Triggers have many similarities to temptations but may be subtler. Triggers may be thought of as preludes to temptations. They may be so closely tied together that no distinction is noticeable. Triggers bring to life the awareness of a connection between feelings, places, people, things, or situations and cravings for one’s addiction.
Triggers are the threshold to relapse and addiction. Triggers cannot be ignored if a recovering addict is to remain in recovery. Knowing one’s weaknesses is the first step to being prepared with a strategy for successfully overcoming them.
There are several types of triggers food addicts need to consider. Food itself can be a trigger. Some food triggers can include the smell of food cooking, seeing food, vending machines, and/or favorite comfort foods. Additionally, there are behavioral triggers. These triggers are usually activities you associated with eating. They can include passive activities such as watching TV or reading, driving, going to a party, not sleeping, eating out, and/or procrastination.
Emotional triggers happen when you eat in response to your emotional state. Boredom, guilt, disappointment, stress, job insecurity, and even happiness can all be emotional triggers. Anger is the top emotional eating trigger for women.
There are also environmental triggers. Cultural expectations can trigger strong responses. Some other environmental triggers can include eating with certain people, seeing a TV commercial featuring food, or even seeing a recipe or food advertisement. Interestingly, cold weather triggers hunger and this may be a trigger you experience. A big environmental trigger is food around the office especially when it is brought in by co-workers and offered to everyone to share.
One of the first steps that you can take in overcoming food addiction is to identify trigger foods as well as other triggers that may be at the root of your addiction. A great way to do this is by keeping a food diary that logs the food you eat, when you eat, why you ate, how you felt before you ate and how you felt after you ate. Also keep track of the amount of food you eat. After a week or two, review the diary and look for a pattern in your eating. Are you eating when you are sad, mad, happy, bored? By keeping a food diary and monitoring the diary to determine which emotions or situations trigger you to eat, or which foods are your downfall, you can take steps to get rid of such situations, change such behaviors or eliminate certain danger foods from your diet.
Once you have your food diary in your hand and have kept careful track of the foods that you eat, when you eat, how much you eat and why you eat you, can begin to formulate a plan. The plan can help you to stop these bad eating habits, as well as take on healthy eating habits that will work for you. Follow these steps to ridding yourself of food addiction and getting back on track with some healthy eating habits.
1) Slowly eliminate trigger foods from your diet. You don’t have to eliminate foods all at once but if you realize that fast food is your downfall, consider not eating fast food anymore or think about limiting your consumption. Say you eat fast food 5 days per week. Now limit yourself down to eating fast food once per week. You can even taper this off slowing such as by limiting your fast food down to three days weekly and then gradually down to only once per week or not even every week.
2) Replace unhealthy foods with healthy foods. If you are a binge eater or you just like to consume food, there are foods that you can eat a lot of without the consequences. Fresh fruits and vegetables are on the top of the list of good foods that you can eat a lot of without the guilt. As you eliminate one food from your triggers list, try replacing it with a healthy fruit or vegetable option.
3) Cope with cravings. If you are having a craving for a particular food, such as chocolate or salty potato chips, consider asking yourself why you want to eat that food. Are you just bored? Are you lonely or upset? Most of the time, food cravings are our brain’s method of overcoming or coping with a particular emotion and have nothing to do with our own actual hunger. If you are craving a particular food, commit to yourself to take some time before you make the final decision to eat the food or try to distract yourself from thinking about the food by taking a walk, calling a friend, or connecting with another method of support.
4) Distractions are key. Often, food addiction is the direct result of boredom or a feeling of helplessness when it comes to losing weight. If you’ve fallen victim to the “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude in which you have tried dieting but just can’t seem to lose the weight, consider making an honest attempt to find more distractions. Distract yourself by going to the gym, playing a game, or taking part in another activity.
Are you dealing with food addiction? What are your triggers?
Until next time….
Change. Discover. Transform.
Carla Carter, Ed.D., LCPC, CMPC, EMDR Certified