When foods are triggers

I believe we all have them – we just may not be aware of them: Trigger foods. These are foods that lead us to eat mindlessly, to binge or simply overeat, to eat without ever feeling satiated (or satisfied), or to restrict eating. I became aware of a trigger food for myself last week: Starburst Jelly Beans.

Danger!

I have known that I LOVE Starburst Jelly Beans. They are the only jelly beans I like and they have become my favorite springtime treat. When I saw the Fave Reds in the store – I just had to pick some up. The problem? I am not able to eat them in moderation. The jelly beans – I know now – are a trigger food for me. (I should know that red means danger!)

Emotional eating triggers

Not the topic of this post but worth mentioning are situational triggers. These are the triggers we are most familiar with and most often encouraged to identify. Examples of these triggers include:

  1. A bad day at the office or at home
  2. An argument with a loved one or friend
  3. Tiredness/exhaustion
  4. Not feeling physically well

Identifying trigger foods

It is not always as easy as it may seem to identify trigger foods. Sure, some of us know it is chocolate, or chips. But what about dairy? Or how about coffee – do you always need something sweet in addition to your hot coffee? This might be a trigger.

In order to manage your triggers (food or situational), you first have to know what type of eater you have become. There are several types of eaters: Mindful eaters, mindless dieters, mindless over-eaters, mindless under-eaters, and chaotic eaters. This is a commonly used checklist to help you identify what type of eater you are.

Check all that apply:

Mindful Eater
All foods in some moderation. Flexible about eating
Student of nutrition.  Aware of nutritional needs. Able to meet body’s needs
In touch with physical body and body’s needs—hunger, fullness
Eats when hungry and stops when full
Nonjudgmental of self, redirects thoughts to positive thoughts, accepting of body
Understands the impact of food on health and well-being
Enjoys food but not obsessed
Only eats mindlessly on occasion
Recovers quickly when mindless eating does occur
Mindless Dieter
Has tried multiple yo-yo type diets.  Fad follower
Spends money on different diets
Feels really guilty when eating poorly
Ignores that taste of diet food—it is eating that matters
Has a ”hard to obtain” body image and feels bad about not having it
Studies food labels and tries to follow “food rules” (not nearly 100%)
Mindless Overeater
Yo-Yo Club Star Member
Ups and downs in weight
Eats until miserable.
Aware of being full but keeps eating anyway
Picks at foods without true enjoyment
Feels out of control and unable to stop
Has intense food cravings – gotta have it!
Tries to eat alone—feels embarrassed
Uses food to comfort self
Uses food to maintain pleasant feelings
Specific food cravings
Often eats alone
Mindless Undereater
Skimps on nutritional needs
Obsessed about calories, fat grams, and other single components of food
Worries a lot about weight
Has high self-image when hungry
Isolates self instead of eating with others—has an excuse not to go to lunch
Fears loss of control
Desires perfection—always trying to obtains
Eliminates certain food groups to save on calories
Mindless Chaotic Eater
May purge to compensate for overeating
Has major swings in weight
Will make large purchases of food and will restrain from eating—perceived binge
Make over exercise to make up for overeating
Thinks critically about self
Uses food to cope with negative self-image
Uses food to “tune out” or “numb out”
Feels empty or lonely a majority of the time
Eats while multi-tasking
Seldom feels full

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is critical to identifying triggers. Are you prone to bingeing only on chips? Chips may be a trigger food. This could be ANYTHING for anyone. Trigger foods are usually sweet or salty – as these most significantly effect the rewards center of your brain.

Need help with mindful eating? I recommend tracking your food and I especially love the Recovery Record.

The bottomline

Yes, undesirable eating behaviors – undereating or overeating – are often preceded by emotional situations or triggers. But sometimes, the foods themselves can be a trigger to start eating and not stop. It is also important to note that these are not always unhealthy foods. For example, peanut butter is a trigger food for me and I must be incredibly mindful when I consume it.

Do you have trigger foods?

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2 thoughts on “When foods are triggers

  1. I love Starburst Jelly Beans! I also love the SweetTarts Jelly Beans. Did you ever try the Starburst Ice Cream. It was half orange and half cherry with pieces of the respective starburst scattered throughout the ice cream. I bought as much as my crappy apartment freezer could handle. Unfortunately it was discontinued and has never returned. That was the best food ever created! I don’t eat that stuff anymore but I was young and could eat anything without going over 144 pounds.

  2. Pingback: Why eating everything in moderation does not work | StrongBraveHonest

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