Thursday, September 25, 2008

Triggers - From Weight Watchers

I ran across this WW article and, man, did it ring true! I stay away from all sweets now because if I eat one serving I'll eat 20. I ate a bowl of ice cream a while ago and the next night all I wanted to do was binge on ice cream! So, it's reassuring to know that I'm using a good practice.

"Identifying and understanding eating triggers can help you achieve weight-loss success.

JANUARY, 2007 — A trigger can be defined as something that sets in motion a course of events. For example, red wine can trigger a migraine headache in susceptible people, while seeing a spider can trigger a panic attack in those who have arachnophobia. When it comes to eating triggers, they fall into three separate categories: trigger foods, trigger feelings, and trigger environments.1 Trigger FoodsA trigger food is a specific food that sets off a course of overeating where control is lost and excessive amounts are consumed. The most common trigger foods are sugar/fat combinations (e.g. ice cream, cookies) and fat/salt combination (e.g. nuts, potato chips).2 Food triggers are fairly uncommon and should not be confused with favorite foods (foods that are highly preferred), comfort foods (foods that are linked to a sense of home and contentment) or food cravings (desire for a food that has not been consumed in a long time). With a true food trigger it is the food, not an emotion or situation, that triggers the out-of-control eating. For example, open the bag of potato chips and it will be gone, regardless of mood, time of day or place.

To help manage trigger foods, it is important to identify the food and avoid it altogether, at least for a certain period of time, and then reassess periodically.
Trigger FeelingsA trigger feeling is an emotion, good or bad, that sets off a period of overeating.3 Unlike food triggers, which initiate overeating of a specific food, after an emotional trigger any available food will do. For more information on this topic, read the Science Center library article, Emotional Eating. To manage trigger feelings, it is important to first identify the specific emotion that initiates the overeating and then develop positive strategies to cope with that emotion without using food.

Trigger EnvironmentsA trigger environment is a specific situation or place that sets off a period of overeating. Common examples include walking into a movie theater, going to a buffet restaurant, attending a sporting event or visiting a relative. To manage trigger environments, it is important to identify the specific location, people or events that set off the overeating. As with trigger foods, avoidance is an effective strategy for many people. For example, if the movie theater is a trigger, then going to a play or museum may be a better option. If visiting relatives in their home sets off an eating frenzy, ask to meet in a restaurant or elsewhere. When avoidance is not an option, it is important to develop tactics that minimize the likelihood of overeating.

Bottom Line – Inevitably, eating triggers happen. When this occurs, it is important to recognize them for what they are and think about how you could avoid it from occurring in the future.


1 Wardle J. Conditioning processes and cue exposure in the modification of excessive eating. Addict Behav. 1990;15(4):387-93.
2 Hagan MM, Chandler PC, Wauford PK, Rybak RJ, Oswald KD. The role of palatable food and hunger in an animal model of stress induced binge eating. Int J Eat Disord. 2003 Sep;34(2):183-97.
3 Patel KA, Schlundt DG. Impact of moods and social context on eating behavior. Appetite 2001 Apr;36(2):111-8.

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