How to Overcome Trigger Foods

Are you a person who can say “no” to your favorite foods or are there some foods you just cannot resist? Many of us have certain triggers. They include foods such as salty snacks, chocolate and alcoholic beverages; however a trigger can consist of anything, including events, persons or smells. I bet you can name a few triggers that can set off an avalanche of unwanted indulgences[1].

In order to avoid pulling the trigger to a diet disaster[2], consider the following statements:

1. Once I eat a trigger food (ice cream, cookies, brownies, etc), I can’t stop eating. One cookie becomes 10 cookies. One scoop of ice cream becomes the entire container. I need to follow a diet as directed—with not one cheat—or I might as well not follow it at all.

2. I can eat small portions of bread, cookies, and other carbohydrate foods and stop. I can go for weeks without eating sweets, starches (bread, crackers), or fruit and I don’t miss them.

Which statement resonates more for you? If it’s statement #2, you will probably be able to eat small amounts of snacks without triggering episodes of binge eating. If statement #1 rang true, think twice about eating these foods until you can gain self-control.

Consider all trigger foods as a disruption to your diet, but what triggers your eating them is different for everyone. Social cues, emotional highs and lows, taste and even economics are just a few ways triggers can cause you to lose control of what you eat. Food is not a crutch for happiness or any emotion. Avoid triggers for a given amount of time and then reintroduce the food at a later point when these triggers are gone.

The good news is that it is possible to feel in control of a trigger and once you can overcome the trigger, you can eat these foods again. It is also possible that what triggers you to eat too much now may not trigger the same reaction once you can identify and gain control of your eating.

There are many ways to control triggered eating. Here are just a few:
1. Do not buy the food. Keep your distance.
2. Mind and attitude go hand-in-hand. Your mental attitude towards eating a small amount and feeling good versus punishing yourself for having a little bit of what may not exactly be on your plan can make or break whether you achieve your goal.
3. Find comfort by enriching your life with things other than food.
4. Keep tabs on your hunger and cravings and do not eat a possible trigger food if you have not had a full meal first.
5. When you are eating outside your home, if there are foods that you may want to eat but are not on your plan, pick one. You do not have to sabotage your whole diet on one meal.

Valerie Berkowitz, MS, RD, CDE, CDN is co-author of “The Stubborn Fat Fix” Winner of the 2010 Best Book Awards for Health: Diet and Weight Loss. She is Nutrition Director for The Center for Balanced Health. Valerie is certified as a diabetes educator and as a lifestyle counselor by the American Dietetic Association in adult weight management. Valerie has been practicing for over 20 years and for a few of those years moderated eDiets online communities. Her specialty is helping people recognize underlying reasons that weight loss may be more difficult than it has to be. Valerie is the mother of four and strives to make eating a balanced and fun experience for everyone.


  1. ^ unwanted indulgences (
  2. ^ diet disaster (

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