• Alexa Shank, MS, LPC

Top 5 Coping Skills for Eating Disorders

We have to face food every day, multiple times a day. Simply “white-knuckling” it and using willpower are not often useful ways to resist urges to engage in eating disorder behaviors. This is why developing healthy coping skills is so important in eating disorder treatment. Don’t have any healthy coping skills? Checkout my top 5 favorite coping skills and try using one or all of them next time you have the urge to binge, purge, restrict, or engage in any negative behaviors.



  • Create a self-soothing toolbox that has items in it to target all five of your senses. When you feel the urges, open the toolbox and see if you can reduce their intensity by using the different items you’ve put in ahead of time. Examples include silly putty, stress balls, essential oils, pictures of cute animals, and crossword puzzles.

  • Practice using opposite action. Whatever the urge is that you want to engage in try and do the opposite. If you want to compulsively exercise, go sit down and read a book somewhere. If you have the urge to restrict, make it a point to follow your meal plan.

  • Practice calming yourself with mindfulness. Imagine a “safe space” and take yourself to this place in your mind when you become distressed. Be detailed and think about how it would look, smell, sound and feel to be in this place. It could be a made-up place like a meadow, or a real place you’ve been to, like a beach in Hawaii.

  • Engage in pleasant activities. Try distracting yourself by doing something that you enjoy, such as going for a mindful walk in the park, playing with your dog, or watching funny videos on YouTube.

  • Seek support from friends and family. Call a loved one or ask them to meet up and chat. Often just being in the presence of others can be encouraging and a helpful distraction from your urges to engage in behaviors.


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