Trigger Food Ever Get You?

Trigger foods can get you when you least expect it. I remember very vividly where a trigger food “got me” unexpectedly. I was in the second or third week of yet another WW experience,  and happily watching the Oprah show one afternoon. There on the television screen popped up an advertisement for some kind of gooey chocolate dessert. I watched the commercial intently, and almost felt my mouth water with anticipation. I sternly told myself, “You must not get up and make something like that.” But before I could even completely process the thought, I had hauled myself up off the couch, and wandered into the kitchen. Almost without thinking, I began opening cabinets to see what I had. Oh darn, I didn’t have any chocolate available, because after all, I was supposed to be losing weight!  “But wait,” I thought, “There’s the cocoa powder, which when combined with the proper ingredients can yield a huge variety of delicious chocolate desserts.” I ended up making two dozen chocolate cupcakes, complete with frosting, and ate 20 of them before John came home from dinner.  That’s a trigger food.

What foods trigger that kind of strong reaction in you? I read somewhere, (I can’t remember where), that most trigger foods seem to be those made with refined, white sugar. That certainly was true for me. It’s important during your weight loss journey to know what foods trigger undesirable responses for you, and what, if any, foods trigger positive reactions. I guess really, it’s not the foods that trigger the reactions, but rather the emotions behind your desire for that particular food.

What are some things that you can do to identify your trigger foods? Ask yourself these questions:  Portion control goes out the window with what food?  What food would you be embarrassed to show someone how much you eat when you are “on a roll.” And what food is hard for you to turn down?

For me, my trigger food was, and still is to some extent, chocolate. I loved it, and still do. It could be anything, as long as chocolate was the main ingredient – cookies, cakes, pies, candy, fudge, or brownies. No matter where I was in my weight loss journey, chocolate was always a problem for me. So how did I go from being completely unable to control my chocolate intake, to being able to enjoy chocolate desserts without fearing failure?

In the beginning:

I rid the house of chocolate, and cocoa powder. This might not be your choice, but this is what worked for me. I got rid of any food item containing chocolate, or any food item capable of being combined to make a chocolate treat. After several weeks, I was able to reintroduce chocolate into the house, but still in small amounts, for I still didn’t have good control.

I wrote down all the things I could eat instead of chocolate. This was hard, because I wasn’t a big fan of veggies and fruits, but I learned to appreciate them. Some of the things on my list besides fruits and veggies were popscicles, ginger snaps, tootsie rolls (or chocolate wax as John calls them), pudding, and hard candy.

I became aware of the situations involving my trigger food. It wasn’t just a picture of chocolate that would send me running to the pantry, there were also emotional triggers that made me desire chocolate. Becoming cognizant of these emotions helped me resist the urge to overeat.

Over time, I was able to have chocolate treats, always keeping them small and manageable. This was so I didn’t deprive myself of a food I genuinely loved, but wasn’t able to trust myself to have around the house in unlimited quantities. For me, the important thing about trigger foods was becoming aware of them, and having a plan to help overcome the temptation they held.

As you work through your weight loss journey, always keep in mind that “diet land” often isn’t part of “real life land.” When I lost weight, I knew I wanted to do something that I could continue forever. Strive to keep that in mind as you plan your program, and live your life. You can get ahead of your trigger foods, and avoid the “gotcha!” 

Do you have strategies for avoiding the trigger food trap?   Diane

31 thoughts on “Trigger Food Ever Get You?

  1. Miz says:

    for me those damn VITA TOP things are horrible.
    I discovered them back in the DAY when you couldnt buy em in groceries—only from the company by the CASE.

    and the case lasted mere moments, errr, days in this house.

    so I just ceased buying them.

    it was my first clue that, for me, the processed white (or in that case whitespraypainted BROWN) wasnt my friend.

