Do you have a stressful relationship with certain foods? Are you afraid that if you eat one of these ‘trigger foods’ you’ll lose all control and be unable to stop?
Fear of food is a big issue for many people – especially when trying to lose weight. Nutritionist Emma Brown at calorie tracker Nutracheck shares her thoughts and advice:
“If you feel you’ve ever lost control and eaten an uncomfortable amount, you’re not alone. Most people would say that a ‘trigger food’ is something they have real trouble eating a reasonable portion of. Usually, it’s something like chocolate, biscuits, cakes, crisps or other salty snacks.
“As a result we start seeing foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – which gives them more emotional power over us. What is ‘bad’ and forbidden is instantly more attractive! So we get into a cycle of resistance and indulgence that repeats. It’s a battle you can’t win unless you learn to make peace with your food demons.
“Emotions and circumstances play a large part in what we eat. There are lots of triggers that can set us off on the road to excess eating: being home alone, feeling bored, being stressed or upset – they’re all classic triggers to make us want to reach for something comforting.
“A starting point is to retrain our brain about how we view food. We need to lose the labels ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to break the emotional association we have with certain foods, for example by seeing it as a ‘reward’. You’re in charge – not the food – and it might seem hard but it’s possible, over time, to learn how to include these ‘trigger’ foods in your daily diet, and stay in control of how much of them you eat.”
Acknowledge your own ‘triggers’: We all have different triggers that set us off, so if we’re aware of them, we can pre-empt the negative affects. Change your scenery by taking a short walk, or ringing someone for a chat when you’re upset might be enough of a behaviour change to distract you from a food blowout.
Don’t have ‘forbidden foods’: Like the Garden of Eden, it leads to cravings and temptation. By including your ‘taboo’ foods as part of your daily diet, you’re immediately taking back control. Plan your meals to include a treat, don’t ban anything. Make sure you always keep some healthy snacks to hand too: carrot, cucumber and celery sticks are all really low in calories – perfect for mindless eating.
Keep a food diary: If you are trying to lose weight, keeping a food diary maintains a positive approach to food. Nothing is excluded – you can eat what you like – just ensure you stay within your daily calorie allowance. A good tip is to treat calories like money – you spend your cash wisely, so apply the same rule to how you spend your daily calorie allowance. Choose food carefully and you can make your allowance go a long way. And if you fancy a treat, just ensure you have enough calories in the bank to pay for it.
Said Emma: “We need to get away from the idea that some foods are ‘bad’ – it’s more down to how much we are eating of it, and how often. You can break the cycle of binge eating when you change the way you think. Every time you prove to yourself that you can eat your trigger food without overeating, you’ll gain more confidence.”
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.