Identifying your triggers was the all important first step because we can't change what we don't acknowledge. Now, we are going to go a little deeper. Our next step is to figure out WHY that event or situation triggers a certain response. What is it about feeling overwhelmed, for example, that leads us to overeat, eat unhealthily or snooze through our scheduled workout? That is the question.
Now we could take the easy way out here and say "I just felt like it." But of course that wouldn't get us anywhere, so that's out. If we really and truly want to change, we must ask ourselves, "Why do I feel this way when X happens?" Now truthfully, everyone's answer to that question could be a little different. I do believe, however, that our reasoning generally boils to this: the perception of an unmet need. When we feel that a need has gone unmet for too long or a thing is especially significant to us, there is a tendency to use food or some comforting activity to fill the void.
We sometimes meet healthy needs in unhealthy ways.
Using myself as an example again, here is how my triggers and unmet needs matchup:
- An unusually stressful day at work is usually the result of me feeling as though my work failed to meet someone's expectations. Unmet need: Security.
- When I'm in a relationship and problems surface, I feel unsettled. I'm no longer sure where the relationship is going and that in and of itself is stressful. Unmet need: Security (again).
- When I am not in a relationship, I battle occasional feelings of loneliness. Unmet need: Love/intimacy.
- When someone does me wrong for no reason, I feel unappreciated or disrespected. Unmet need: Respect.
- I'm a pretty orderly and methodological person, so when chaos hits and I can't see a way out, it can be difficult for me to maintain my peace. Unmet need: Security (3 times a charm).
- So just from this brief exercise, I've identified that one of my primary needs is security. It stands to reason then that if enough things are going on in my life that I perceive as a threat to my security, there is a good chance that I will be tempted to use food to numb my environment. That is why it is so important for us to know our triggers and the underlying needs.
- When a friend offers me food that is not a part of my eating plan for that day, I feel compelled to accept because I don't want to hurt their feelings. Need: Acceptance.
- When I smell a Cinnabon in the mall or someone I see Pillsbury Cookie dough in the store, it reminds me of good times as a kid (my mom and I loved these). I am tempted just because they provide a means of escape from today's pressures. Need: Peace, escape.
Orginally published: April 8, 2011