Food Triggers

The other day I walked into my bank (my bank!) and my senses were assaulted with the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Could this be, I thought!

Sure enough, on a beautiful silver plated platter, lined with white doilies, sat a dozen or more cookies - chocolate chip and it looked like some fudgy, peanut butter chip type of cookie. Are you kidding me, I need to make a financial transaction and now I have to decide if I want a “just-out-of -the-oven” cookie (or two).

This was too much to handle I tell you - it’s not right, it’s not fair, and they were there for my pleasure - courtesy of the bank of course. Apparently my bank need’s customers so bad that they are now luring them in fresh baked cookies.

Next thing ya know, they’ll have some Girl Scouts set up at a table on the sidewalk as you approach the door selling their cookies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Girl Scout cookies - I’m just saying, one less temptation would be nice.

But it got me thinking about temptations, and how it’s all around us. And we have to make very conscious food choices all day long - even at a bank!

So recognizing that food “triggers” are all around us helps us to navigate throughout our day and lowers the probability that we’ll turn to mush when a trigger happens to you.  Let me give you an example of some triggers:

1. Seeing or Smelling Food
My bank experience is a great example of how I could have been caught off-guard. I wasn’t expecting to have a delightful dessert presented to me at my banking institution and when I walked in the smell of the cookies first hit me. Then the sight of them.

I could have thought, I’ll just have one - after all, what would it hurt. And it wouldn’t have hurt anything except the bottom line, it just wouldn’t have been a fiscally sound investment.  Okay, I’m trying to speak bank-ease but you get my point.

It affects my bottom line all right (my rear-end), and I wouldn’t be investing in a healthy future for myself.  But the point is, is that the cookies were there and I could have sabotaged my weight loss efforts that I’ve been working so hard on, and just told myself that one was okay, or I’ll work it off later, but having a cookie just wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t worth it to me.

Making a conscious decision to walk away without a cookie was more rewarding then having one and regretting it within minutes.

2. Biological Factors
Believe it or not, hunger pains, our hormones, or even thirst can trigger our thoughts to eat.

Have you ever been sitting next to someone and their stomach growls, and they quickly grab their mid-section, maybe even rub it, as they’re usually apologizing for the sound their stomach made or they quickly give you a run-down about why it could be possibly rumbling right then and there.

Well I say, don’t apologize - EMBRACE THAT RUMBLING STOMACH! Not literally, but know that hunger pains are not a bad thing and you don’t have to “feed the beast” as soon as you hear rumbling going on.

Now I realize that some of you may get headaches or have other physical aliments that are greatly affected if you don’t eat, and female monthly cycles can swing wildly in one direction or another causing us to think we need to “settle things” with food, but recognize that sometimes you don’t have to give in to that biological trigger.

Also, sometimes being thirsty can mimic hunger and your body may just be depleted of liquid so make sure that you are feeding your body plenty of liquids throughout the day.

I was one of those people who thought I always drank a lot of water, until I documented it for 5 days and realized I actually didn’t.  I now purposely move through my day counting off how many water bottles I went through - it’s just easier for me that way. What would work for you?

3. Emotional Eating
This can go along with the hormonal trigger too but you can also be triggered to eat because you’re sad, mad, bored, happy, tense, stressed, joyful, wishful, anxious, tired, or any other emotion that you can fill-in-the-blank-with (depending on what‘s going on in your life at that moment).

The emotion itself can be so draining that when you add on top of that the over-eating that takes place because of it, you really have to do all you can to protect your mind from going to a very sabotaging thoughts and make it “okay” for you to eat.

Eating food will never make an emotion go away or you feel different long-term. It never will.

Food is like a drug, it soothes for a moment, it takes you mentally and emotional away for a time, but you always have to come down off that high and deal with the after-math of over-eating.

The most important thing you can do is recognize when you’re using food to soothe or help a powerful emotion, and look for other ways to do that instead.

You can use positive self-talk and remind yourself, “I’m just feeling bored, I’m not hungry, and I can busy myself with ________ instead.”

4. Social Expectations
I recently went to a social gathering and because I wasn’t feeling good, my focus was just on visiting with my friends and not filling my plate.  Eating wasn’t even on my radar and I was perfectly content without munching on something.

Now any other time (when I’m feeling well) I can easily get caught up with nibbling and eating because A. food is around, and B. other people are doing it.  There have been times I know I’m not even hungry and I found myself hanging around the food and eating. Don’t you just hate that!

I have gotten much better with this and one of the things that helps me a lot is to eat a little something before I go to the gathering so I’m not overindulging.

Another thing I do frequently throughout the evening is just recognizing when I’m getting caught up in that anxious feeling to look like I should be doing something with my hands or mouth (like everyone else is). So sipping slowly on a drink (non-alcoholic of course) throughout the evening is helpful.

I have found people to be respectful about food choices you make (for dietary or health reasons) but if you do happen to have a food-pusher in your life, recognize that this journey is about you and not making someone else happy about whether or not YOU are going to indulge in a food choice that YOU DON’T WANT.

Recognizing what your food triggers are helps you to minimize your exposure to them and be successful about the choices your make.

As for me, I’ll be using the drive-up window at the bank from now on.

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