Defeat the Jaws of the Trigger Food Trap

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 television one afternoon while my girls slept. There on the television screen popped up an advertisement for a delicious looking chocolate dessert.

cake on a table

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 a dozen of them before John came home from dinner.  That’s a trigger food.

What foods trigger that kind of strong reaction in you? Most trigger foods seem to be those made with refined, white sugar or highly processed ingredients, or both. That certainly was true for me. It’s important during your weight loss journey to know what foods trigger undesirable responses for you.

When you get right down to it, a trigger food triggers an emotional reaction that results in you overeating or being tempted to overeat.

What are some things that you can do to identify your trigger foods? Ask yourself these questions with regards to certain foods:

♦ 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?”

♦ 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 homemade fruit popsicles, 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 cake 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 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!”

 I’d love it if you’d share any strategies you have for avoiding the trigger food trap in the comments or through email.   Diane

6 thoughts on “Defeat the Jaws of the Trigger Food Trap

  1. Sandy Evans says:

    OMG, your post came at a good time, but a bit late (my fault). I didn’t believe I had any food triggers, but this week, I found out I was wrong. I usually reserve Saturday as my day to eat whatever I want, and the rest of the week I stick to a certain menu. A few weeks ago, I went on a road trip and I was feeling nostalgic and wanted a cold drink and a bag of Munchies chips for my trip, but it was a Thursday so I didn’t get it. The following weeks all I kept thinking about was that bag of Munchies. So I decided this last Saturday I would buy a small bag and have a handful of chips on Saturday, after all there might be something else I would also like to eat. Let’s put it this way, I was fine as long as the bag wasn’t opened, once opened, I couldn’t stop. Finally, I just finished it off to put myself out of the misery of sneeking more. I won’t buy those anymore, it was more stressful trying to resist.

  2. Natalie says:

    None of my trigger foods involve sugar. I love chocolate and have a square or two every day, but no more than that. More than a little sugar just makes me feel sick, in a way that makes me want to stop eating it. But salty chips! That is where I get embarrassed about how much I eat in private, what I can’t resist if it’s in my cupboard no matter how full I am, what I keep eating until there is no more even if I do feel sick. I have finally learned I cannot have Doritos or chips or anything similar in the house. I let myself occasionally buy a little packet to eat, but never a big bag to share “tomorrow when people come over” because they won’t still be there and I will be bloated and ashamed.

  3. Stephanie, The Peaceful Weight Loss Coach says:

    Yes, I do believe in trigger foods. I can actually feel my body craving the said food the next day and the day after that. The longer I am away from a trigger food the easier it is, until I don’t think about it anymore. I have noticed that staying away from additives in food has helped me tremendously.

  4. Diana says:

    My biggest trigger is probably ice cream! I could eat that stuff “all” day, “every” day! On a daily basis, I’m amazed at just how much power we give to food! How I can let it control my day….

  5. Karen P says:

    My trigger foods all involve processed sugar, grains, and/or nuts. Removing them keeps me very low on the binge urges and in solid food sobriety.

    Abstinence made my life free again. Don’t really miss them.

  6. Kitty says:

    The big thing for me is to just not have the food in the house, except possibly in controlled situations. For example, I have an issue with cookies. If I buy a box of cookies, I have to make the decision on cookies every time I walk past the pantry. And, I have found myself having a serving…fine…then another serving…and another…and so on.

    Without the cookies in the pantry, I don’t even think about cookies since they just aren’t in the house (and I don’t have the ingredients to make them). I will occasionally have a cookie from someplace like Subway (I have rules for this too — can’t have it on consecutive trips and no often than once a month). The other exception is to make cookies possibly on a couple of holidays during the year. This is only if there are enough people to share them that they will be gone very quickly and I won’t have very many of them.

    All of this works much better for me than trying to have them at home and moderate. But, for me, I didn’t have to give them up completely either.

Leave a Reply