How to Stop the Trigger Foods Triggering

mindful eating mindset Oct 03, 2018

How to Moderate Trigger Foods

It’s all very well talking about food freedom and moving away from food restriction but some foods I still struggle to eat in a mindful way. The dictionary definition of moderation is  the avoidance of excess or extremes.  If we adopt that definition it is therefore sensible to avoid those foods that trigger overeating or unconscious/mindless eating.  (see previous articles)

As John Berardi of Precision Nutrition says if a food is in your house, inevitably at some point you will eat it.

Ok, but does it matter if no food is forbidden?

No – but you are trying to use moderation in a way to eat to make you feel good, be aware of body cues and to nourish. It is important to have an awareness of foods that make you act in a non-beneficial, immoderate way.

Jill Coleman says that the way to learn to trust yourself around ALL food is to expose yourself to it – she does also state that this takes time and practice.

I believe this to be the ultimate goal of eating in moderation. To trust yourself around all foods. Know that you will still eat in a way to nourish yourself – be able to indulge/consume any food without it leading to overeating in an uncontrolled way.

Evaluate Your Trigger Foods

For me there are still certain foods which I find it hard to deal with in a moderate way. These have become fewer, but they can also change over time so its important to be aware and re-evaluate.

Example 1 – crisps – still like them but can manage to only have a couple and move on.  Don’t as a rule have them in the house regularly, not through any “fear” just because they’re not what I would class as a particularly nourishing food

Example 2 – cooking chocolate. I used to find that 2 squares were enough to satisfy a chocolate craving occasionally.  However, over time this became a habit rather than being a pre-emptive action and I had to admit the cooking chocolate was no longer bought for cooking!!  I was eating the cooking chocolate more regularly than I ever ate a chocolate bar.

Example 3 – Percy Pigs from M&S – OMG these have got to be the best sweets on the planet.  I don’t buy sweets, am not particularly a sweet fan but there’s something about these. It’s just the Percy Pigs – Percy Pigs and friends you can keep!!  I don’t shop in M&S that often which is good! I used to buy these and try to kid myself I was going to share them.  At least if I buy them now I’m honest and know that they won’t last the car journey home.

I even tried an experiment the other day to see if my ability to enjoy a couple and save the rest had improved….. it hadn’t!!!!  I did manage to not eat them in the car on the way home and they lasted a couple of hours once there but once opened they were definitely consumed in an immoderate way.

These are just a couple of examples. Many foods that I previously found hard to not eat if faced with them or just eaten without thinking due to fearing missing out I can now take or leave. If I decide to eat it’s fine, eat and move on.  Then there are some that I know I will struggle to not just devour without pause for thought.  These are the foods that will not be in the cupboard.  It doesn’t mean I can’t ever eat them. It means that if I am trying to eat in a moderate way, to nourish myself, in all senses of the word, it’s not sensible to have them readily available.  This gives me the opportunity to make a conscious choice, not a reactive one.

How to stop trigger foods triggering you

How I Dealt with Trigger Foods

On first adopting a moderation mindset around food, I made a list of the foods that would trigger overeating.  These foods I consciously avoided. Yes, this is a restriction of sorts but was a useful step to get to where I am now.  If I had just gone down the route of right, nothing is restricted anymore I probably would have gone on a real feeding frenzy and then felt physically and emotionally awful.  Told myself moderation doesn’t work and gone on to the next restrictive diet, no doubt to fail again.

I would not have got to experience the release that not being “on” a diet has given me.  I’m still learning and still adjusting.  After so many years I had just had enough of trying and failing using restriction diets.  There had to be another way.

Strategies to Try

  • Acknowledge certain foods will lead to overeating/mindless eating.

  • Draw up a physical list if you think this will help you be more aware.

  • Avoid these foods on a regular basis until you feel more confident.

  • Realise these trigger foods can change over time – even if once they were part of a pre-emptive step.

  • Store foods already portioned – e.g. cherries and some other berries I can mindlessly pick through a whole punnet. If I portion them straight away it’s easy to moderate.

  • If you do eat them that’s fine – if you overeat them that’s fine too. Don’t beat yourself up, just move on. No guilt, no shame.

Finally – keeping in mind the dictionary definition of moderation – the avoidance of excess or extremes – avoiding these foods does not go against the philosophy of moderate eating.

Adopting a moderation mindset with food after years of restricting takes time, practice and patience.  Be kind to yourself.  We are unlearning years of being told what and how we should eat that paid little or no attention to the individual.  Being used to moving from one diet to another it can feel strange at times to adopt this strategy.

Try it, it is so freeing!

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