  2. Keeping it Off! says:

    Finding foods that satisfy in “real life” make all the difference. I discovered that I could limit myself when it came to dark chocolate (60% cacao or more), but anything with milk chocolate triggered me to eat the whole box or bag, so now I avoid anything with milk chocolate in it. Also brownies and cookies are definitely trigger foods that I try to stay away from. If I let them come back into my diet, even a bit, it can lead to a binge later in the week/month. Besides, I FEEL so much better not eating that stuff!

  3. vickie says:

    you said:
    “This was so I didn’t deprive myself of a food I genuinely loved, but wasn’t able to trust myself to have around the house in unlimited quantities.”

    I said with a smile:
    that isn’t actually FOOD, it is oNON-food.

    I had to rid the house of non-food for most of my first whole year. And most of that non-food never came back to any of us (at my house). When I stopped feeding them junk and educated them on the difference between food and non-food, everyone else pretty much cleaned up their act too.

    And this wasn’t deprivation, it was understanding the difference between food and non-food. Much like the grocery cart game where I stopped (first couple years) before I checked out to make sure I had FOOD in my cart. We all adjusted our viewpoint to do this with what we all ingested.

    I am not saying my behaviors/habits were contingent on theirs. I am saying, when I set a good example and felt I was eating healthier, they did too.

    I still have times where I have to rid the house of any border line NON-foods. Times when I am at risk and I know it.

  4. Desert Agave says:

    A big trigger food for me is chips — corn chips, Doritos, potato chips. The only way I’ve found to deal with the issue is to keep them out of the house almost entirely. Occasionally my husband will bring them into the house, but then I try not to sample even one. And he knows that if he lets a bag languish too long in the kitchen, it will get thrown away.

  5. Sharon says:

    Chips, Triscuits (really any kind of crackers), and Krispy Kreme doughnuts are my trigger foods. They don’t come in the house, I don’t walk down the grocery aisle where they are and I don’t drive by the two Krispy Kreme stores in my community. Being white flour/white sugar free makes it a tad easier, but when I’m struggling with clean eating, the trigger issues is compounded greatly. During periods of struggle, just about anything has the potential to become a trigger food.

  6. Amy says:

    Oh, Diane, thank goodness you don’t live here in Belgium – the chocolate would kill you! I actually didn’t even really like chocolate that much before I moved here but over the past 21 years it has sure grown on me. Now I enjoy dark chocolate and some pralines – but I am very picky about the kinds I like and have it in small quantities, so it generally isn’t a problem for me.
    My real downfall are salty things like crackers and chips! I have to be very vigilant about them and mostly don’t keep them in the house. Once a week I buy a bag of chips for my kids to share, or buy them each an individual serving bag. This way there are no leftovers lurking around in the kitchen to tempt me.
    I also have to watch out with bread – I can really go crazy with a good loaf of bread!

  7. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    Sweets are my downfall and really the only thing I’ve done that’s made any difference in the number of pounds of sugar I eat a year is just to not buy the food in the first place. If there’s anything even mildly sweet in the house, I’m going to want it for dessert. Without any options, though, I make due with a piece of fruit or–gasp–nothing!

  8. Gail@ShrinkingSisters says:

    I’ve got more triggers than a gun show.

    Pizza is one, as are any sort of chips or crackers. Ice cream, french fries, and, most stupidly, cottage cheese. I can plow through a container in no time flat — with ketchup.

  9. Sara N. says:

    I have a big sweet tooth and like your ideas. My strategy has been to not buy it. I generally won’t get in the car to buy some, so if it’s not here – I can’t eat it! That being said, it’s hard to walk past the candy aisle without being tempted.

  10. Karen says:

    I love this post!!! I had drafted something ages ago about the same topic, but you say it so much better:) For me, my trigger foods can also, now, be healthy. Like whole grain bread. I have chosen to banish trigger foods but some would suggest that just sets me up to binge and I should not label them as “bad.” But the longer I go without eating them the less I want them:)

  11. Tish says:

    My trigger food is brownies–my mom’s recipe, perfect brownines. Yep. White sugar and chocolate (cocoa powder!). For now I’m in the ban-the-chocolate phase, but one strategy that has worked fairly well is that when I DO “need” to make brownies, I only make a 1/4 batch–automatically reducing by 75% the potential damage.

