Creating Space to Move from Reaction to Response


Have you ever noticed that sometimes you just keep hanging in a situation that is uncomfortable? Sometimes as women we don’t feel we are permitted to step away from a difficult situation, e.g., criticism at work, an argument at home, or an upsetting political discussion. And a lot of times, using food to cope when that uncomfortable situation happens.

But giving yourself a little space to regather your flustered or anxious self can make a big difference in not regretting your reaction. So, the purpose of creating space is to move from reaction to response, from inactivity to proactivity.

Space creators include:

  • A deep breath to calm
  • “Excuse me , I need to go to the bathroom”
  • “Let me check my schedule and get back to you”
  • Turning around to the kitchen sink and washing your hands
  • Stepping outside for fresh air

So much of mindless eating is reaction. And habit. In addition to using food to deal with uncomfortable situations, you might also notice that even sitting on the couch and picking up the remote can trigger a reaction to eat an entire gallon of ice cream. Where did it go? This is another situation where creating space can allow you to respond in ways you won’t regret later, whether it’s emotional overeating, binge eating, or not saying something nasty to a loved one.

In creating space, the first question is: What kind of space to you need?

  • Time to think
  • Time to move
  • Space to feel
  • Space to explore
  • Space or time to imagine and dream
  • Space to create

Notice what you are missing, what you are yearning for.

Then, make a list of five things you can do to that take less than 10 minutes and cost less than $5 that move you forward, one little space at a time, one step away from knee-jerk reactions.

Here’s an example of what a participant told me she is missing in her life: the space to get her grocery shopping done so that she can have healthy food she loves.

We worked on her breaking up her response into 5 minute blocks.

  1. Plan her food for the next 2 days.
  2. Repeat to herself my favorite bumper sticker:  Overplan and then go with the flow.
  3. Make a list of the food.
  4. Create a challenge to see how quickly she can get in and out of the store.
  5. Make the meal and celebrate that yummy food that she corralled into your house.

What kind of space are you needing?  What small steps can you use to make it happen?





One response to “Creating Space to Move from Reaction to Response”

  1. Becky says:

    Good advice. I usually need time to think before overreacting to the situation. I’m glad you said takes less than 10min and costs less than $5 because sometimes at work my reaction is an out of control shopping spree at lunch time when all I really need is time to think! Thanks for sharing.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

Marsha has been a guiding force at Green Mountain at Fox Run since 1986. In addition to overseeing a professional program that helps women establish sustainable approaches to healthy living, she is a respected thought leader when it comes to managing eating, emotions and weight. She has been a voice of reason for the last three decades in helping people move away from diets, an area in which she is personally as well as professionally versed. An accomplished writer and speaker, Marsha is the author of six books, including the online course Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals (co-authored by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, Human Kinetics), What You Need to Know about Carbohydrates (Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics [The Academy]), What You Need to Know about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (The Academy), and The Pregnancy Cookbook (co-authored by Donna Shields, RD, Berkeley Publishing). She has worked extensively on a national basis to educate the public about nutrition and the impact of dieting on eating behaviors, including binge eating and emotional eating. Active in many organizations helping to further the cause of health and wellness, Marsha currently serves as vice chair of the Binge Eating Disorder Association and vice president of The Center for Mindful Eating and has been active in the Association for Size Diversity and Health in support of Health at Every Size(R) principles.

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