Stop! Don't Pull That Trigger
Our environment is loaded with triggers for eating when we're not really hungry and for continuing to eat past the point of satiety. Learning to recognize these triggers and respond in an effective manner is the key to thriving in our food-abundant environment.
What is a trigger?
Think about the word trigger for a moment… In behavioral terms, a trigger is anything that serves as a stimulus that initiates a reaction or series of reactions. This concept is analogous to a mechanical trigger, defined as a mechanism that activates a sequence.
Thinking about a trigger in mechanical terms is helpful because it takes the emotion out of it for a moment. More importantly, it reminds us that a trigger has no effect on its own and must be activated in some way. Similarly, your triggers for overeating are powerless over you—until you choose to act on them.
Dismantle the machine
When faced with one of your triggers, instead of automatically eating, use the following mindful eating concepts to FEAST instead (excerpt from Chapter 3 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat):
Focus – Whenever you want to eat or continue to eat, that is your trigger to pause and ask, Am I hungry? or Am I still hungry? In essence, you are creating a new trigger for yourself - wanting to eat now triggers you to pause and check in. This pause creates a gap between the stimulus and response, allowing you to respond instead of react.
Explore – If you're not hungry, get curious. I wonder why I want to eat right now even though I'm not hungry. What was the trigger?
Accept – Don't judge yourself; you wouldn't judge a machine for having a switch. Instead, say: Hmmmm, isn't that interesting?
Strategize – Choose how you’ll respond: I could eat anyway if I want to. For now, I am not going to activate this particular sequence of events. Let's see...what else could I do until I'm hungry?
Take Action – Each time you choose not to pull the trigger, you weaken its connection. It's as if the wires rust and eventually break. Further, each time you choose a different action, you create new connections. With practice, you’ll hardwire these new pathways—like insulating the wiring.
Michelle May, M.D. is the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program (hyperlink to http://amihungry.com/) that helps individuals learn to break free from mindless and emotional eating. She is the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. (Download chapter one free.)
How have you overcome trigger foods without going overboard?
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