Five Ways To Soothe Frayed Emotions Without Food


How To Soothe Yourself Without Food

Hands up anyone who has reached for chocolate when you are feeling upset. When I say chocolate I mean the whole family-sized bar not a Hersey kiss or perhaps crunchy, salty is your thing and we are talking about a huge bag of  chips. It could be anything unhealthy and it could be happening because you are stressed, angry, frustrated or let’s face it, any emotion at all really.

Yes, me too!

The occasional soothing of emotions by comfort eating is fine but when it becomes a regular thing or when you can’t stop eating until you feel so uncomfortably full (and may even vomit) then we need to talk about other, more healthy ways, of soothing yourself when the day has been really tough.

Self-soothing is all about being comforted, nurtured and kind – by yourself. We are so much nicer to other people than we are to ourselves. It’s time you were nice to yourself. One way of doing this is to think of ways to soothe each of your five senses: Vision, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch.

VISION: Walk in a pretty part of your neighborhood or take a short trip to the nearest beauty spot.  Look around at the nature all about you. If you are in a city go to the Art museum and look at beautiful painting. Sit in your garden or if you don’t have one, buy a flower and spend time looking at it and really seeing it’s beauty. If it’s evening time and too dark to see or if you don’t want to go out, light a candle and watch the flame dance or look at a book with gorgeous images.

HEARING: Listening to music is a wonderful way to self-soothe. Some people prefer the a CD of natural sounds of the ocean or a waterfall. Whatever you are listening to, be mindful, letting the sounds come and go.

SMELL: We all know that certain smells take us back to specific memories. Be aware of what smells bring you pleasure (without hunger or cravings) Notice all the different smells around you. Walk on grass just after it has rain, and breathe in the perfume a loved one wears or smell certain aromatherapy oils such as lavender which have a relaxing quality.  

TASTE: Self-soothing without bingeing doesn’t mean you have to stay away from food entirely. When you eat emotionally you probably gulp down the food without really tasting it. Without knowing it, the whole packet of cookies has gone! Use your taste buds and really taste what you are eating. Take minute bites and really chew the food, rolling it around your mouth before swallowing. Eat it slowly, savoring each bite. Drink a soothing drink like herbal tea or hot chocolate. Let the taste run over your tongue and slowly down your throat.

TOUCH: Take a bubble bath (maybe one with a soothing smell, there’s nothing wrong with combining more than one sense). Pet your dog or cat or cuddle a child. Put on an item of clothing that feels soft or smooth silky or perhaps you need the cuddly feel of your favorite over-sized cardigan. Wrap up in a furry blanket or sink into a bed with clean, crisp sheets. 

Which of these ideas jump out at you as things you would find soothing? Prepare ahead and stock up and make yourself a treasure trove of comforting things for next time you feel the need to eat emotionally.

Dr. Sarah Allen

I specialize in empowering you to have the relationship with food that you want, rather than weight and food issues controlling you. If you have any questions, or would like to set up an appointment to work with me, please contact me at 847 791-7722 or on the form below.

If you would like to read more about me and my areas of specialty,  please visit Dr. Sarah Allen Bio. Dr. Allen’s professional license only allows her to work with clients who live in IL & FL & the UK and unfortunately does not allow her to give personalized advice via email to people who are not her clients. 

    What Can I Read That Helps Me While I Am Waiting For My First Appointment With Sarah?

    Sign up for the Emotional Eating booklet.

    Download this free booklet to gain valuable insights and learn practical strategies for managing your relationship with food.

    As featured in

    Excellent Therapist!

    Dr. Allen is a colleague of mine and she is an excellent therapist. She is warm, caring, and exceptional at her work. I refer clients to Dr. Allen and I highly recommend her if you are looking for a top notch therapist.

    Jodi Petchenik, LCSW

    I Learned To Cope Beyond the Scale

    When I first came to see Dr. Allen, I was sick of struggling with my weight. With her help, I realized that a lot of my eating habits were a way of dealing with the bad relationship I was in. With her support, I made some big changes in my life, increased my self-confidence and found better ways to deal with my stressful job. Now I don’t need to eat my way to feeling better, I have much better ways to cope with life’s difficulties.

    Ann C.

    Overcoming Emotional Eating

    I have always been on a diet and my mood went up and down as my weight did. My internist thought I might be depressed and referred me to Sarah. I was willing to give anything a try but really thought I just needed more self discipline to stick to my diet. By talking things through with her I quickly realized that not being able to stick to a diet wasn’t really about food, although I certainly craved sweets. I learned to notice how different emotions and situations triggered my overeating and Sarah showed me other ways that don’t involve food to deal with how I felt. I have a much better relationship with food now and don’t view it as the enemy. Sarah showed genuine concern and was very encouraging. I would recommend her services to anyone struggling with eating issues.


    Dr. Allen Helped Me to Feel More Empowered

    Dr. Allen has really helped me find my own voice. When I began therapy I would swing between being passive and doing whatever other people wanted me to do to being angry and frustrated. I have been on antidepressants for quite a few years but it wasn’t really working. Through therapy I have learned to listen to my own needs and to speak up. I used to worry that people wouldn’t like me if I didn’t agree with them but when Dr. Allen gave me the support I needed I challenged my fears. I spend a lot less time feeling angry and depressed now and I have really widened my social network. This is how I have always wanted to be but didn’t know how to get there. Dr. Allen has a very reassuring manner and makes you challenge yourself but by using small steps so you feel ready to do it. I have really come out of my shell and would recommend anyone who is feeling depressed to come and talk with her.

    Rebecca F.

    Trusted & Knowledgeable Therapist.

    When I need to refer any of my patients for talk therapy I immediately think of Dr. Allen as she is wonderful at helping people with severe and complex issues really get to the root of their problems. She is very caring and knowledgeable and I have found her extensive experience really helps people to change their lives for the better.

    Dr. Teresa Poprawski

    I become empowered and a happier person.

    I began seeing Dr. Allen when my first child was around a year old. I had experienced a very traumatic birth, after a difficult pregnancy where I was on bed rest for a good portion of the time. The first year of my son’s life was spent worrying constantly. I also experienced flashbacks to the birth, which was an emergency C-section under general anesthesia. My son was in the NICU for several days following his birth, and I was not given very much information as to why. I remember thinking that he would die, or that something awful was going to happen.

    I experienced a great deal of anxiety that first year, and I thought that it was due to being a new mom. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating as normal, and I remember being worried about leaving the house or taking my baby with me anywhere. I worried constantly about illness, germs, etc.

    The first day that I saw Dr. Allen, she gave me some questionnaires to fill out before we started talking. Then we sat down and talked about my experiences with my son’s birth and the early days of his life, and the year or so since then. I remember to this day the relief that I felt when she looked at me and said that I had PPD and PTSD, which was a result of the trauma I experienced during and immediately after the birth of my son. She explained how my brain had reacted to the stress of these events, and related it to why I was feeling the way that I felt. It made so much sense. Then, she described ways that I could get over the trauma, work through the feelings, and recover from PTSD and PPD. I felt so empowered, and so happy that the way I felt had a name, and that it was treatable. It also made me feel so validated in the ways that I had felt and reacted following my son’s birth. I wasn’t going crazy. My reaction was normal and natural. And with the help of Dr. Allen, and the type of therapy that she uses, I knew I could recover.

    It is over five years since that first visit with Dr. Allen, and I still use the tools that she taught me today to deal with stress. I credit her with helping me to become a more empowered, happier person.


    If you are thinking about getting counseling and you’d like to talk to someone about the things that are troubling you, I am happy to help.