Triggers. What are they? And what can you do to avoid them?
Triggers are foods, situations, people, that tend to pull you off course. You know the ones. The friend that always talks you into ordering something other than what you planned at restaurants. Or movie popcorn. You tell yourself you won’t get any. The next thing you know, you’re in your seat with a buttery tub of popcorn in your face. You just can’t stand up to the smell. It’s intoxicating!
During my year of transformation, I had to learn to identify my triggers and make a plan to not allow them drag me off course. There were foods, friends, and situations that I had to approach in a new way.
How do you identify what might be a trigger for you:
- Is there a food that you always eat too much of? Maybe you just can’t control your intake once you start?
- Do you have friends or co-workers who always want to go to lunch, talking you into eating something you wouldn’t have eaten on your own? There’s always the one who says, “Don’t eat the lunch you brought, you can have it tomorrow, let’s go out!”
- Do you go out on the weekends and later regret the food and drink choices you made?
My biggest triggers were diet soda and eating cereal at night. I drank diet soda by the gallon. Well, I didn’t carry a gallon jug around, but it added up during the day. Is there a diet soda IV? Because if so, I would have had one.
And don’t even get me started on cereal. And I’m not talking about the good stuff; I’m talking Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Life. Those were my two favorites. And for some reason they tasted WAY better at 11pm than they did at 8am. Almost nightly for years, I would find myself creeping back into the kitchen at night. Fred Flintstone was calling my name from that Fruity Pebbles box. And was there any way for my body to process those carbs? Nope. Those Fruity Pebbles were destined for a life of cellulite on my thighs.
As I began to clean up my eating, I knew that I was no longer going to be eating my sugar filled cereals or drinking diet soda. But, it was not only the actual foods; it was the behaviors that went with them. On my food plan, I typically had dinner by 6pm. And that was it. I was not allowed a snack. I didn’t get to do my nightly cereal binge. To help with the sweet cravings, my roommates made flavored water popsicles. They were zero calories, and I could have had one each night without it taking away from my progress, but I knew that if I didn’t break the habit of wanting a snack after dinner, I was not really shutting down that trigger that told me I needed to go back into the kitchen at night and get a snack. So, for me, I did not allow myself anything after dinner. Except for water. That was it.
And the Diet Soda? I gave it up completely. Cold turkey. I knew the headaches would come. I knew the afternoon lull of having no caffeine might hit me, but I also knew I had to stop. After my first casting call, I drove through the golden arches and got a large diet soda. As I drank it on my drive home, I realized that if I was really going to go for this, and get healthy, whether it was on the show or not, I needed to stop. So, that was my last one. I’ve been “diet soda sober” since April 20, 2013. Not even a sip.
So, I encourage you to look at your life, look at your habits, food an otherwise and identify some areas that seem to get you into trouble.
Some typical triggers for people:
- Holidays. Can you really expect to pass up Grandma’s pecan pie? No, but you can have a plan not to allow yourself to go on a food bender that lasts from Thanksgiving to December.
- Nights out with Friends. You have the best intentions. You’ve looked online at the menu for the restaurant where you’re going. You have a plan. But, lo and behold, it’s 11pm, you’ve eaten a burger and fries, and you’re in the middle of your milkshake. How did that happen?
- Stress or boredom. I know this well. Home at night, mindlessly watching TV, thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list, and suddenly you find yourself in a meeting with Ben and Jerry. And if you’ve never eaten ice cream out of the carton, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.
So, what is one to do? How do we keep ourselves from falling into the trap of triggers?
Have a plan.
Last year for the holidays, I slimmed down our Thanksgiving menu and kept it simple. We still enjoyed ourselves, but didn’t have 47 casseroles like we would have in the past. I allowed myself to enjoy our typical Christmas morning brunch. But that was it. I didn’t let myself go on a holiday bender, partaking in every party appetizer and the weeks of Christmas candy that tend to show up.
Avoid certain situations altogether. I rarely went to the movies. The popcorn was just too tempting. I knew if I went to the theater I would be torturing myself with the smell and seeing everyone else have popcorn. So we just didn’t go. Or I only went on Sundays, so I could get a small popcorn and enjoy myself. I went recently with Scott and it was cheaper to get a combo pack that came with a large popcorn. And I ate too much. I regretted it as soon as we were approaching the bottom of the tub. I had mindlessly just been devouring it. So, back we go to avoiding the movies for now. It is a trigger for me that I still just can’t handle.
For the nightly cravings, I draw the line. Do NOT enter the kitchen “just to look”. You will come out with something. I brush my teeth after dinner. It finalizes the day for me. Even if it’s 7pm, brush those pearly whites! It’s like telling your mouth, “We’re done here.” It helps me know that I won’t be eating anything else for the day.
Take a look at your routines. I know that if you take the time to have a good plan, your triggers will no longer have control over you. What are some things that you know are triggers? What can you do to avoid them or to help you come through those situations feeling successful?