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Bulimia Recovery #24 - 6 Steps to Managing Your Emotions Without Food
February 13, 2012

6 Steps to Surviving Your Emotions Without Turning to Food

I used to run to the pantry at the first sign of an uncomfortable emotion...

I simply wanted nothing to do with it...

But during my recovery, I realized that uncomfortable feelings aren’t here to make your life hell...

They’re actually here to make your life BETTER! Uncomfortable feelings are like a messenger... They tell us when all is not right in our lives and they signal to us that somehow, balance has been lost.

Just as feeling cold guides you towards warmth...

  • Sadness can guide you towards happiness
  • Fear can guide you towards safety
  • Anger can guide you towards peace

That is, if you listen to it.

Pushing away uncomfortable feelings with food is like closing the door on the messenger...

If you continue to do it... You will never get the message of how to improve your life for the better.

But if you let the messenger in, if you sit with him for a while...

You can discover whole new ways of improving your life.

Next time you feel an uncomfortable feeling... be it stress, anger, sadness - or anything else follow these steps:


Step 1: Acknowledge your feeling

When you notice an uncomfortable feeling... STOP and pay attention to it! Remember, the messenger is bringing you information...

Replace any criticism you have for feeling this way with curiosity and compassion... Simply accept it and cast aside any judgment.

Once you have accepted the way you’re feeling, move onto step 2.

Step 2: Name the feeling

Try to figure out the exact feeling you’re experiencing...

Is it sadness? Loneliness? Fear?

If you label it as anger - try to take a closer look. Anger is normally a more vulnerable emotion dressed up in armor.

Try to be as accurate as you can in naming your feeling before you move onto step 3.

Step 3: Prepare to feel

Accept you’re going to feel some emotional pain... But remind yourself that it is ‘positive pain’ and it will help you grow towards recovery.
Try to uncover why you’re scared of allowing yourself to feel this emotion...

Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel and this feeling won’t last forever.

The nature of feelings is that they come and go... And this will be no different.

Step 4: Feel your feeling

Sometimes the best thing you can do with a feeling is nothing at all...

Simply, let it be. Feel it.

Go for a shower and cry your eyes out. Curl up into a ball. Scream. Write pages upon pages in your diary.

Let the feeling take it's course... Allow the messenger to stay until he’s ready to go.

Step 5: Praise yourself!

Once the feeling has more or less gone away - give yourself praise for getting through it!

Take a few moments to remember the experience - paying particular attention to successfully getting through it.

This will help reinforce deep within your subconscious mind that you do not need to push the messenger away with food.

Step 6: Ask yourself ‘Is this suffering necessary?’

Now that you’ve listened to the messenger, it’s time to take what he had to say on board...

Why did you feel the way you did?

And were these feelings necessary?

Necessary feelings are ones such as grieving a loss. This process is a natural part of moving on and it is something that only time and ‘feeling your feelings’ will heal...

Unnecessary uncomfortable feelings on the other hand, are a result of unnecessary suffering... Things like being:

  • Pushed around at work
  • Taken advantage of
  • Cheated on
  • etc...

Unnecessary suffering is avoidable by changing your actions and beliefs...

  • Work on saying no to people.
  • Work on your self confidence so that you can stand up to bullies.
  • Work on believing that you are worthy of being treated with respect and settle for nothing less!

Working on these things will help you knock out the activating event that is triggering your unpleasant feelings.


Fewer unpleasant feelings = fewer urges to push them back with food!



Bulimia recovery is one hell of a journey! It has difficult lows and soaring highs which ultimately lead to peace. Recovery is a learning experience, where so much of what you discover comes from sitting quietly and listening to your true inner self. It comes from accepting your emotional messenger and hearing what he has to say...

One of our community members in The Bulimia Recovery Program described this process in a way far better than I ever could! I asked her permission if I could share her blog post with you through my newsletter. She kindly said yes. Thank you Elle - you are just awesome :)


Where Did I Go and Am I Ever Coming Back? - By Elle

When the real heavy changes in life are made, it is rather snake-like. Your old skin has been outgrown and you must leave it behind. It may be simple, but it takes concentration and diligence. Snakes typically begin this process by rubbing their body against rocks or other hard surfaces, so this means that it is not something that just happens. Their skin does not just fall off. They have to work at it; they have to make it happen. And, if they didn't do it, if they didn't fight, they would build up all this bulk of layers upon layers of dead skin.

Living with an eating disorder, a lot of bulk is accumulated. Too much bulk and it becomes hard to move under all that weight. Those years that I was lost to a life of restricting, bingeing and purging, I forgot to take care of myself. I forgot to shed several layers of skin. Recovery is the hard surface, the rock I need to rub myself against to get rid of those outworn and useless layers of skin, layers of the old me. The me who restricted, binged and purged.

The thing is, I will never get back to who I was before I developed my eating disorder. No matter how much skin I cast off, the girl underneath isn't the girl I was way back then. The truth of the matter is, I'm not a little girl anymore. In four months, I am going to turn thirty. I'm a woman now and it's time to start acting like one.

But when an old way of living is given up, it is natural to feel timid, to wobble and even to mourn. It is, after-all, you who is gone. Who you were for years is leaving you. And, it would be irrational to think that taking away something that big would not leave a giant hole behind. And that loss can make it hard to seem whole. In fact, sometimes stepping through recovery feels more like stepping through a minefield than exfoliation. Sometimes, it feels like I have been blown apart.

But when I stay present with all of these hard feelings, when I keep at it, when I rub up against them, instead of crumbling, I start molting. And I get to see a new lovely me emerge. I need to remember that the new skin is delicate, it has not been exposed to all the rough elements yet. It burns easily.

And even if I get blown apart, it means, I will also be put back together. Van Gogh tells me all these tiny pieces will create something great, something never seen before, something like the me I was always supposed to be.

I liked that girl, that girl I was before my eating disorder and it makes me sad that she had to leave. When she comes back, I will probably not recognize her. She will not be who I was expecting. But, I have feeling she is still going be pretty fucking amazing and I look forward to meeting her again and hearing all of her wonderful tales.




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Sending you lots of love and recovery vibes!

xox Shaye

P.S. To all the girls in The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community: I will be away for 5 days this week as I'm going away on a kayaking trip! While I am away, please be extra kind to yourselves... Remember to sit with your emotions and to allow yourself to feel! There is nothing you are not capable of pushing through. You are all such brave women and I am super proud of you all :)

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