How to Deal with Food during Hard Times

Managing your food relationship during tough times

Watch the video or read the script below

We all go through hard times in life. Sometimes they are big, painful, and truly life-changing. Other times they are smaller and thankfully fleeting. The truth is, none of us are exempt from experiencing pain, sorrow, stress, loneliness, boredom, anger, and other emotions we experience when facing difficulty. 


The good news is that having emotions is what keeps you alive. It allows you to be happy when times are good, to appreciate the happy and joyful moments. It also allows us to work through and hopefully come through the hard times stronger than before. 


Hey, I’m Elizabeth and I’m here to help you become a woman of wellness by healing your relationship with food and loving your body and today we’re talking all about how to manage your relationship with food when you’re in the midst of a hard time of life. And before I go any further, I want to just reach my arms out to you and provide as much love and support as I can through this computer screen. I truly hope the things I talk about today will help bring a little light to whatever it is that is plaguing you today. 


Ok, back to emotions. We’re going to talk today about why emotions are a good thing and how to use them for learning and growth instead of turning to food to deal with them. 


There are all kinds of emotions. Some are big, some are small. Some are chronic and stick around for a while, others come and go as quickly as you change your mind (or as quickly as my threenager experiences them which could be changing every minute!)


The key to managing your emotions is not to ignore them, avoid them, or try to make them go away, it is instead to RECOGNIZE them. To ACCEPT them. What emotion are you experiencing right now? Call it out. Name it. Name your emotion. It sounds silly, but a lot of times we use avoidance to deal with emotions… which quickly leads us to behaviors like overeating. 


So, the first step to dealing with your emotions without using food is to first recognize them, second, name them for what they are, and third, accept them. Accept that it is ok to experience this emotion right now. 


Ok, now great, you’ve got your “emotion”, what in the world do you do with it?


I could come here and tell you all of the answers you’ve probably heard before. Go exercise, go on a walk, write in the journal, go see a counselor. These are all fabulous things and really, you should do them. But, you already know that. And sometimes when I tell someone to go exercise because it might help them, they get even more stressed because it’s one more thing to add and it doesn’t sound all that fun and really that just wasn’t the least bit helpful haha. 


So, today I want to go a little deeper than the normal textbook responses to dealing with emotions and share 3 ideas to implement when you’re trying to keep a happy relationship with food despite experiencing so many emotions whether they be big and chronic or smaller and more fleeting. 


Step 1 is to slow life down. In fact, I’d probably rephrase that to say slow your brain down. It’s important that you don’t have an overfull schedule that prevents you from being able to BE with and actually deal with your emotions (because that’s another form of distraction right?), but, the physical changing of your schedule is only one piece of the puzzle. 


Slow down mentally. Where can you give yourself grace in your brain? Remind yourself that you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Can you slow down your thoughts? Slow down the need to have it all together or at least the desire to try to put it all together in your head. 


When life gets hard, we tend to want to look for solutions immediately. But, the truth is, healing takes time. Get in your head, slow it down and listen for the emotions you are experiencing. Instead of trying to solve them, slow it down and acknowledge them. Accept that they are there. There will be time for solutions and change later, but for now, slow it down.


The second step is to say “no” more often. It’s ok to not be able to do it all right now. If you cannot do it, take it off your plate. I’m guessing that most people will understand. But I want to go deeper than saying no to others. What can you do to say “no” more often to yourself? We have so many expectations of ourselves that live inside our brains and sometimes they come out and other times, they’re thoughts that only belong to us.


I recently had a baby and although it has been a time of joy (which I recognized and appreciated as one of my emotions) for many months it was also a time of extreme exhaustion, bouts of anger, and bouts of sadness (and if you’ve had a baby, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about). My brain never stopped as I was trying to figure out how to solve every problem in life… My baby never stopped crying, what could I do to get her to stop crying? My house was always a mess, how could I get the perfect cleaning routine so it would actually stay clean longer than 20 minutes? My toddler needs to learn his letters, numbers, abc’s, how to clean up after himself, blah blah blah, you know all the stuff moms are “supposed” to teach their kids. My spouse and I felt like ships in the night passing each other responsibilities and just literally trying to survive. But, for some reason in that time, my brain felt like I had to pull it all together.


So, luckily I got smart and realized doing this would get me nowhere, so I stopped and said no to all of the expectations my brain was concocting. My baby grew and continues to grow and each day I am able to take on a little more and I’m perfectly happy with that now.


Sometimes in the moment it’s hard to see, but try to dig into your head and say no to all of those expectations you have for yourself and that others have for you. Saying no is a form of self care and it’s 100% acceptable to listen to your own needs.


Another great way to say no is to recognize when those emotions drive you to turn to food. Instead of going right for it, you now have the ability to recognize and name the emotion. Stop once you recognize it and say no to the food.


It sounds silly, but telling food “no” out loud reminds you that food has no control over you. Tell it no. You’ll find a way to deal with your feelings, but today it’s not food!




Now that you have freed up your physical and emotional space, spend some time feeling your feelings. Allow yourself to grieve in the way you need to grieve. Allow yourself to experience anger. Feel pain.


Then, create your own coping mechanism. Allowing yourself to feel and experience your emotion gives you information on what you need to deal with it. As you feel the emotion, you’ll be able to then ask yourself what you need and are more likely to come up with a better solution that if I’m the one over here telling you to go for a walk, or punch of punching bag.


Sometimes you just need to allow yourself to literally sit and watch tv mindlessly for a while if your stress feels like it’s out of control. Or maybe you need to go outside and yell. You know what I do when I feel like I’m a disaster? I hop in my car, turn up music really loud and drive for 20 minutes. It helps me release pent up emotions and I come back feeling refreshed.


So, now, tell me, what’s your favorite coping mechanism? I want to hear about it in the comments below!


Thanks for being here today! See you next time!