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Using Distractions Instead of Food To Cope With Negative Emotions

Do you tend to eat when you experience negative emotions like (sadness, stress, anger, nervousness, boredom, loneliness, fear) even though you aren't even hungry? It helps to recognize what kind of hungry you are experiencing, BODY VS. BRAIN HUNGER.

For example, you see a candy bar or bag of chips when you are nervous so you eat them, even though you weren't the least bit hungry. This is emotional brain hunger. What you are doing is "feeding" the negative emotion instead of using a more healthy coping mechanism to deal with your nervousness.


DISTRACTIONS & FUN ACTIVITIES are great healthy coping mechanisms that can help us deal with our negative emotions without using food to make us feel better. Here's how they work:

- A distraction or fun activity takes our mind off of the negative emotion we are experiencing. When we distract our brain and then relax, we forget about the food.

For example, if you crave a problem food or have the urge to snack or want more at a meal, TALK TO YOUR EMOTIONAL BRAIN. Stop and think of something fun to do that doesn't involve food that you enjoy.

- By doing the distraction or fun activity the negative emotion or urge to eat usually goes away.

- The more we use a distraction or fun activity instead of food to relieve a negative emotion, the more it becomes your habit of choice. Instead of eating, you do the distraction or fun activity. YEAH!

How about learning a better way to cope with our feelings other than eating? Here's how.

1. Write Down Distractions & Fun Activities You Like To Do

- Write down a distraction or fun activity you can do or like to do on a piece of paper.

- Write down several more distractions and fun activities on separate pieces of paper. These can be anything you like to do like:

- Go for a walk

- Paint or draw a picture


- String beads

- Make a craft

- Relax with a good book

- Dance in my room

- Chat with a friend

- Help a neighbor

- Volunteer at a local animal shelter or senior center

- Play the piano

- Keep a journal

- Plan a garden and plant some veggies or flowers

- Shoot some hoops

- Listen to your favorite music

- Work on a hobby

- Read a book

- Join a club


See how many ideas you can come up with! Add to your list whenever you think of another fun idea.

2. Put the pieces of paper with the distractions and activities written on them in a small box or jar what we call a Distractions/Activities Jar. You might want to decorate a box or jar to make it more fun!

3. Draw Out A Distraction/Activity Whenever You Experience One of Your Negative Emotions

- Whenever you feel the urge to eat, rather than eat, draw out one of the distractions/activities from your Distraction Jar and GO DO IT!

- After you do the distraction/activity, put the slip of paper back in the jar and re-mix the slips of paper.

- Remember, replacing food with activities/distractions is a HEALTHY WAY to cope with your emotion.

4. Get junk food out of the house! Out of site, out of mind! It's a good idea to remove junk food from your house, that way you won't be so tempted. Be mindful. THINK BEFORE YOU EAT! Are you really hungry? If not, DON'T EAT. THINK DISTRACT!

5. Surround yourself with SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE.

It sometimes helps to talk about why you feel the way you do. Talk to a friend you trust, your parents, a school counselor or your health care provider. Recognizing that you use food to cope with your emotions and having an open conversation about it with someone you trust is a first step in resolving the problem. Together you can come up with some solutions.

You can also get lots of ideas and support from other kids on this site. Visit the chatroom, pre-teen, and teen bulletin boards for other ideas and information. You can interact with other kids and teens and read how they conquer their struggles with weight. Don't forget, every Wednesday "Lucy" is in the chat room to answer questions too!

Time for a FUN DISTRACTION! HAVE FUN!!! And, don't forget to SMILE! You never know who's day you're making!

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