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Practice to Beat Your Triggers

February 1, 2024
Practice to Beat Your Triggers

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An important point when losing weight is that many people have triggers for eating unhealthy foods or too much food. Often, the eating response to certain triggers has become a habit. Building new habits that do not involve eating unhealthy foods can help break the habit of eating as a response. It takes practice to build new habits, and these are some healthier habits to practice in different situations.

Trigger: Stress

What happens: You have a tight deadline at work, your daughter is sick, and you are not sure if you can afford your next car payment and still host a birthday party at your dad’s favorite restaurant. It is clearly time for macaroni and cheese!

Practice this: Stress can prevent you from thinking straight, and any sort of delay tactic can help. It takes practice, but breathing deeply and asking yourself to wait 5 minutes before eating can have a profound effect in helping you regain control. During those 5 minutes, questions such as, “Am I hungry?” “What is really bothering me?” “Will food help solve my problems?” can be shockingly effective at letting the moment pass. Having a glass of ice water and a bowl of carrot sticks before serving the mac and cheese can help minimize the damage.

Trigger: Boredom

What happens: This evening, you have no plans for a date night, going out with friends, or working. You are at home with nothing urgent to do. Hello, brownie mix!

Practice this: There may not be a strict deadline, but almost everyone has a to-do-sometime list. It could be cleaning out drawers, blogging, putting away photos from the last family vacation, or watching an old movie. If those items tend to slip your mind before you turn to brownies, it can be worthwhile to make a to-do list to consult when you are bored. Include a variety of items, such as painting a picture, planning a trip, and phoning a friend, so there is sure to be something to match your mood.

And if you really want to be in the kitchen, why not make something a little healthier, such as from-scratch brownies with black beans and whole-wheat flour, or a fresh fruit salad so you can dip the pieces into unsweetened, melted chocolate?

Trigger: Fatigue

What happens: You finish up yet another long day at work, taking care of the family, doing housework, and/or running errands. Too exhausted to think, you reach for what is most available and tastes good: chocolate chip cookies.

Practice this: Sleep deprivation makes healthy eating tough since it leads to more hunger, increased cravings for sugar, starch, and fat, and less resistance. If you are chronically short on sleep, getting more sleep can help eliminate fatigue as a trigger. When it does strike, prepping healthy foods can make sure that they, not junk foods, are the most readily available. get more sleep. Immediately, make the healthier choice (not eating junk food) the easiest one. It can also be good to get other forms of relaxation ready so your mind and body can rest. A good book, a comfy chair, and a cup of hot tea may be all it takes.

Trigger: Anger

What happens: You just had an argument with your significant other or a parent, or your boss just criticized you unfairly. Too angry to think straight, you head for the pantry and angrily crunch your way through a bag of potato chips. 

Practice this: If you are not ready to work through the conflict, or if the time is not right, other ways of managing anger are healthier than eating. Getting moving is a great way. It can be kickboxing or another high-intensity activity to get out the anger, a gentle stroll to clear your head, or scrubbing floors to give yourself a chance to think. 

Tigger: Loneliness

What happens: When nobody else is there for you, ice cream is. It is dependable and it does not disagree with or judge you. 

Practice this: Friends besides food are healthier choices when it comes to loneliness. In-person friends can be family members or real-life friends that you can call when you feel lonely. It can help to let them know ahead of time that you will be doing this periodically. Virtual friends, such as those you find on chat forums (always being careful to be safe), can also be good company.

Trigger: the Drive-Through

What happens: Your car goes drives itself through the drive-thru on the way to or from work. In the morning, you order a mocha and sausage sandwich on a biscuit. In the evening, it’s a “quick snack,” say, chicken nuggets and a cola. 

Practice this: Simply taking a different route to work, if possible, can eliminate the temptation, and making your own food beforehand can keep you from feeling deprived. If you still want to go to the drive-thru (understandable, since it can feel comfortable and be tasty), there are some healthier choices. Coffee and oatmeal or an egg white sandwich on an English muffin can be a good breakfast, while with unsweetened iced tea or ice water can tide you over until dinner without giving you more calories than an entire dinner should have.

Trigger: Confusion

What happens: Something is bugging you. You’re not losing the weight you wanted, or you need to make a major life decision such as purchasing a home or changing your career path. So preoccupied with these important matters, you are not even able to make a decision about what to eat for dinner, much less how to execute it if you do come up with an idea, so you reach into your drawer with trusty menus and order pizza.

Practice this: It always helps to have healthy food prepped so you can eat without thinking and get something healthy. Or, you can make notes on your go-to fast food menus so you can order a healthier meal without thinking about it. For example, a whole-grain, personal-sized thin-crust pizza with a side salad, or broccoli beef and braised green beans, can have one-quarter of the calories as a thick-crust meat lovers’ pizza or sweet and sour chicken with fried rice.

Reacting to triggers with food can be a habit, but forming new, different habits can help override those old responses. Lark can help with in-the-moment chats and suggestions for alternative reactions to triggers to help you reach your weight loss and health goals.

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