We all have something that we use to cope with the stress of life, the fear of not being enough, or any other strong emotion or painful situation that we would prefer not to feel. Tara Brach calls them “false refuges”.

Think of these refuges as lifesavers that we put on to deal with life. Mine was food. For some years, overexercising “saved” my life as well.

It is normal to want to survive. We inherited this tendency to avoid pain and danger from our ancestors. That’s how we are wired.

There are many false refuges. Some people binge-watch TV, others overwork or spend hours on social media. Over-exercising, alcohol, smoking, and procrastination are lifesavers as well.

Which one is yours?

It is natural to want to avoid strong emotions. It is natural to go to the food to avoid pain or discomfort.

Natural doesn’t mean it doesn’t require your attention, though. If food is your lifesaver, that’s a sign that something else that’s deeper is calling your name. 

If you think about your conflict with food in these terms, what you eat stops being the enemy.

It’s JUST that…a lifesaver. It becomes a signal of the real issue you must address.

That’s where the focus should be, not on the food. If it isn’t actual hunger, food won’t solve the problem. 

What is food saving you from?

Written by Lina Salazar

The information provided in this post is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use.


  • Lina Salazar

    Anti-Diet Health Coach

    Live Well

    Lina is an Anti-diet Health Coach based in Washington D.C. She helps women make peace with food by breaking free from diet culture, increased emotional agility, and an enhanced attunement to their bodies. Lina’s practice is based on the principles of Health at Every Size® (HAES), intuitive eating, and leading insights and tools from eastern thought on how to actualize emotional, mental, and physical well-being.  She also works with companies and leads mindfulness sessions in organizations of all sizes. Prior to this work, Lina worked for several years in international development, passing through entities such as the OECD in Paris and the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington D.C. Lina holds a dual master's degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Columbia University, and Sciences Po in Paris. She is a political scientist and a lawyer from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. Lina got her certification at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. Lina is a board member at FRESHFARM, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable agriculture and improves food access and equity in the Mid-Atlantic region. Lina writes for Thrive Global, and has been interviewed on the podcasts Lunch Agenda, Simple Roots, pineapple radio, Unbreakable You and A-Cup. You can follow Lina on Instagram, LinkedIn and read her blog.