My clients get this comment from me, usually following something like this:
“If only I would just reach for celery when I’m stressed!”
“I can’t be trusted with that food in the house.”
“If I get my hands on that food, it’s over.”
“I go straight to the pantry after talking to him.”
“Something about my boss just makes me want to snack.”
“I was doing so good until we got that news.”
It’s so common to use food to cope that it’s basically become a socially acceptable response to life’s uncomfortable stuff: “totally ate my feelings”, “numbed out on XXX food”.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone has coping mechanisms but don’t confuse masking, numbing or pushing your feelings beneath the surface as coping strategies.
Coping mechanisms make us feel immediately, but temporarily better. Coping strategies make us sit in the uncomfortable feeling a little longer, but allow us to process. Processing emotions with coping strategies can break long term cycles of using food (or any other destructive behaviors) to deal with conflict and challenge.