Should I keep trigger foods in the house?

The coaching progress

Trigger foods should you have them in the house or should you be having them daily to reduce exposure?

Trigger foods: a particular food(s) that when eaten make you crave and possibly eat more than a logical portion.

These foods are generally eaten out of habit, not necessarily hunger. Your trigger food(s) is/(are) something you probably feel addicted to and are likely high in calories with little food volume therefore not satiating.

When are you ready to reintroduce a trigger food?

Straight away. No foods should be off-limits or have negative connotations around them.

If you place foods off-limits or have negative connotations around them then you are more likely to want that food more and could trigger binge restrict diet cycles or an unhealthy food relationship.

Task: start by recording down all foods and drinks you are triggered by and/or that you have negative connotations around.

The goal is to reintroduce these foods back into the diet and slowly and gradually to reintroduce these foods (maybe having it once a day) so that you realise it has no dire consequences and fear will slowly dissipate. Then move onto the next food once no fear or anxiety is present.

MAKE PEACE WITH FOOD

GIVE YOURSELF UNCONDITIONAL PERMISSION TO EAT WHAT YOU WANT AND WHEN.

Adapt yourself through regular exposure to your trigger foods. This will overtime dilute the alluring quality of forbidden foods whereas rigid rules (removing or labelling foods) trigger a greater want.

Eat without feeling the need to compensate for it.

Which type of eater are you?

Instinctive: you fuel your body in response to biological hunger with an awareness of nutrition but no emotional attachment to the food. You consume meals with intention, purpose, and focus to for fill energy requirements to live an active life.

Overeater and/or Restrictive eater: you eat based on rules, triggers, or emotions. Meals may be consumed mindlessly, rigidly, or even in secret. Unlike Instinctive eaters, you often find yourself reinvesting energy back into the dieting cycle, or simply storing the excess fuel that isn’t used.

Food is more than just energy (calories). Food is used to socialise and enjoy the finer things in life. Food is to be enjoyed and add value to one's life. Therefore, to

deprive yourself of the foods or social occasions you enjoy would have to serve negative consequences to your social well-being over time. As discussed earlier this could lead to the restrict restrict restrict binge cycle.

How can you still eat the foods you love in a controlled manner that supports your goals?

  1. Sensible portions. Using the Logical dose of enjoyment method that I educate clients on.
  2. Enjoy them when you want them and eat them with no distractions (be mindful).
  3. Have them regularly and in a planned and controlled (logical dose of enjoyment) manner.

Should we be removing trigger foods from our home environments?

Cravings are driven by cues such as the sight and smell of tasty foods. One of the most effective ways of managing cravings is to limit our exposure to these cues.

Dr Stephan Gueyent proposes that over time, the less you expose your brain to trigger foods, the more their power over you will dampen.

A strategy, you can choose to use, is instead of constantly testing your willpower, learn to limit the occasions in which you are being tested. It’s a lot harder to overindulge if you don’t keep trigger foods in large amounts (ideally purchasing individually wrapped or single portioned items can help with reducing exposure) in highly accessible places or within easy eyeshot. Then if you want a particular food you will go out and source that food. A good example of this is when you open the fridge you see fruits and vegetables (ideally cut up and ready to eat) instead of your trigger foods.

Rate your trigger food.

Write down a list of the higher calorie (treat) foods that once you start eating them you feel like you can’t stop. An example for me is a bowl of granola with full fat milk. What I consider a good-sized portion could be up to 600 calories plus! Its defiantly larger than the recommended serving size on the box! With little protein and an amazing sweet taste, I always feel I could eat another bowl shortly after. That’s why I choose to still eat the foods I love such as granola however I’m aware of the fullness factor and to be calorie conscious. I therefore will choose to consume the granola with total Greek yogurt for protein and to reduce the calories from the large amount of full fat milk I enjoy with the granola. I also choose to buy granola in small portion-controlled packaging therefore only buying a single serving worth. This makes it easier to control the amount of this trigger food but still allows me to have it in the house and to enjoy it.

Please note that we will all have differences when it comes to what our trigger foods are, so your list is personal to you. For me granola and ice cream are a 10 but donuts and crisps are like a 2 on the rating scale.

If you are going to have trigger foods in the house best methods are to

  1. Choose pre-portioned options such as mini and individually wrapped chocolate bars.
  2. Buy little and often. Just because they are on offer doesn’t mean you need a year’s worth at the house.
  3. Make sure the indulgence food is the one you want and you’re not just trying to find a diet or lower-calorie substitute that still doesn’t hit the spot and gives you the mindset you can consume the whole ice cream pint tub!
  4. Out of mind out of sight don’t have them in easy to reach places and constantly in your view.
  5. Create barriers or effort towards eating. Examples being individually wrapped portions or foods that take time to prepare like cooking oats instead of eating granola out of the box or nuts in their shells vs de-shelled versions

Take home message: enjoy your indulgences in small doses, as regularly as you require, mindfully without restriction.

References:

May, M. (2010). Eat what you love: love what you eat: how to break your eat-repent-repeat cycle. Greenleaf.