Coping With an Eating Disorder

National Eating Disorders Awareness WeekWhat’s in your coping bank?

Eating disorders (ED) are extremely challenging and exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Many people who suffer from eating disorders use certain behaviors (such as limiting how much they eat, binging, purging, over-exercising) as a way to dealing with difficult emotions or stressful life situations. Over time, eating disorders can “take over” and a the person may begin to forget that he/she has other ways of coping with challenging situations.

We can all benefit from finding ways to deal with negative feelings in a healthy way.  Try these coping strategies when you’re feeling stressed out, guilty, or angry.

Self-Soothe Your Senses:

  • Vision: Watch a sunset, look at a picture or poster you like; make one space in a room look pretty; look at nature around you; walk in a pretty or calming part of your neighborhood.
  • Smell: Put on your favorite lotion or perfume; light a scented candle; take a warm bath with aromatherapy oils.
  • Taste: Drink your favorite soothing drink (such as tea or hot chocolate); really taste the food you eat; eat one thing mindfully (paying close attention to the taste and texture).
  • Hearing: Listen to beautiful or soothing music; sing your favorite song; pay attention to the sounds of nature (birds, rain, etc.).
  • Touch: Pet your dog or cat; have a massage; take a soothing bath; brush your hair for a long time; hug someone; play with play-doh or silly putty (it’s not just for kids!).


Work with your therapist or a family member to create a list of pleasant activities to help improve your mood, build positive relationships, and, most importantly, distract yourself from negative, unpleasant feelings. Find time for you!

Below is a list of some things you can do:

  • Write in a journal
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Watch a sunset
  • Color in a coloring book
  • Play your favorite instrument
  • Tell one person how you feel
  • Pop or stomp on bubble-wrap
  • Paint a picture
  • Go to the pet store
  • Hug someone
  • Take a long drive
  • Pack up some clothes for charity
  • Go to a concert
  • Take a leisurely walk
  • Rent your favorite movie
  • Read your favorite book
  • Do a puzzle, crossword, or Sudoku

We are all different and what works for someone else may not work for you. The key is to try different activities and figure out which ones work best for you. Add these activities to your “coping bank” and try to use them whenever you can. The more you practice them, the easier it will become over time!

Additional Resources:

– Shilpee, PhD