“Feeling your Feelings” is not the full story…

IMG_2292We often hear “emotional eating experts” encourage women to “feel their feelings” instead of “numb out” with food.

Which is somewhat sound advice, as there is no doubt in my mind that getting in touch with your emotions is incredibly important for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not you eat over them — I encourage my clients to feel their feelings whether they eat while doing so or not. 

That being said,  

thinking we can live a life without coping mechanisms is totally unrealistic — it goes against our biological instincts to seek pleasure and avoid pain. 

You will experience discomfort for the rest of your life, and you will reach for some kind of coping mechanism to deal with at least a portion of that pain.

Not to mention that coping mechanisms are what allow us to function during times of emotional duress. We need breaks from crying when trauma occurs. Feelings can’t be processed every moment of every day. We have to get out of bed, go to work, pick up the kids, do our laundry...

Coping mechanisms take the edge off so we can show up for life in the midst of our pain. 


when we need to pull out a coping mechanism (for whatever reason), humans usually go for the one that seems most appealing or soothing in the moment— which is usually determined by gut-instinct, not “logic.” 

The truth is, we’re not necessarily in control of which coping mechanism we choose when we’re experiencing discomfort (which is one of the reasons “taking a warm bath” doesn’t work).

But we do know one thing — dieting (i.e. trying to control our food/weight) — keeps food on the brain, so we’re more likely to turn to food as our “go-to” coping mechanism.

In other words,

The more we obsess,

the more we try to control food,

the more time we spend googling paleo recipes…

the more likely we are to turn to food for comfort. 

When we stop dieting, however, and let our natural, biological instincts around food take over without guilt, judgement, or attempts at controlwe naturally start to develop new non-food-related coping mechanisms. We make space in our brain for new practices of self-care to emerge.