A lot of what I do in counseling my clients has to do with dealing with all the things in life that get in the way of following a healthy, clean eating diet and getting regular activity. I probe into the smallest details of their lives so I can get a picture of what’s really going on and preventing them from being successful.
One thing we always address are a person’s “trigger foods.” I like to describe trigger foods as “an open bag is an empty bag.” Everyone has trigger foods – those food that are hard to stop eating once you’ve started. Quite often an unplanned date with your trigger food leads to a downward spiral into what I call the “Failure Cycle.” This is what the Failure Cycle looks like – Eat a trigger food –> feel really bad and guilty about it –> tell yourself, “well, I already blew it because I’m so weak/stupid/(fill in your own term) and the day is ruined so why not just keep on going” –> promise yourself you’ll “start again tomorrow”. Does this sound familiar?
The key to not getting sucked into this Failure Cycle is to prevent it in the first place. Keep the trigger foods out of your house/work/car. Out of sight is out of mind.
But, what happens if you know you can’t avoid it? What do you do when you go to a restaurant with a group of people and that restaurant happens to serve your favorite onion rings? If this is the situation, then here is my suggestion: plan on having one or two onion rings, enjoy every bite, eat them slowly, and then be done. Giving yourself permission to enjoy without overindulging will allow you to do so without guilt. Then thank yourself for allowing the treat and move on. You remain in control. And you do so without guilt. If you instead try and resist the trigger food when it is staring you in the face, you are more likely to give in at some point and eat way too much. Then comes the guilt and back you go into the Failure Cycle. Don’t let a diet slip turn into a fall.
What do you do if your diet slip turns into a fall? First, be aware that you’re slipping and say “STOP!” Ask yourself why it’s happening. Are you angry at a co-worker? Did someone say something hurtful to you? Are you anxious about an upcoming event? Are you bored? Most cases of overeating and trigger-food indulging are a result of an emotion that’s out of control. We eat to soothe those emotions, to numb ourselves. Stuffing the emotion with food will not make it go away. By saying, “STOP!”, we are making ourselves aware of the emotion that needs to be identified and addressed. Then, put down the food and walk away from it. Take a few minutes to address the emotional situation and try to come up with a solution for dealing with it so that it does go away. After that, make a plan for the rest of the day – take a walk or hit the gym, drink some water, and plan out the rest of your day’s meals to help keep you on track. Get right back into doing the behaviors that make you feel successful.