This post will discuss in detail triggers and how, why, and when they impact you. I believe that most people suffer from some form of food trigger. Some triggers are stronger than others. Some people may only suffer from them during certain times of the year. There are even people who don’t suffer from food triggers, and instead, their triggers are human or situational. Those two will be discussed in separate posts because they are quite comprehensive and serious to break all by themselves.
So, let’s talk about food triggers. The best way for me to explain this is to share some of my triggers.
1. Chocolate — sometimes just sugar in general
2. Comfort foods
3. Large portion foods
This is a good place to start with me. Number 1. Chocolate. As a woman, it isn’t uncommon to suffer from a chocolate trigger, but my trigger can spin out of control. I think this trigger is the most powerful at this point in my life. (fortunately, I have dealt with many others and broke them) Sometimes, I can just HEAR the word, and it’s almost like I can smell it. Once I get to that point, it is best for me to get a small candy bar or piece of chocolate and eat it. If I don’t, I will literally eat, eat, and eat trying to kill that craving.
Triggers that have that degree of power over someone will need to be addressed, psychologically, to break the obsession with the item. There are a number of different ways to do that, but for me what was most helpful was only eating chocolate that didn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, which greatly eliminates most U.S. made chocolate. There is just something about sugar in that form that makes it addictive, but that’s another post worth of information.
Another way that I have broken my obsession with items is to keep a can of very strong, minty, breath spray with me at all times. Anytime a craving hits me, I take a couple of sprays, and nothing tastes good with that stuff, so the craving goes away. Eventually, the unhealthy connection is broken. It can easily come back though if you slip up and eat some, so beware.
How triggers impact us is simple. They distract us from our goal. We begin to reason, well this one time will be ok. I’ll reward myself for such good work. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with some form of your trigger, as long as it is the least powerful in strength. For example, let’s say that my most powerful trigger is chocolate candy, but I’m out of candy, so I eat chocolate pudding instead. Low fat, sugar free at that. I found that I really enjoy it. I can eat the pudding and be ok, but the candy bar will lead to a lot of other binge type eating. It’s like a really bad friend. The one that encourages you to break the law and have fun doing it.
Why do triggers impact us? Some triggers are literally engineered to impact us. Some companies actually hire scientists to tell them how to make their product so good that customers are almost guaranteed to buy it again. This isn’t your fault; however, you can’t use it as a crutch either. You have to take this information and be informed and realize that companies want your money, and they don’t care what condition you’re in as long as it doesn’t blow back on them. You have to decide, “hey, I’m not going to let anyone give me something that’s going to decrease my control over the item.” You have to identify those triggers and acknowledge, “these triggers, in short, make me sick, so I will not indulge in them.”
When is it that triggers impact us? Well, those strong ones can impact us with a quick image on a television screen, or in a narrative as someone is describing a famous meal or dessert. With social media like it is, it can trigger you anytime someone “pins” a unbelievable looking dish on Pinterest, FB and so on. They can impact us around the anniversary of a happy or sad event. Emotions play a huge role in the development of such connections, so we have to be quick to identify the trigger and distance ourselves from them. If social media is a problem, then remove those pages. If it’s a specific friend, then hide their posts from your newsfeed. I’ve had to do that before. Do whatever you need to in order to rid yourself from this obstacles.
One last suggestion, and this really worked well for me. Make a commitment to a specific number of calories and document them daily for whatever period of time you need to until you can do this without posting. If your commitment is 2,000 calories, then you can eat whatever you want, as long as you don’t go over 2,000 calories. When I realized how many calories these triggers were eating up, I started choosing healthier options–those that enabled me to eat larger quantities while satisfying my craving. This works extremely well for me.
I have broken A LOT of triggers. I still have some, and we never stop forming them. New ones have emerged. The plus is that I know what works for getting them under control and not letting them control me. Being mindful of what you’re eating, and only choosing foods that you deem “worth it” will help you form a much healthier set of foods in which to crave.
Take a look at your list and ask yourself, How, why and when do these foods bother me? This week, try a couple different things to bring them under your control. I’d be happy to talk to you about yours if you need someone to talk to. If you’d like to share things that work for you, I encourage you to comment to this post. Until our next article, be mindful and in control!