  12. Lori Lynn says:

    I’m still in the “eliminating phase,” but that’s partially, b/c I haven’t hit the point where I’ve craved them (too much anyway) or let myself have them, yet… I know I need to gradually add them back again, so I can work on moderation, but there’s a little bit of fear involved, that “just a little,” won’t be enough for me. I guess you have to just have faith in yourself that you’ll be okay, but sometimes I think that’s hard to do.

  13. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    I am finding that there are other “healthy” ways to satisfy a “triger” food. For example: Apples with cinnamon. It reminds me a apple pie and the emotions WITHOUT the calories. Things like that..it is the taste and the memory we are searching for…that is me anyway.

  14. Julia says:

    For me it’s more savory foods, chips, crackers etc.
    But I can go months with them in the house and not touch ot even think of them and then suddenly I cannot stop eating them 🙂
    Great post 😉

  15. Gail@ShrinkingSisters says:

    I forgot to include my strategies! Basically I can’t keep the “real” triggers in the house, but Kashi’s frozen pizzas can satisfy a pizza craving for a ton fewer calories.

    For stuff like nuts and crackers, if I parcel out single servings in Tupperware or plastic bags I can keep them in the house. The magical properties of a single-serve portion keep me in check.

  16. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    A huge trigger for me are mini Reeses cups. I just can’t buy them at all. If there is a bowl anywhere of them somewhere else, look out LOL!

    What I find interesting is that my trigger foods can change. There are times when I have to remove nuts from the house because I start bingeing on them. Or dates of all things. I will have to stop buying them for a while until my body ‘forgets’ about them and I can reintroduce them.

  17. MB says:

    One of my biggest trigger foods is chocolate covered pretzels (and the new M&Ms don’t count ’cause they don’t have enough salt or chocolate which is a good thing). I would buy a 8 serving bag of Flipz and polish it off in one afternoon at work. I just can’t stop eating them. I also can’t be trusted with crackers. I’ll grab a handful and then go back for another and another until the entire box is gone. Sometimes it’s better to just remove the temptation and avoid certain foods altogether. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to have a serving but until then I’m just going to stay away.

  18. Emergefit says:

    Like you and most commenters, I agree that just not buying them is the best, most simple practice. Discipline is the larger practice though. It’s easy to not buy these things and keep them in the house, but a one requires a certain strength and level of commitment to not put the key in the ignition, that they go make a run for the very food that they no longer keep in the house.

    As far as strategies go, I would say the best strategy is to grow more discipline. easier said than done….

  19. Sandi says:

    Sweets are my trigger food, mostly chocolate. I don’t bring it in the house so it isn’t here when I want something to snack on. At work I have to really grit my teeth so I don’t dive into it 🙁 I try to make sure I’m not hungry at all when I’m there. If I let myself get hungry I will find myself nibbling on the sweets which leads to an all out scarf-fest.

  20. LovesCatsinCA says:

    My trigger foods are things like potato chips and cheeto’s. The full fat kind. I don’t overdo the reduced fat/baked variety, but there’s something about that grease! And interestingly, tortilla chips don’t have the same effect–although they are more substantial/filling.

    When I was in high school, I used to come home and eat a 7 oz bag of Lay’s sour cream and onion potato chips as a snack–and either a cookie or twinkie for “dessert” for the snack. LOL. It actually wasn’t compulsive or anything at that point, it was a teenager with a fast metabolism who weighed under 95 pounds, having a snack, although maybe not the most nutritious. I was physically hungry. And a little over 2 hours later, I was plenty hungry for dinner with my parents, too!

