Emotional Freedom Techniques – Tapping for Body Image

What is Tapping?

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), also known as tapping, are a powerful fusion of somatic and cognitive – connecting body and mind. Tapping can be used for a range of different issues and involves a combination of tapping on acupressure points, exposure, and cognitive statements or processes. 

EFT in its current form has been around since the early 90s, to date over 300 research studies of clinical EFT have been published in peer-reviewed publications and clinical EFT has been validated in numerous clinical trials including randomised control trials and meta-analyses.

The research strongly suggests that EFT is an effective therapy for trauma, anxiety, depression, pain, cravings, phobias, and many psychosomatic illnesses. It can also complement traditional approaches like CBT and talking therapies.

The stimulation of acupoints appears to have an effect on the amygdala (one of our main emotion processing centres integral for the activation of the fight/flight/freeze responses), as well as improving multiple biomarkers of health such as cortisol levels, blood pressure, heart rate and gene expression.

To put it plainly, EFT can help move us from an activated state to a regulated state in a very short period of time.

How Does Tapping Help?

I like to describe EFT as being a supportive tool on 3 levels:

  1. Emotional regulation – Basic EFT can be used when we are feeling anxious, stressed, triggered or in any other heightened emotional state, to bring ourselves back to balance in a relatively short period of time.
  2. Addressing Specific issues – EFT can work to defuse and properly process reoccurring negative emotions, triggers, memories, and events. This helps us to move away from cycles of trigger-response-avoidance and resolve problematic patterns of behaviour effectively.
  3. Working on beliefs –  EFT has demonstrated its ability to create neural change in the brain. This helps people address particular beliefs, releasing any negative associations with them, as well as helping people move beyond limiting beliefs.

How Does This Relate to Body Image Distress

As an Advanced EFT Practitioner and Eating Disorders Practitioner I have been successfully using EFT as part of my work with clients.

EFT can help people to address body distress, negative feelings and emotions, body stories and trauma related to the body. You can also combine EFT with other body image exercises like mirror exposure and inner child work.  The relationship that we have with our body is a nuanced and ever-changing one.

Anyone who has a body has feelings, thoughts and emotions about it. If they are negatively loaded and we’re unable to be compassionate to ourselves or practice body neutrality, appreciation or positivity, it can be a challenge to improve that relationship. 

By addressing how we feel and think, defusing any negative associations with the body, we have the freedom to choose how we want to feel or behave.

How to Practice Tapping

Example 1: 


Identify the emotion (or feeling) and rate it on a scale from 0-10. 

0 = no distress.

10 = high distress.

This is called the SUD (Subjective Units of Distress) rating.

EFT Tapping Points (Rounded Business Card (Portrait))

If you can, locate where in your body you feel it and what it feels like.

Set Up

Start with a ‘set-up statement’, whilst tapping on the side of the hand underneath the little finger (see reference picture).

This statement is an acknowledgement of the feeling we are having and an acceptance of it. 

For example: “Even though I’m feeling anxious when I think about going out tonight, I feel it tight in my chest, I deeply and completely accept myself”.

Tapping Round

Then we would move into ‘a round’ and repeat a ‘reminder phrase’ whilst tapping through each point: start tapping at the eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, under the lip on the chin crease, an inch under the collarbone, under the arm (about four fingers down from the armpit), and top of the head.

The reminder phrase might be something like, ‘this is anxiety’ or ‘I’m feeling anxious’.

Once you get round to the top of the head, take a deep breath in and out and then rate the feeling using the SUD scale again.


If your number is still high, repeat the round (starting at the eyebrow point and ending at the top of the head). It’s recommended that you repeat the process as many times as you need until your SUD rating is zero.

You may find that the feeling or emotion changes as you move through the rounds – always remember to be specific with how you feel right now to keep reducing the intensity of the emotion

Why Tapping?

From my experience, learning how to use EFT as a self-regulation tool is one of the first, and often one of the most empowering, steps when it comes to working on ourselves and body image.

Whenever we are challenged with mental illness, our relationship with food, or our bodies, there is a lot of emotional turmoil that needs to be faced. Being able to utilise Emotional Freedom Techniques when feeling periods of distress means we move from white knuckling through it to becoming empowered with our own self-efficacy.

You can also use the technique with friends and family, although I would strongly suggest completing training before using it with others so you can ensure you’re working safely and ethically.

You can find many resources on how to do EFT online but beware of ‘social media tapping’ and those who haven’t taken formal training or qualified as a practitioner. I always recommend starting with Clinical EFT, as this is well researched and trialed.  From there, you can find your own way of working with it and integrating it with your body image practice.

EFT International is one of the leading professional organisations in the world, you can find practitioners and trainings online and in person which are all accredited and approved.

Emily Andrew

Advanced EFT Practitioner; Eating Disorders Practitioner; Speaker with a background in fitness and performing arts; Expert by Experience

Emily Andrew


Emily’s approach integrates the mind and body and uses a mixture of evidence-based cognitive, behavioural and somatic practices combined with intuition. After living through and recovering from over a decade of mental illness and eating disorders she uses her lived and learnt experiences to meet you where you’re at, give you a safe space to get curious, heal and step into a purposeful, liberated life.
She is based in Cheltenham but works all over the UK and globally running 1-1 sessions, an online membership, corporate wellbeing events, trainings, workshops and collaborations with retreats and festivals.

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