Trigger food (n.) a food that one identifies a something they cannot stop eating once they begin. They may identify it as a food that makes them feel better in times of emotional distress or upset. It is high in calories, fat, sugar, and/or salt.
That’s my humble definition. I’m guessing you aren’t disagreeing. And I’m guessing you’ve eaten this “trigger food” of yours within the past month, possibly the last week. Why?
Because life is hard. That’s what many of us tell ourselves. Life is a struggle, take two steps forward, immediately take three steps back. I have to do everything twice to succeed in anything. That’s just the way it is.
Life is hard. So I need comfort. And I need it now. Dear old chips/ice cream/chocolate cookie to the rescue, you never let me down.
15 minutes later….
Life sucks. I have no willpower. Why do I keep doing this. Now not only am I still stuck with the first problem that was causing me distress, but now I feel guilty for the half box of cookies I just stuffed in my face trying to forget about it. Great. This is too hard.
No. No it’s not. I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, Jillian, but you don’t understand, you’re skinny, and for God’s sake, you’re a Dietitian.”
News flash. We all have stress. And most of us suck at dealing with it. So how do we deal in a better, healthier way that actually works?
Behavior change. Before you roll your eyes at me, hear me out. Your kitchen right now is a war zone because you made it that way. But things could change. TODAY. Change it. Keep that stuff out of the house. If you have it in there right now, THROW IT OUT. I know, I know, there are starving children. But it’s not good for them, either! And even so, they won’t ever get to eat it anyway. Instead, donate money if it keeps you up at night. Give unopened boxes to a food bank if you have to. Do whatever it takes and GET RID OF IT. There. I said it. Out of sight, out of mind. Stop forcing yourself to make a choice every single time you open the pantry, the refrigerator, or the freezer. Just stop it.
Next, enjoy your ice cream, pizza, or whatever it is that you identify with as a “trigger food.” But not when you are emotional. Enjoy it for the sake of enjoying food. Yes, food is about food and emotions are about emotions. And recognize that it’s not carrots, apples, or grilled chicken that you want in those times of “need.” Trigger foods are loaded with salt, fat, and/or sugar. Highly addicting substances that the food companies understand will leave you coming back for more. In a fairly recent study done on rats, two groups were compared. One given cocaine and the other sugar repeatedly. Guess which one was more willing to undergo physical pain to get to their addictive substance when deprived of it?
What do we really need when we want comfort? Everyone’s different and I’m no expert in psychology, but I am human. Try these more effective tools and begin to see a transformation in yourself, and your body:
- Prayer. I believe in God and He’s ready to listen at any hour, any second, any day
- Journaling. We often need to “vomit” our thoughts on paper and then BURN it. Yes, physically light those nasty thoughts on fire. Get them out of your life.
- Talk to someone you trust. Venting can be healing. We all need to be heard and loved.
- Exercise. Just kidding! But really, it can be a great stress relief if it’s part of your regular routine. But I don’t highly recommend this one if you find yourself up at 2am wanting to binge on ice cream while watching the Home Shopping Network, just sayin’.
- Meditate. I know, you’re thinking you’re gonna focus on what you need to do this afternoon, tonight, tomorrow. The thing that got you here in the first place. The chocolate chip cookie you’re trying to avert your focus off of. But guided meditation, when done right, can be super helpful. Even in five minute spurts. My personal favorite app is by Mayo Clinic.
I’ll be addressing many more in a series over the next several weeks on how we tend to take the hard road in dieting when we could find ourselves in an easy flow, mindlessly losing weight. Yes, you read that right! Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out and receive a free list on some of the most common ways we overeat without even knowing it!