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Intuitive Eating Principles for Runners: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

In this continuation of our exploration into intuitive eating principles for runners, we delve into the 7th Principle—Coping with Your Emotions with Kindness. It’s a profound step, unveiling ways to cope with our emotions without utilizing food as a comfort crutch.

Before we dive in, it's important to note that it's okay to turn to food for comfort at times. Emotional hunger is one of the 4 types of hunger, but satisfying this hunger doesn't work through the emotions at the source and won't solve any problems.

Meditating in nature

Principle 7: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Runners are no strangers to the wide possibilities of emotions—the anticipation before a race, the mental resilience during rigorous sessions, the reflections post performance, and the injuries and setbacks along the way.

Principle 7 is about coping with all of these emotions with kindness and without judgment. It's also understanding that food will not solve our problems and we ultimately have to face the source of our emotions head on and work through them.

Embracing Emotions without Food

This principle is not about negating emotions but about embracing them, understanding them, and finding healthier alternatives to cope, which is critical for runners.

Recognizing and addressing your emotional states can help process these feelings and build a healthy, resilient mindset.

Non-Food Strategies to Cope with Emotions:

  1. Identify Triggers: Recognize situations or feelings that prompt emotional eating. It could be stress, boredom, loneliness, or even happiness.

  2. Seek Healthy Outlets: When overwhelmed, opt for alternatives like a brisk walk, meditation, reading, or talking to a friend. Have a mental list of these alternatives that work well for you so that you're ready to pull one out of your pocket when the need creeps up.

  3. Reflect and Understand: Pause and reflect on what is truly bothering you before reaching out for food. Understanding your emotions and their root cause is the first step in coping with them effectively.

  4. Express Yourself: Whether it’s through journaling, art, music, or conversation, expressing your emotions can be therapeutic and alleviate the need to seek comfort in food.

  5. Consider Therapy: If processing emotions and implementing healthy coping mechanisms is difficult for you, you aren't alone. This is deep, complicated work and a mental health professional can really help. Many runners consider running therapy, but but running should never replace actual, professional therapy.

Intuitive Eating Principles for Runners: Strategies for Coping with Emotions

Adapting this principle into your running journey will require acknowledging and addressing your emotional states with kindness and without judgment.

It’s about nurturing your mental and emotional well-being in tandem with your physical self. Running (especially training for races) itself can elicit a lot of different emotions and it's important to be able to cope with them in a healthy way.

Try some of these strategies:

  1. Post-Run Reflections: After your runs, spend some moments in reflection, understanding the emotions flowing through you. For some, journaling can be helpful here.

  2. Mindful Meditation: Incorporate meditation into your routine to gain insights into your emotional states and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Try an app or simply see how long you can sit still without judgment.

  3. Emotional Check-Ins: Regularly assess your emotional well-being, especially when the urge to eat arises out of emotional needs. If you find yourself eating emotionally, react neutrally. Pause and ask yourself what drove the urge to begin eating emotionally? Then implement our strategies outlined here to cope with those emotions.

  4. Healthy Emotional Outlets: Develop a repertoire of healthy coping strategies and choose them over food when dealing with your emotions.

Implementing Principle 7 is about creating your unique narrative where you can explore your emotions with kindness and openness, empowering your runs and supporting your relationship with food.

It is a journey towards self-discovery and enhanced well-being. How you cope with emotions will be completely individualized for you.

Recap: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Principle 7 is like a friendly nudge towards getting to know our feelings better and learning how to cope without always turning to food for comfort. It encourages us to really feel our feelings, and find comfort in healthier ways, which is super important for runners, bringing a sense of balance and contentment into our lives.

By embracing this principle, you’re not just upping your running game, but also building a kind and understanding relationship with yourself, setting the stage for a happier, more balanced life.


Can dealing with my emotions actually make a difference in my running?

Definitely! Getting a handle on your emotions can lower your stress levels and clear your head, which can mean more focus and better performance when you’re out there hitting the pavement.

Can addressing my emotions lead to a healthier relationship with food?

Understanding and addressing your emotions can reduce reliance on food as a coping mechanism, promoting a healthier relationship with food.

Is it essential to address emotions even if I’m not an emotional eater?

Absolutely. Addressing and understanding your emotions is crucial for overall well-being and can lead to improved mental resilience, essential for every runner.

Let's work together!

If any of this has resonated with you, I'd love to hear! My 1:1 clients work on various areas of nutrition including this and other intuitive eating principles, fueling for performance, and more. Check out some of the ways we can work together here.

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