Don’t munch on feelings. Often we munch on feelings when we don’t have useful tools to cope with distressful feelings.

If you’ve identified yourself as someone who uses food to avoid and soothe a distressful emotion, then you may lack the necessary, non-food-related, tools to cope. Making this change is challenging as food is a very useful way to instantly boost our mood or distract us and our brains love efficient and quick solutions while our waistbands suffer!

One of the reasons people turn to food as comfort is because we are fighting. Specifically, we are fighting a distressful emotion. We waste time and energy when we are fighting our emotions and cannot see clearly why we are in pain or what is the source of our emotional distress. Beginning to accept negative emotions or emotional pain is one way to let go of food. Techniques to try are:

Meditation: Meditation quiets the mind because you are no longer fighting your thoughts.  Mediation gives us a new relationship with our thoughts as we notice and accept.  It brings into awareness what we are really feeling and frees us from fighting against it or turning to food to munch down on it.  Meditation does not have to be extensive to be effective. You can even simply start with mindful breathing for a few minutes a day and work your way up if you choose.

Journaling: The practice of writing down your thoughts can help you feel better because it gives your thoughts a place to live outside of your mind. We use mental space and energy holding on to thoughts in our mind and when we are fatigued we are more likely to give in to food or poor choices.

Support Network: We need support from others from time to time, especially when we are in pain. Having a list of individuals, you can reach out to for support, inspiration or even just distraction can help you move through the emotional distress and find the other side without food.

Distractions: Have a go-to list of positive, non-food related, distractions at your fingertips. Options include taking a bath, calling someone on your support list, going for a walk, painting your nails or some other beauty-related activity, play with your child or pet, read a book, play an instrument, arts & crafts, knitting, take a yoga class, etc.

Delay: Often times we use food to comfort us from boredom. If you can delay or put off turning to food for 5/10/15 or even just 1 minute at a time, you may begin to think about other ways you can soothe your emotional need.   Another way to use this technique is by a DBT skill called “Urge Surfing.”  The concept is, the emotional intensity of a craving (due to boredom or otherwise) has a peak but what goes up, must also come back down.  Simply notice your urge and remind yourself that all urges and cravings will eventually pass. Riding out the “wave” by delaying munching down on feelings can build up the confidence and self-esteem that you can overcome the momentary unpleasant urge.

Wellness: Going for a walk or practicing yoga are great ways to move your bodies in a positive, mindful way to promote mental and physical wellness.

Therapy: Individual therapy and/or support groups can also be a helpful tool for managing distressing emotions.

For further information or should you have any interest in treatment “don’t munch on feelings.” but instead please call Specialized Therapy Associates at 201.488.6678 for details.