A trigger is any person, place, thing, situation – or food, that has a tendency to cause one to overeat.
Common trigger substances are sugar and white flour. These substances wind their way in to a multitude of foods, such as breads, bagels, pastas, cookies, candy or pastries. Some people may call these foods, “comfort foods”, meaning when they need comfort – something emotional is going on – they want to receive comfort in the food. But by eating these junky foods, we set up a craving that makes it irresistible to NOT eat that food the next day – and so on.
I want to talk about this “comfort” for a moment. First of all, food is not capable of rendering comfort. In fact, if I am to indulge in comfort food for the sake of receiving comfort, I will be less than comforted after consuming vast quantities of nutritionally empty food. Why? Because I started off feeling emotionally vulnerable and needing comfort. I needed to connect, to be loved by someone, or I needed a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Or perhaps, I just needed to go to bed after a rough day.
But what I did instead of meeting my needs head-on, was to eat food: lots of junky food, with the presumption that this food was going to meet my emotional needs and make me feel better.
Not only did the food not meet my needs, but also I felt worse after indulging. I felt fat. I deviated from my goals to take better care of my body. And finally, I continued a pattern that will be harder to break now, since I have had one more time to strengthen it.
How do we break this cycle? How do we stop indulging in this type of food and behavior that works against us and makes us feel badly about ourselves?
For me, it took time to see the signs – the triggers – that something was up. Something was stirring in my emotions that I wasn’t even aware of at first, and I was doomed to fall into another binge. When I became willing to look at myself objectively, I began to see those signs that something was wrong and that I had some emotional needs. I began to recognize my triggers. I became aware that the food was not going to meet my emotional needs, and I had to become willing to reach out elsewhere to get my needs met – and this time, they really would get met, because I would be addressing the issue the right way – instead of isolating with food.
When I isolate and overeat, it makes me feel badly about myself and I isolate more, because I don’t feel worthy of other people’s company. My self-esteem suffers.
What are your triggers? Are you able to see the signs that might warn you of a binge coming up? And how can you intercept that behavior with a more healthy one?