"What Triggers Your Unhealthy Eating?" Blog Post by Cinderrelic, Char
"There are several factors which people list most often as triggers to an eating binge. As we learn more and more about healthy eating here on SP, we also come to realize that if we don't learn what these factors are they will always be hanging around out there to give us grief. Until now it is as if we have been playing Russian Roulette only not with a gun but with fully loaded "activators" which can set off a trigger reaction to propel us on a course of self destruction at any time. Our safety mechanism lies in know what they are, and how to second guess them.
Some of the most common activators are stress, boredom, cravings, emotions, eating out, pot lucks and parties, having to be around sweets or high calorie/ low nutrition foods, and even weather or physical illness can activate bad eating responses. Every one of us is likely to have a different combination of triggers. For example:
Stress: For me stress is not so much of a problem in itself. I seem to deal with stress fairly well. However, I have a friend who will get stressed and run for the ice cream.
Boredom: I know boredom is a problem for me, because I get up and check the refrigrigerator too often. I usually stop myself or just get one bite of something, when I catch myself, but how many times have you caught yourself getting up, wandering into the kitchen, and opening the refrigerator door only to find yourself wondering, "What am I looking for?" , or "What am I doing here?" A lot of the time I am not even hungry, but my feet have just carry there out of habit, because I am bored.
Cravings: Cravings and emotional eating seem to go hand in hand for me. It is the cravings themselves that are triggered by something else. For me it can be a suggestion. For example, someone might say they would like to have a certain food, and then I can't get it off my mind; or I may see a TV commercial about a food I used to not be able to put down once I started eating it, and then I am not satisfied until I have some. Sometimes emotions which create negativism triggers the cravings for "comfort" food, and their is no peace until we get that "comfort." What I do to combat this is plan my snacks for the evening. If I get to a place where I just can't get my mind of it and the food is available, I will eat just a little, very slowly, just a few bites, and then have lots of water or no calorie drink.
Emotions: We all have them, good or bad, happy or sad, glad or mad, joyful or sorrowful, up or down, win or lose, positive or negative. Maybe an incident during the day causes the emotion. We might have a disagreement with our best friend, be insulted by someone, be misunderstood, have someone do something that makes us feel unloved or unimportant, do or say something to someone else that hurts them and unless they accept our apology we feel helpless to right the perceived wrong. All of these and other strong negative image emotions for most of us tend to trigger our need to be comforted by food.
Unless I stay on my toes I can be blind sided by these, but if I am aware of them I can recognize them, call them what they are, and change my response to them from a food comfort reward to a different kind of comfort reward, such as a book, a favorite passed time, soothing music, bubble bath, a massage, etc.
Dining Out: I used to have a problem with eating out, but for the moment it seems to be under control. I used to think that I should clean my plate. Perhaps no matter what generation you belong to your mom told you that you had to clean your plate because children were starving in "fill in the blank." Hopefully, we will learn to stop saying this to our children and grandchildren. How many times did your Mom or Dad tell you, "I paid good money for that and you better not waste it or spill it!"
All of these phrases when applied to food that our bodies don't want to eat can come back to haunt us as adults just at the time we don't need them. I finally, got wise and figured out an answer which satisfies both statements! Bag it up and take it home. (Yeah, I know there used to be taboos about letting anybody know you were going to eat it at home, because someone might think you're poor so you invented a dog and if you had a dog it never ever saw the food!) Well, now days you can relax and get people cartons so you can eat it later. Hey I am poor, and aren't a lot of us these days? Who cares anyway, it should be a compliment to the chef that we didn't dislike it so much we threw perfectly good food in the garbage. So now we can take the food home and eat the food and not disrespect anyone who is starving, plus we can show our waste not want not values by not wasting any thing. Its the best of both worlds.
Having to Be Around Sweets: Sometimes this is unavoidable. A worker might bring in some cookies, doughnuts, or a birthday cake to share at the office. You might have someone in your house who is not cooperating with you on your diet. Maybe they insist that it is you on the diet, not them, and they want to eat what they want eat.
For me the solution depends on the sweets and also whether they are where I can see them or not. Having to look at them for a long time can sometimes get to me if the conditions are right. :) If it is a family member doing it, you might suggest that they keep their sweets out of sight. If it is a coworker, you're on your own. Try to sit where you can't see them. Get a large thermos of coffee, tea, or water so you don't have to walk past them as often. Suggest they keep the food in the cabinet so the mice don't get them...you don't have to mention that you might be the mouse, LOL.
Pot Lucks: Anyone who has read my blogs knows that pot lucks are my nemesis!!! If I go to several I handle them well, but the first one I attend in a long time has a tendency to throw me. I am like a kid left to play in a toy shop. I have to try everything I see, and often. If I don't reel myself in it can be really hard to see food and not eat it.
For these situations I made up the 4-5 item rule. I can look over everything there and choose 4 or 5 items that look good and are healthy to eat. I load them on my plate in moderation. I get one item that has been a no-no if I want it, like a high calorie, high octane, dessert. I must eat it only after I have finished my 4-5 healthy items and then in moderation. I follow this small indulgence with water (never go anywhere without your water), and I drink a whole 16 ounces of water. After that I usually can't even think about getting anything else down me.
Other: I have included a place for "other" because we all have that one quirk that is different from most other people. It is the one thing that is not listed anywhere and you have to figure out what to do about that alone. For me, it is a fact that I eat more in the winter than in the summer. Looking at my calorie intake I see that in the summer it has stayed down around 1200, but in the winter it goes up to between 1350-1500. I have also noticed that I eat more when my body is cold or I have been cold for an extended period of time.
My solution has been to dress in layers to solve the problem, exercise more, and do all I can to keep from getting cold. Maybe my body thinks I need fuel to warm it up. Maybe it is something I do to forget that I'm cold. I don't know. I guess I may not ever know why, but I can do something about it and did do something about it this winter. I think that finding a solution allowed me to actually lose weight in the winter, when I normally put on 5 pounds in the winter time.
So now I am looking at Spring and I am glad I took the time to identify those triggers that have activated bad eating habits all these years. I am not immune to them by far. I have good days and bad days like everyone else. Its just that now those bad days aren't terrible days anymore, all because I have practiced identifying the triggers that activate my unhealthy eating, and I have taken action to disarm them with a "safety" mechanism.