Identifying Sabotaging Triggers

When talking about adhering to a healthy nutrition plan, it’s only natural to talk about coping with cravings or binges.  These are often the result of triggers. Triggers are anything that influence (or sabotage) your eating plan. Beware: they come in many forms, and we may not always recognize them.

For example:

For me, driving past a certain pink and white bakery in Napa immediately gets me craving cakes and cookies. It seemed like an uncontrollable response and made me feel vulnerable. After some thought, I realized that the bakery reminds me of childhood birthdays, family holidays and special “treats” brought home “just because.” These are memories of a time when life was easy, when I was taken care of, and when I didn’t worry about calories.  In other words, LIFE WAS SWEET.  In identifying this trigger, I learned that I’m not really craving the baked goods, but perhaps the feelings that they represented.

Here’s another example:

A woman claims she overeats after dinner, even when she’s not hungry. When her spouse leaves each night to work the midnight shift at his job, she feels compelled to reach for a snack. She realized her trigger was being alone every night—or more specifically, feeling lonely. The food kept her company in those late hours.

Both of these examples demonstrate how memories or emotions can serve as triggers, but there are others: 


Do you eat more in social situations or when other people are around? Do you often feel pressure to eat more to “fit in” with the group? Do your friends always go out to eat? Do you eat because you feel shy around large groups of people? Do you eat at parties to keep busy and feel “at ease?” 


Do you eat simply because the opportunity and food are there?  Do you end up eating out when you meant to just run a routine errand?  Do you eat while you’re watching TV or a movie? Do you eat because the food is free or because it is just there and you can’t stop? 

Physiological Need

Do you eat in response to physical cues? Do you eat too much because you skip meals and are ravenous? Do you eat one meal a day and therefore think you can eat as much as you want when you feel the hunger? Do you eat to help with general discomfort, headaches or other pains? 

To resolve issues with triggers, being mindful is the first step. Keep a food journal, writing down everything you eat and drink. Be sure to note where you were, who you were with, what you were doing, and how you felt at the time. The key is to BE COMPLETELY HONEST with yourself-- this is for your eyes only!

There are benefits of knowing your triggers: learning more about yourself and your needs, strategically preparing for triggers, avoiding these triggers, and preventing the cycle of set-backs and feelings of failure.  

Remember… you’re not alone. Everyone has challenges along the way to their BEST HEALTH!