Here’s 25 alternatives coping strategies that have nothing to do with food or eating.

Emotional eating has been unfairly pathologized in our culture and those that struggle are told that they need to figure out a way to stop. The truth is, we are emotional creatures. As such, our feelings/emotions cannot be turned off. We will always use food to some extent to get through life. It’s normal and natural. Think about when you eat cake at a Wedding celebration. Maybe you’re not that hungry once the cake rolls around, but it’s an act of celebration. This is an example of positive emotional eating.

Most of the emotional eating my clients lament over, happens when they’re alone and not particularly in celebration mode. They are often not sure how to stop eating and it feels out of their control. This type of emotional eating can be quite painful and frustrating. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling uncomfortable and then eating to numb or soothe those feelings with subsequent guilt and shame. This pattern is worth exploring at a deeper level as well as looking at how to find alternative coping strategies that don’t involve food and eating. 

Here is a list of alternatives to eating when you are feeling emotional or uncomfortable. Instead of automatically turning to food, try something on this list and see what happens. Remember- the food will always be there for you when you need it. With practice and repetition, these alternative coping strategies will undoubtedly be more effective and satisfying than food and eating when not physically hungry.

The following are 25 alternatives coping strategies that have nothing to do with food or eating.

1. Talk to your partner, a good friend, a family member, or someone who makes you feel safe and loved.  

2. Read from one of your favorite inspirational/ spiritual/recovery based books. Have a book easy to access at all times for a re-set. 

3. Journal. Write and release; write down everything you are feeling at the moment. Don’t worry about grammar, just write it all out. No one needs to read this but you. 

4. Aromatherapy. Get a diffuser and some essential oils to make your home smell like a day spa. What are some of your favorite smells? 

5. Meditation or deep breathing practice. Set your phone timer for 2 minutes or use an app such as insight timer, calm, head space for guided meditation. 

6. Yoga. Go to you tube and search for free yoga classes. Or book a private session with Linda Wellness Warrior. She’s amazing and makes yoga accessible for ALL bodies.

7. Music. Dust off your record player, or create a playlist of songs that uplift your mood and make you feel good, positive, and hopeful. Or, play and create something. Bang the drums, pick up the guitar. Play the harmonica. Make some noise. 

8. Dance. See #7 above and shake that booty. Do some neck rolls, should shrugs, sway your arms from side to side and dance like no one is watching. Let your body move you. 

9. Laugh! Call up a friend you know will make you giggle. Or, watch a silly comedy movie or bloopers on you tube. Baby animals on you tube also a winner for elevating our moods.

10. Move the body. (If you are able-bodied and pain free) Do whatever you feel like. Walking is easy for most. But maybe you want to go lift weights or swim or bike. Maybe it’s a workout video. Exercise is a powerful anti-depressant and mood booster. 

11. Get creative with your hands. Knitting, sewing, crafting, making cards, collages, vision boards, painting, drawing.

12. Light a candle or two and turn off the lights. Try some mindful movement with a focus on your breathing. Place a hand on your heart and feel the inhale of your breath. Notice your exhale and the sensations your body experiences as you move along with the rhythm of your breath.

13. Get outside into nature. If it’s sunny, get some vitamin D and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Spending time in nature triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels. Being in nature also helps to restore our ability to concentrate and stay focused. 

13. Snuggle your pet. If you don’t have one, play with a friend’s, family member’s pet or watch pet videos. Also, check out the local dog park for watching lots of funny dogs play together. 

14. Artwork or photos that uplight and inspire. Create a space where you can enjoy looking at your favorite photos that brings you happy feelings: family, friends, partner, pet, places of travel , or anything that makes you feel good and elicits positive, pleasurable sensations.

15. Gratitude list. Make a list of all of the things you are grateful for. It can include tangible and intangible things such as clean water, love of your children, etc. Gratitude has powerful benefits – it boosts positivity and optimism, creates a positive mood, and makes you feel better.

16. Find a transitional object that you love to touch or squeeze. This could be a soft blanket or wrap or a stone or fidget toy/ball. This object feels good when you touch it and it helps you to feel grounded in the moment. 

17. Physical touch. If you have a partner, ask them to give you a neck or should massage. If you don’t, invest in a good vibrator and pleasure yourself. Or, book a massage with a body worker. Physical touch releases feel good chemicals that are natural anti-depressants. 

18. Cry. Release of tears from the body lowers cortisol levels (a powerful stress hormone). Maybe play a song that brings you to tears, maybe journal or talk to someone. Crying is a gift when you can access it. 

19. Poetry and quotes. Read some David Whyte poems, Mary Oliver poems. Try Rumi or Audre Lorde quotes. Sometimes it’s had to articulate what we are feeling, so poetry has a way of helping us to move these often ambiguous emotions through our senses. 

20. Mantra or positive affirmations. A mantra is a word or sounds repeated to aid concentration in meditation OR a statement or slogan repeated frequently. Mantras and affirmations help us to boost our moods as well as remind us of who we are or what we value/stand for. 

Examples of affirmations/mantras include:

  • I am strong and can do hard things. 
  • My body deserves to be treated with kindness and compassion regardless of its size.
  • My weight is not connected to my worth.; I am more than my weight. 

21. Brainstorm ideas on what you can look forward to in life. Maybe you have a bucket list of places you want to travel to? Maybe you want to learn how to speak Italian? Maybe you want to learn how to play pickle ball? Maybe you want to volunteer at the animal shelter? What are some things you want to learn to do? Get creative and see what comes up. 

22. Brainstorm ideas on all the things you already enjoy doing. Make a list of all the things that you have done in your life that bring you immense joy and satisfaction. Schedule in a time to DO one of these things on your list. Look forward to it. 

23. Pray. This is one even if you aren’t religious. Turn your suffering over to a higher power. Turn it over to Mother Nature. Ask for more peace and freedom and comfort. Prayers can calm our minds and reprogram our subconscious. Then, go watch the movie, Eat, Pray, Love (-:

24. Get onto amazon prime to watch the Lizzo show, ‘Watch out for the Big Gurls.” If you don’t know who Lizzo is, that’s okay. Google her and your life will be forever changed. 

25. Sit with your feelings. Another way this is called is, “Sitting in the suck.” This is probably the most challenging, but the more you practice sitting with intense feelings, you will notice the intensity will diminish over time. You can learn to take breaks from sitting with intense feelings. You can learn to tolerate what feels intolerable. It’s building a muscle of emotional tolerance and this is a life skill that will really help you to build resiliency and grit. 

Be sure to make this list your own. Write down the ones you think would work and abandon the rest. Have this list handy for when the sh*t hits the fan, you can act fast and flex that muscle to build emotional resilience.  If you need more support, feel free to reach out and book a free call with me.

I’m here for you,

Much love, Karen Louise (your anti-diet dietitian and body liberation coach since 200%)

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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