    I think I first started to eat compulsively in college. I had a car left-turn into me and my bicycle the summer between freshman and sophomore years. I had only gained around 5 pounds my first year of college. I gained 10 as a sophomore. With my torn knee ligament and a leg in a cast, I was forced to become suddenly inactive–and I was BORED. I was also, having been naturally very thin, completely clueless about caloric needs and caloric content–so I’d go to the student store and buy six ounces of chocolate or yogurt covered almonds as a daily snack, and have a chocolate croissant every morning and…

    No more… I have to measure out the chips or cheese curls if I have them and can’t eat that much of them if I want to stay at a normal weight. So they’re a treat. I have shifted to eating popcorn and pretzels to satisfy salt or crunch for the most part, with less fat and less temptation to overeat them.

    I do love chocolate, but it’s not a trigger food for me. I eat a small amount of dark chocolate almost daily (small equals a wedge of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate out of the wedge tins, or a couple dark chocolate covered pretzels–35 to 50 calories…). I think it helps to be picky. I like actual chocolate, and sometimes things like chocolate biscotti or chocolate chip cookies, but I really dislike things like chocolate cake, chocolate cupcakes, brownies, etc. and don’t care for milk chocolate.

    I do know that even my limited consumption of potato chips does have an impact on my weight though–every year at Lent when I give up something I really like as a spiritual discipline to commemorate Christ’s larger sacrifice for our salvation, I lose a couple pounds for a while…

  21. Taryl says:

    Oh, the dreaded trigger food. Some of them I still am not ‘cured’ from, even now. I generally just avoid consumption and purchase of it, or have my husband hide it and get out A PORTION for me. Cookie dough remains and continual weakness, as does brownie batter and oreos.

  22. marsial2010 says:

    Ice cream used to be my trigger food. I ate it nearly every day of my life (and in huge amounts) till a couple of years ago. Now I would say it is bread — I ate much too much over the past 3 weeks of illness and am just weaning myself off of it now — probably why my legs are so swollen with fluid retention. My strategy for avoiding problems is, as others have said, to not keep it in the house. I try to cook a different carb with dinner every night and have bread no more than once or twice a week.

  23. Tami says:

    I find that just about anything can be a trigger food if I let myself get too hungry.

    If I have a dessert type item it is best for me to have it right after eating a balanced healthy meal so that my blood sugar does not go crazy.

    I just don’t have desserts like that very often as it becomes something I think I “need”.

  24. jane says:

    Chocolate is my big trigger too. I have tried to have “just a little bit” when I’m on a weight loss plan, but it derails me every time.

  25. jeanette says:

    I guess I am the odd (but very lucky?) one that doesn’t care for chocolate. My husband loves it and often there is chocolate cake, brownies, pie or pudding in the house and it doesn’t bother me. BUT, if there is vanilla or white cake, cookies or doughnuts it starts calling my name and my knees go weak. So like you, I just do not keep it in the house. On the very rare occasion (weddings, showers, etc.) I will have 3 bites of my daughters and call it good. I have been doing this about 8 months and so far so good with no cave-ins or feeling too deprived. I just keep natural sweets in the house now (fruit) and forgive myself if I eat a little too much of it, knowing I am heading off a huge junk food disaster.
    Diane, I hope you are still making bread!

  26. Fran says:

    I’ve discovered that cashew nuts are my trigger food. The plan I’m following allows you to eat a small amount from time to time. But once the bag is open I find myself getting back to the cabinet to eat a few, and again a few until it’s empty. I decided I won’t buy them anymore and replace it with something that’s less triggering.

  27. blackhuff says:

    My trigger foods is also chocolate. Especially Lindt chocolate. And these days the ads for Lindt chocolate is all over the television. So when I see any advertisement on the TV about any kind of delicious food I might not want, I change the station and get up and clean the house or get on the Elleptical bike for 10 minutes to get that food off my mind.

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