 7: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Most people know that emotions can play a role in eating habits. Emotional eating is a coined term that means eating to seek comfort from feelings of sadness, anxiety, boredom, anger, depression, and a sense of deprivation and despair that stem from dieting. The solution? Finding other ways to cope with your emotions, whether that be exercise, therapy, journaling, or other activities.

The first step to coping with your emotions is being able to identify the feeling. This can be difficult for people who aren't introspective or tend to bottle up their feelings. This bottling of emotions is why people tend to use food as a coping mechanism and makes it even harder to find healthier ways to address their feelings. The reason people turn to food for comfort is due to food having "emotional baggage." Food is seen as an award for getting good grades, a celebration for getting older, graduating college, or getting married, comfort after a breakup, and so much more. Food is given these emotional attachments through societal teachings and past memories of happiness and comfort when consuming that food. Besides solace, food can elicit feelings of gratification and provide sedation, distraction, and punishment for the same reasons it evokes feelings of comfort. That's why it's so understandable why people choose to eat comforting foods rather than actually taking the time to deal with their emotions.

The final step to healthily dealing with your feelings is by identifying another way to cope or address those feelings. Consider seeking out therapy, spending time doing things you love, and/or venting to a friend or loved one. Remember to be kind and, like with every other principle of intuitive eating, realize that this principle will take time to get good at. And most importantly, don't punish yourself if you eat to cope with your feelings. It's not the end of the world.


Ways to Curb Emotional Eating in the Moment

  • Ask yourself if you are biologically hungry? Remember, Honor Your Hunger!
  • Ask yourself how are you feeling? Sad? Angry? Bored?
  • Ask yourself what do you need? Coping with emotions? Craving something sweet?
  • Give Yourself what you need? Whether that be alone time, someone to vent to, etc.


Ways to Cope with Emotions

  • Rest 
  • Listen to music
  • Meditate
  • Take a walk
  • Bubble baths
  • Yoga
  • Pets
  • Find another activity besides eating that comforts you and gives you a way to express your feelings
  • Do what works for you. What works for someone else may not work for you.



Tribole, Evelyn, and Elyse Resch. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach. Fourth Edition ed., St. Martin's Publishing Group, 2020.