• Emma Green

How to deal with trigger foods


Do you have foods that you feel that you can’t eat in moderation? Contrary to most advice you read about dealing with trigger foods, I don’t think you should stop buying them, get them it of your house or restrict them in any way. ⠀ By doing these things, you not only confirm your beliefs that you can’t trust yourself around those foods. You also make them more appealing as a result of feeling deprived.

⠀⠀ Making peace with trigger foods is not an overnight process. If you’ve been restricting any type of food (or the amount you eat) for an extended period, you’ll probably eat these foods in large amounts when you do allow yourself to have them. This time can feel scary but it will pass. You have to stick with it and things will balance out over time. The power of permission is huge. ⠀ This isn’t just anecdotal. Look at the large body of literature on ‘restrained eaters’ (people with lots of food rules). When presented with a food that they deem bad, they eat it in much larger amounts than unrestrained eaters (known as disinhibition aka the ‘what the hell effect’. The restrained eaters also also experience more negative feelings so enjoy the food less.

A more recent study showed that people were actually more likely to choose a more nutritious option when it was surrounded by lots of less nutritious food than when it was next to only one piece of nutritious food. This demonstrates that just because certain foods are there, it doesn’t mean we’ll eat them. I think it’s important to emphasise that the goal should never be to eat as little as possible, to only ‘eat clean’ or to use food as fuel only. Food should be pleasurable. It should not be associated with anxiety, guilt or judgement. How, what or when you eat says nothing about you as a person. ⠀ I love to geek out on science but you don’t need to read and critique research to have a healthy relationship with food. Eat in a way that makes you feel good, physically and mentally, and everything will be okay

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