First, know that restricting food both physically and mentally can make you feel out of control, which can make you want to eat. Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and solve your problems in a kind way. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all feel at some point in our lives. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own way of making the other person happy. None of these feelings will be fixed by food, and it won’t help you.
In the short term, it may help you forget about the pain, or even make you numb. Even if you eat food, it won’t help. A lot of the time, eating because you’re hungry for comfort may make you feel worse in the long run. In the end, you’ll have to deal with what caused you to be angry or sad.
Learning to take a step back, pause and time to identify and understand your emotional triggers can help connect your eating with hunger and satisfaction rather than your feelings. Even if you ultimately decide to eat even though you’re not really hungry, taking a minute to think about these questions still makes it a more mindful eating perspective.
Eating for emotional reasons CAN be totally normal and okay. Food is often used to celebrate or soothe or connect, and there is nothing wrong with having some emotional attachment to it. It becomes a problem when food is your only way of coping with emotions and drives you to behaviors that may have negative consequences—things like binging and feeling guilty or avoiding certain feelings and situations.
An important part of having a healthy relationship with food is letting yourself eat when you don’t feel hungry, but do so in a smart way. Athletes and people who are active can do things like have birthday cake at the family party instead of just fruit, or eat your grandma’s homemade cookies on Christmas without feeling bad about it. There may be times when it’s not practical to eat cake an hour before a training session. In these cases, listening to your body means honoring that craving later so that you can feel good while moving your body.
How to Cope with Emotions with Kindness
People who play sports have a lot of stress and other emotions, so it’s important for them to be able to deal with them. We can now talk about what coping mechanisms are and how to use them.
Coping mechanisms are tools that people use to deal with their emotions and stress.
Problem-solving, moving in a way that makes you feel good, getting help from a professional, and relaxing techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and spending time in nature are all positive ways to deal with stress.
Negative coping mechanisms include drinking too much, smoking too much, and dieting too much. These things hide the problem and can lead to more problems in the future.
It’s OK to Use Food as a Coping Mechanism Sometimes!
You might be thinking, “OK, food can’t be a good way to deal with stress.” Even though food can be a good source of comfort, this isn’t always the case. As we said before, food is more than just fuel. When they updated their book on intuitive eating, they changed one of the rules from “honoring your feelings without food” to “coping with your feelings with kindness.”
You still want to make sure that you don’t use food as your only way to deal with things. You also want to make sure that choosing to eat improves your mood in some way. You also want to check in with yourself and see if you’re eating because you have to or if you choose to eat and then feel bad or guilty after. We see this a lot when athletes and people who are active have foods they don’t eat, or if they haven’t learned how to deal with things in the past.
People can eat for emotional reasons and it’s completely normal and OK. Emotional attachments to food aren’t a bad thing. People often use food to celebrate, soothe, or connect, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem starts when food is your only way of dealing with your emotions and drives you to do things that may not be good for you, like binging and feeling bad or avoiding certain emotions and situations.
Feelings that don’t involve food can be hard to deal with, but having ways to deal with them that don’t involve food can help keep food from becoming the most important thing in your life.