Do you get cravings you can't ignore? Just recently, I made the mistake of looking at desserts on Pinterest - late at night.
Oh boy, that was a mistake. I couldn't wait to make the blondies I discovered. Good thing they were made with chickpeas and oats, but sugar, too. I had to make them, but I could have used these 6 tips for dealing with food triggers. Luckily there are substitutes for white sugar.
Those blondies on Pinterest were a trigger, sometimes called a cue, and triggers happen to us all the time. Seeing a commercial for food, driving along, and seeing a fast-food restaurant. The time of day can be a trigger.
Sometimes we're unaware of the trigger and the habit that follows, but if you become mindful of them, you'll have a lot more success sticking with your plan to eat healthy. Unfortunately, once that trigger has gotten into your brain, the craving starts, and you have trouble ignoring it.
Not all triggers are bad. We're lucky we have some triggers because they urge us to explore, learn new things, find a mate, and help keep us alive. Forty-five percent of your daily activities are habits that are triggered by cues. And the habits we form help us get through the day without having to make too many decisions or think a lot. They can also lead us down a path that we don't want.
Once a food trigger happens, you anticipate the reward.
This drive was super important in the environment where we had little food. Although it’s still important, in today's world, with Starbucks on every corner and such easy access to food, we're in trouble! How in the heck do we turn off those urges?
Can you Turn Off Triggers?
You can't turn habits off once they're cemented in your brain with a trigger, according to Charles Duhigg, who wrote "The Power of Habit." You can become more aware of them - that's being MINDFUL of what those triggers are for you.
However, there's some evidence that you can also make new neural pathways if you practice new habits. That's rewiring your brain and means we have neural plasticity! Read on to discover my 6 tips for dealing with food triggers.
And be sure to see the bonus tip below.
Here's what I've found helpful when those urges strike, and it's been shown to be helpful by science.
How to Break the Trigger-Reward Cycle
6 Tips for Dealing with Food Triggers
- Don’t go for more than 5 hours without food. That way, your blood sugar won't get the best of you. Set the timer on your phone so you won’t let this happen.
- Eat filling meals that are high in nutrient density. Follow Dr. Fuhrman's advice, eat a salad every day and eat foods high in fiber - you guessed it, fruits and veggies!
- Plan snacks and have them on hand. A quickie that's delicious and sweet is a couple of dates with a few walnuts. However, keep in mind that dates are high in calories. Keep ice cream made with bananas in the freezer is a good one, or even healthy cookies or yummy hummus with carrots or apples.
- Take lunch with you or find “healthy” fast food where you can eat "on plan" items. Some places offer salad bars which is one of my favorites.
- Choose a “do not cross” line of items you will not eat, such as candy or French fries (well, maybe your homemade baked version is OK). Remember when you struggled to think, “I really want this, but I know I shouldn’t.” This creates less mental struggle, and your devil will surely win if you’re low on willpower.
- Be mindful. Learn what your triggers are so you can plan for them. If you must, drive a different way to avoid your triggers, hide Facebook posts with tempting food, or change the TV channel. The extra time you spend will be well worth it.
One Final Trigger-Busting Habit
Try to interrupt the normal cycle of TRIGGER > ROUTINE (or behavior) > REWARD. The trigger will be the same as we rarely have control over triggers. For example, seeing donuts in the bakery section of the grocery store.
The reward will be the same, which is to have a satisfying bite to eat, but what you do in the middle (what food you reach for) is where you can make the change.
When triggered to eat something you really shouldn't, find a substitute that's as rewarding instead. For example, instead of eating that donut that's triggered you, have a predetermined "sweet" snack when you get home that will do the trick, such as my delicious Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies.
I'd love to hear what you do when a snack attack hits, and I hope some of these tips help you resist temptation when triggers come your way.
Carrot Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Click to view the Recipe.