Trigger foods. We all have them.
There’s no denying that there are certain foods that set off a mental and physical trigger to eat like crazy, almost without control. And unfortunately for most of us, trigger foods don’t usually fall in the categories of super healthy, eat-as-many-as-you-want-to, freshly prepared fruits and veggies. Trigger foods are generally the not so healthy ones that are high in sugar, salt and saturated fats like ice cream, potato chips, fast food and fried food. And they vary person to person! What’s a trigger food to you might not be a trigger food for me and visa versa.
If you’ve read my book you probably already know that the Ballet Beautiful approach to nutrition is strictly anti-diet. When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, balance is everything! This mindset definitely leaves room for treats in moderation. It’s simply crazy and completely unrealistic to think that you will never again eat sugar, white flour or so much as a morsel of fried food. It’s also unnecessary! With this in mind it’s easy to see that eating trigger foods in moderation is 100% fine, and therein lies the problem.
Trigger foods set off a reaction to overeat and fall into a special category where moderation just isn’t possible. They are the one food (or foods) that you simply can’t say no to once you start in. If you’ve ever felt an indescribable need to polish off an entire bag of chips, pint of ice cream or bag of halloween candy for no other reason than ‘just because,’ you know what I mean. I’ve been there and it isn’t fun.
So how do we tame the control that trigger foods have over us and establish balance once and for good?
1. Be realistic about your level of control and identify your weak spots!
My most obvious trigger food has always been ice cream. A pint of ice cream tempts me to no end! If I had one sitting in my freezer now I would be dreaming about it, sneaking little bites throughout the day or even worse, gulping it down in one sitting on the couch. When I kept ice cream at home I felt constantly tortured by it. The good news is that if it’s not in my house it’s just not on my mind. Once I was able to get real and identify that I have zero control when it comes to keeping ice cream at home I stopped buying it. I switched to eating high quality dark chocolate which is healthier and more satisfying to me, and something that I can enjoy guilt free, every day! Problem solved. Really! If you stop buying trigger foods and bringing them into your home you won’t be tempted to eat them. So my first piece of advice is to identify your trigger foods and then eliminate them from your weekly shopping.
2. Remember how trigger foods make you feel.
Trigger foods trigger unhealthy behavior, i.e., eating without control, and this almost always makes you feel terrible. On top of feeling super bloated, sick to your stomach from too much sugar or incredibly thirsty from too many chips or processed food there is also the guilt and emotional pain that comes with over-doing it. To me this is the part that really hurts, and what can set the stage for under eating, over eating and a roller coaster to come. So when temptation calls remind yourself of the negative feelings that over doing it with trigger foods can bring on, and how great good food makes you feel. It’s kind of like working out — when you treat you body to whole, delicious foods and a terrific workout you are guaranteed to feel better afterward!
At the end of the day it’s all about treating your body with love.
3. Find a healthy alternative!
Overcoming trigger foods isn’t about denying yourself the foods that you really adore, but rather finding healthy alternatives that will make you look and feel terrific. I think this is especially important when eating at home because it can be more difficult to control portions in the privacy of your own kitchen.
Some of my favorite satisfying but healthy choices include high quality dark chocolate or a greek yogurt with honey and fresh berries instead of ice cream, and popcorn made with olive oil and sea salt instead of fried potato chips. Today I enjoy ice cream as a special treat when I’m out to dinner or get upgraded to first class! I also keep my freezer filled with healthy foods like frozen whole wheat fresh pastas, raviolis, and bags of organic veggies and fruits and my pantry stocked with other delicious but less tempting sweets.
4. And finally, move on!
Once in a while we all over-do it. The best way to eliminate the power that trigger foods have over you is to stop feeling guilty when you do over do it, drink some water and make your next meal a healthy one!