Have you ever experienced this: An urge to eat something unhealthy comes over you so strongly that you feel you have no choice but to give in?
Then, when it's over, you feel awful that you've eaten all those calories and set yourself up for weight gain. So you're good for a couple of days until another craving comes over you. You tell yourself you'll just eat one or two, but does it ever really work out that way? Still you play Russian Roulette hoping that this time you will escape without consequences. You pray this time will be different and you indulge...and the cycle repeats.
Most of us have certain trigger foods. Like kryptonite is to Superman, these foods seem to leave us powerless despite our great intentions. But what if we could finally stop the cycle? What if we could regain control and stop being pushed around by these foods? I'm here to tell you IT IS POSSIBLE!
You have the power. You can change the course of your life anytime you choose. It all starts with identifying your trigger foods. Once you can name them, your next task is to replace them with healthier, less consuming substitutions in order to break the cycle.
What's a Trigger Food?
Let me be clear, not every less healthy food option is a trigger. You know me, I'm not about forbidding foods, even less healthy ones, just for the sake of doing so. It's not necessary and often sets us up for failure because perfection is unattainable. And just think about it, there are some things that you can say "I'll just eat one or two" about and actually follow through with it, right? The tasty treat gives you just enough but not too much. For me, these are things like Kashi 7 Whole Grain Cookies and York Peppermint Patties. They are the perfect indulgence when eaten in moderation. Then there are the foods that we are talking about right now, the ones you can't get enough of.
Trigger foods are foods that when eaten make you crave more of it, or cause you to eat more food in general. These foods are often eaten out of habit, not out of hunger. Your trigger food is something you've probably said you feel addicted to. Most trigger foods are high calorie, processed and filled with low-quality carbs like sugar. Some of my trigger foods are Hostess Sweet 16 White Powdered Donuts and those dag gone Girl Scout Thin Mints!
You'll know something is a trigger food when it's hard for you to stop eating it, even when you feel full.
Replace Your Trigger Foods
When you stop eating your trigger foods, the craving you feel for it gets weaker and weaker. What you feed grows; what you starve dies. So let's take a look at some practical ways to starve your cravings by replacing your trigger food with a healthier option.
Trigger Food #1: Candy
Due to the high concentration of refined sugar, candy is one of the most addictive of trigger foods. If candy is a major part of your life and you have trouble stopping at just one piece, then start replacing it with nature's candy: fruit. Fruit that's at season's peak can taste as sweet as candy. In the summer, snack on sweet, juicy watermelon, melons, peaches, nectarines, and strawberries. In the winter, enjoy apple slices, kiwi, and sweet juicy pears. And any time of year, snack on dried mango, wild blueberries, oranges, or cherries. A cup of fruity tea may also do the trick.
Trigger Food #2: Salty Snacks
Salty snacks are nearly all processed, refined and packed with low-nutritional value carbs. Basically it's the perfect storm for weight gain. Fight the urge to rip open a bag of chips and instead enjoy pickles, olives, hummus, or popcorn with minimal butter. Nuts and seeds are also good in moderation; be careful though, the calories can add up quickly with these.
Trigger Food #3: Sweet Drinks
Sodas made with high fructose corn syrup and coffee drinks made with simple syrup have one thing in common: loads of sugar. If these drinks are a part of your daily sugar fix then you know first hand how addicting these can be. Start replacing these high-calorie, high-sugar drinks with zero calorie iced teas or water with a few slices of fruit. Add a packet of zero-calorie stevia, made from the stevia plant, for sweetness.
Trigger Food #4: Artificially Sweetened Drinks and Foods
I've said it before and I'll say it again: artificial sweeteners are not as innocent as they seem. Yes, they are zero calorie but you might be surprised to learn that several studies link them with weight gain. How can this be? Well, Purdue University scientists believe the fake sugar in diet sodas, for example, teases your body by pretending to give it real food. But when your body doesn't get the things it expects, it's not as satisfying and it triggers increased cravings for sweets. Let me be clear, this isn't a problem for everyone. But if you use Splenda, Sweet N Low, Equal and the like frequently and have intense cravings for sugar, this may explain your addiction.
Trigger Food #5: Fried Foods
It's common to have a weakness for fried foods. There's something about the texture, taste and fat content of fried foods that sends us into an eating frenzy. If you can eat fried foods on occasion and not go into a tail spin, rock on. But if that taste for fried chicken sends you into an unhealthy eating pattern, it's time to substitute. One option is to make your own homemade versions of your favorite fried foods by baking and then turning on your oven's high broil. For example, instead of commercially made French fries, cut a sweet potato into fries, toss with olive oil and bake at 425 degrees F for about 40 minutes, until crispy. The baked versions of your favorite fried foods have considerably fewer calories and you're less likely to stuff yourself with them.
Trigger Food #6: Baked Treats
For many, cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins and brownies are serious trigger foods. These are hard to avoid, since they are often shared socially at parties and celebrations. If you can't stop at just one, it may be best to say "no thank you." But maybe there's a way to have your cake and eat it too :). Make your own baked goods at home while replacing flour with almond flour and sugar with a touch of raw honey or stevia in the raw. These ingredient substitutions will make your baking less addictive. However, keep in mind that baked goods are still baked goods and should be eaten as a treat in moderation.
It Takes Two
Before I go, I must remind you that eating a healthy diet, free from trigger foods, is just one side of the equation. Maintaining a healthy weight is 70% diet and 30% physical activity. As the late-80s rap song goes, "It takes two to make a thing go right."
A small investment of time and energy truly will transform your mind, body and ultimately your life. Contact me today to get on the path to true transformation. You deserve to be happy.
Let's get this done,
coach tam's Blog
40-something who loves food, fitness, and fun!