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How to Tolerate Emotions and Cravings Without Using Food to Cope

Skills, as they are called in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), are tools and strategies to help us tolerate emotions and cravings without making it worse.

When it comes to sticking to your food plan and goals, skills are tremendously important for tolerating emotions and cravings without turning to food. Skills help us ride out those urges to eat off plan, such as between meals or late at night. 

To get started, here are three skills you can practice this week, to use in moments you would normally reach for food to numb out or soothe your discomfort: 

Tip One: Take your mind elsewhere- Distract!

Here’s the thing about cravings and emotions- they don’t last forever. Distracting can help you take yourself elsewhere so these cravings and difficult moments can pass. Typically, a craving will only last about 30 minutes or so before fading. Talking to a friend, watching a movie, doing a crossword puzzle, organizing your clothes, or making artwork, are all activities that help you distract when cravings hit.

Side note– If true physiological hunger is the source of your craving for food, do not use distract skills to ride it out. Your body needs fuel to survive! It’s always best to address these biological vulnerabilities first and foremost!

Tip Two: Self-Soothe with your five senses

Emotions like fear and shame have a way of taking us out of the present moment, and into the past or future. The self-soothe skills will help you ground in the present moment, thereby helping you to reduce the intensity of the emotion. You can practice self-soothe by choosing to do something that activates your senses- such as taking a relaxing bath, taking a walk in the cold weather, putting incense in a diffuser, listening to music, or cuddling with your pet. While these activities may not feel as soothing as eating food in the moment, they will still help serve the function of calming our nervous system, and will not come with the feelings of bloat and shamefulness at the end of it.

Tip Three: Find Meaning in a Difficult Moment

When we can find meaning in our suffering, it can give us a helpful perspective and a boost of motivation to get through a hard moment in time. When we don’t have a good sense of the meaning behind our pain, we often feel lost or unmotivated to work toward our goals. Finding meaning is a hard skill to use particularly when life feels unfair or your suffering feels particularly painful. However, opening your mind to the possibility that you can use this experience in a meaningful way can be tremendously helpful in getting you through it without turning to food.

Choose at least one of these skills to practice this week! As always, know that Team MC is here rooting for you. 

Want more support? Check out Molly’s youtube channel and subscribe to the Sunday Love Letter to get support, information, and motivation on your journey to create a loving relationship with food. 

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

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