Food Triggers

Jan 11, 2021

A trigger is defined as something that sets in motion a course of events or actions. There are many different triggers that cause people to eat. Some of the most common eating triggers can be broken down into categories: specific foods, social, and emotional. Understanding your personal eating triggers can be complex, but important for successful weight loss and maintenance. It is worth keeping a food journal and tracking your triggers to develop awareness and stimulate change.

A specific food trigger is a food that causes a person to eat uncontrollably. For the most part, people have different food triggers, but usually food triggers are calorie-dense, highly palatable foods that often combine sugar, fat, and salt. Some common food triggers are ice cream, cookies, potato chips, and French fries. Specific food triggers should not be confused with favorite foods, comfort foods, or food cravings.  

A social trigger is a specific place or situation that encourages overeating. These episodes of overeating might feel customary or habitual. There are many people who struggle with social eating triggers. Some people are excited to eat in social situations while other people eat to relieve tension. Common examples of social triggers are movie theaters, visiting family, buffets, or attending sporting events. Someone offering food or eating in front of another person can also be a social trigger.

Emotional triggers are complex and sometimes difficult to understand. An emotional trigger is a feeling, good or bad, that prompts overeating. Most people do not always eat to satisfy hunger. Some people primarily use food to cope with their emotions and get trapped in an unhealthy eating cycle. We use food for comfort, relief, loneliness, stress management, sadness, anger, happiness, relaxation, fatigue, boredom, and reward.  The degree individuals struggle with emotional triggers varies widely. Unfortunately, emotional triggers can lead to significant weight gain and do not fix the emotion that triggered overrating.

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