Last year my sister and I both purchased Girl Scout cookies. My box of Thin Mints didn’t even make it until the next day while my sister still had most of her box in her freezer 6 months later.
You may be thinking that my sister has a lot more willpower than I do. But if you took the same scenario and replaced the Thin Mint cookies for a bag of salty potato chips, my sister would have eaten the entire bag in one sitting and my bag could have easily remained in my pantry until the expiration date.
We all have foods that trigger us to overindulge. For many, it’s either chocolate or potato chips but it can be anything from cheese to pizza or beer. These trigger foods can wreak havoc on our weight loss goals.
I struggled for years to figure out how to manage my trigger foods—anything with chocolate or icing! So you can imagine how excited I was when I read an article that promised to once and for all rid me of my overeating on sweets. The article stated that the best way to regain control over certain foods (i.e. my trigger foods) was to keep an abundance in the house.
The theory claimed that if you had several packages readily available and didn’t declare any food forbidden, then you wouldn’t feel like you had to eat the entire portion in one sitting (since there would be more at your disposal to eat an any time). So I decided to give it a try.
The concept seemed to make sense, and the article touched precisely on the reason I often consumed an entire box at once. I always planned to forbid myself to eat the unhealthy food “tomorrow,” so I thought I had to overindulge before enforcing those limitations. To test the theory, I went out and bought three boxes of Double Stuf Oreos®.
That night I enjoyed a few cookies before putting the first package back in the cupboard next to the other two. Immediately I thought, “Wow, this really works.” Yet a few minutes later, I retuned to the cupboard for a couple of cookies and then again for a few more. Before I knew it, I had finished the first bag and gotten into the next. I felt sick and utterly disgusted with myself. So much for their theory, I thought; it may work for some, but it definitely didn’t work for me. Over the years, I’ve tried this system several more times—each with a different trigger food—and I always end up regretting the decision.
My philosophy on trigger foods is the following: if they’re around, you’re going to eat them. If they’re not around, you won’t. Keeping an adundance in the house just means I’m going to overindulge.
Follow these 4 simple tips to help manage your trigger foods and keep overeating to a minimum:
1) Identify your trigger foods. The first step in managing the foods that cause you to overindulge is to know which foods tempt you the most. Make a list of your trigger foods. My list would look like this: cookies, cake, chocolate and mint chip ice cream (I can keep a pint of most any other flavor in the freezer for months but I’ll eat the entire pint of mint chip in one sitting).
2) Keep your trigger foods out of the house. If your trigger foods aren’t readily available, you’re not likely to overindulge. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t ever enjoy your favorite foods, it just means that you may want to keep them for special occasions or make a special outing to get them. For example, when I’m craving mint chip ice cream, I will make a special outing with the kids to our favorite ice cream shop. I may eat a scoop or two of ice cream, but I know I won’t eat the entire carton.
3) Don’t make anything forbidden. Labeling a food as forbidden just makes that food even more appealing. If you’ve ever told a child not to do something or not to go somewhere, you’ll notice that they tend to focus almost solely on what they’ve been asked not to do. As adults, we have these same tendencies. Tell me I can’t have it, and all I can think about is how much I want it!
4) Slow down and enjoy your food. I know this sounds like common sense but we tend to eat our trigger foods unconsciously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through four or five cookies and didn’t even taste them. By slowing down and enjoying not only the taste of the food but the whole process of eating your favorite foods will better allow you to control your portions.
These tips have helped me learn to manage my trigger foods. I can indulge on occasion, maintain a healthy weight and no longer overeat on my not-so-healthy trigger foods. Unfortunately the advice I received from that long ago magazine article was the farthest thing from good advice for me.
What’s the worst weight loss advice you’ve ever received? Have another tip on how to manage trigger foods? I’d love you to share them below!