How to manage INTENSE emotions around food & body

Uncomfortable and intense emotions frequently come up in eating disorder recovery.

Maybe you struggle with distress around feeling too full after eating, or with a changing body in recovery.

It can be tempting to escape this distress and despair by running back to eating disorder behaviors. But, what if you could better manage these intense emotions, and continue on the path of recovery instead?

In a recent episode of Fear Less, an audio series on The Recovery Warriors Show podcast channel, hosts Jessica Flint and Andrea Wells dive deep into the topic of fear and intense emotions as they relate to overcoming eating disorders and finding recovery.

Read on to discover four valuable insights from the episode on the importance of sitting with bodily discomfort, and embracing intense emotions to move you forward in recovery.

1. The Power of Riding the Waves

Emotions are like a wave. They rise and they fall.

Recovery is about learning to ride the waves, rather than fighting them.

This is a concept highlighted in the episode by Dr. Anita Johnston, author of the must-read book for eating disorder recovery Eating in the Light of the Moon.

Emotions can’t be controlled, but you can learn to ride the waves.

Dr. Anita Johnston

In Andrea’s eating disorder recovery journey, she struggled with not only food and body, but alcohol abuse too. While getting sober pushed her further in ED recovery, she also faced an influx of intense emotions in the absence of her old ways of coping.

Through therapy and support, Andrea learned the importance of sitting with discomfort and riding the waves of intense emotions.

I thought intense emotions would kill me, but they didn’t. They really do end.

Andrea Wells

Although it may feel like an emotion is too unbearable or may last forever, it biologically can not do so.

Science shows that when a person has an emotional reaction to something, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens. After that, you have the power to either fight the wave and stay in the rough waters, or mindfully let the wave pass. [1]

2. ALL Emotions are Important

Society often teaches us to resist and avoid “negative” emotions, but embracing and feeling these emotions is crucial for healing and transformation.

Difficult emotions and situations are a part of life, but they do not have to define your life either.

In the episode, Jessica shared the perspective that harder emotions as opportunities for personal growth and expansion, eliminating fear and paving the way for a more fulfilling life.

By reminding yourself that feelings are not factual indicators of reality, and being kind to yourself instead of being self-critical, you can navigate intense emotions with compassion and self-acceptance.

3. The Courage to Confront Fear

The episode emphasizes the importance of confronting fear and not letting it control your life. Jessica inspires the concept of taking back power with intense emotions in recovery, and working with fear differently.

It’s about taking back our power from fear.

Jessica Flint

Common fears related to body image, judgment, fear of weight gain, and fear of introducing new foods are discussed. Tackling these fears together in supportive communities such as the upcoming Courage Club and The Recovery Warriors Shows podcast channel can provide motivation and strength.

Own your voice, be authentic, and advocate for yourself – even in the face of past negative experiences with sharing emotions.

4. The Journey to a Recovered Self

Andrea emphasizes the importance of understanding and differentiating between your unhealthy eating disorder voice in the mind, and your healthy recovered self.

This is a concept from Carolyn Costin that has helped countless people in recovery [2]:

The “eating disorder self” has different feelings, thoughts, and behaviors than your “healthy self”.

     It is your eating disorder self that will ‘talk you into’ disordered behaviors. You have a healthy self too.

To prove you have a healthy self, just ask your self what you would tell anyone else who told you they have to engage in the behaviors you engage in.

Carolyn Costin, MA, MEd, MF

Starting to notice when you are being lead by your eating disorder voice, or your healthy self can help you to acknowledge and navigate intense emotions in recovery.

Take a pause when intense emotions come up and ask yourself if your thoughts are coming from your eating disorder self, or your healthy self. Then, you are better able to move forward and base your next moves in line with the healthy self.


Fear and intense emotions can be overwhelming, but they also present opportunities for growth and transformation.

By embracing and feeling intense emotions you create space for personal growth, connection, and full recovery.

This episode of Fear Less beautifully captures the journey of embracing fear, sitting with discomfort, and learning to ride the waves of intense emotions.

Remember, the greatest things in life are often on the other side of fear, and no feeling is forever.

Join the Courage Club Wait List

In the courage club, you can learn to alchemize fear into courage, and finally say goodbye to food struggles for good.

Get on the waitlist here →



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