Trigger Foods: What They Are & How To Ditch Them

Grocery shopping is my job, and it's rare (if ever) that my boyfriend joins. I like it that way. However, this week he was along for the ride, filling the cart with things I'd never buy. One item made it into the cart that I should have insisted on putting back, mint chocolate chip ice cream. 

It just looked so good that I let it slide.

Allow me to share what my days have been like since that ice cream has been in my freezer:

I wake up in the morning and think, Well, I can have just one bite...

I finish my lunch and think, I could go for a little something sweet...

After my uber-healthy, nourishing, and delicious dinner I think, Just one little bowl will be fine...

Can you relate? 

This is what I call a trigger food and my friends, most of us have them.

What exactly is a trigger food?

A trigger food is any food that quite literally “triggers” an emotional compulsive response. This food will be hard for you to eat only a small portion of, and you may find yourself thinking of it often, or find it hard to stop eating it once you’ve begun. It may not be mint chocolate chip ice cream for you. Perhaps its pizza, chips, candy, cheese, or crackers. (I have many, many clients who have a thing for crackers!) 

In most instances, a trigger food will contain one, or all, of the big 3; salt, sugar, or fat. If the food is processed (made in a plant rather than grown on one, as Michael Pollen says), it will rank even higher on the trigger scale.  

Food scientist design such foods with your brain chemistry in mind, knowing that certain substances (yes, salt, sugar, and fat!) are biologically addictive. Sugar, for instance, stimulates the brains reward center through dopamine. As we consume foods that are high in sugar, we will biologically crave more. 

So what do you do once you've identified your trigger food? 

1. Get rid of it! 

Right, because it's just that easy? Well, in this instance, I actually think it's that easy. Make it simple. Eliminate it from your home environment. Begin there. 

2. Upgrade the quality of the trigger food. 

Switching from a highly processed version of a food to a higher quality simpler plant version puts you in the “conscious drivers seat.” You then are in control of all the ingredients you put in to your body.

3. Build structure around your trigger food.

Structure, despite it’s name, is actually freeing when it comes to compulsivity around food. For instance, if cheese is a trigger for you, eat it only in the company of others and outside of your home.

4. Practice mindfulness around eating

When you engage in conscious mindful eating, you give yourself the opportunity to nourish through wholesome food and you will be less likely to reach for foods that don’t support nourishment.

I spent many years in a compulsive eating trap, constantly thinking and obsessing over food and my weight. I have healed myself from that trap, but I still have moments. I know when there is a trigger food in my house I will struggle.

I am not perfect, but I choose peace, calm, and health over packaged ice cream. I threw out the ice cream on Day 2. It felt so good.

I encourage you to look at the foods in your life that may be triggering a loud, compulsive reaction. Identify them and remove them. Literally! Give them away or get rid of them, and see how you feel. 

To help you along here is a healing affirmation to guide you through the process of identifying and removing your trigger foods.

I am worthy of nourishment through love and healing foods. I release all unhealthy thoughts around food.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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