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Recognizing Environmental Triggers

One of the single best strategies for preventing compulsive eating, compulsive overeating, bingeing, and making poor food choices is cultivating self-awareness. Such self-awareness should include skills focused on becoming cognizant of your inner dialogue associated with food as well as emotions that trigger your eating. Another way to foster awareness is to start recognizing common environmental triggers specific to your battle with food.  Below are some examples of environmental stimuli that can prime your palate and give way to cravings. See if you identify more with some than others or if one specific trigger always calls out your cravings:

Food Characteristics: Smells, sights, sounds. Being triggered in this way may mean that you are food suggestible. Just being around food, smelling it or seeing it, gets your mouth watering and your mind racing.

Settings: indoors or outdoors, picnics, restaurants, car trips, bars, a family member’s house.

Events: holidays, birthdays, weddings, parties, grief anniversaries, days off, vacations.

Activities: T.V., reading, entertainment, socializing, thinking/problem solving, sporting events, driving in the car, cleaning, time spent at the computer.

Time: breakfast time, brunch time, lunchtime, dinnertime, nighttime.

People: foodie friends, drinking buddies, parents, spouse or significant other, work associates.

Words: food descriptions (roasted, grilled, creamy, sautéed), health words, taste words (sweet, salty, savory), food words, brand names.

Weather: inclement weather, picnic weather.

Learning more about certain environmental cues that set off your food obsessions is a great way to create future preparedness vital to making healthier decisions. For instance, if you know that reading wonderfully descriptive menus laden with catchy culinary terms and lists of ingredients is likely to have you veer from your healthy food plan, then read the menu from home before going out. Prime your palate at home when you feel more in control, not in the restaurant where your willpower is likely to get lost. When you get to the restaurant, don’t even open the menu. Stick to the choice you made in your home environment. Voila! Trigger avoided.

Take time to notice some of your triggers over the next couple of months. Develop a curiosity about what sets off your cravings. The insights gained will be welcome tools in your arsenal.

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