The Mindset That Conquers Trigger Foods

Holidays can be intense! Especially in the food category. Even seasoned intuitive eaters can be surprised by some almost-forgotten compulsive food-feelings this time of year. Certain goodies, situations, people and places trigger old patterns of overeating.

One way to strengthen ourselves as liberated eaters this time of year is to    intentionally revisit how we think now, compared to how we used to think.

Let’s compare these two very different mindsets: the old restrictive diet-mentality that trapped us on the diet/binge roller coaster – and – the liberating mindful mindset that connects us to our bodies and ourselves again…

Old mindset: {anxious and intense}

“This is special food!!! It looks sooo good – and it’s sooo bad!!! But… I don’t get this very often so I better eat a LOT of it now!!!”

New mindset: {peaceful and grateful}

“Holiday fare is a gift. I’m going to enjoy it and honor this time of year (and my health) by savoring it…

There’s nothing I have to overeat in order to enjoy it fully.”

Old mindset: {false hope of a future quick fix}

“In January I’m gonna go on the best diet ever and this time I’m gonna lose all this weight once and for all. I’m gonna detox and exercise and eat clean for the rest of my life!  So… I better eat all the bad stuff I can now.”

New mindset: {permanent livable solution}

“Every day I can have a delicious, calm, balanced relationship with food and my body. I don’t have to live with the extremes of too-much or too-little anymore. I can enjoy satisfying portions of the food I love every day.”

Old mindset: {shame and harsh judgement lead to repeated behaviors}

“OH NOOOO!!! I blew it AGAIN…how can I be so weak and incapable? …I’m hopeless … I might as well stuff myself.”

New mindset: {mercy leads to kindness and change}

“Hmmm, I just ate past satisfied. Whew, I don’t like that old stuffed feeling. That’s ok! I don’t have to do this perfectly. I’ll take great care of myself by listening closely to my body. I’ll check in and wait for physical hunger before I eat again.”

As we step away from emotional knee-jerk reactions and into a real relationship with food, the old triggers and patterns begin to fade. A flexible, enjoyable food-life begins to grow – not just on normal days but during the messy, fun, hustle-bustle of the holidays too.


Yummy thanks for the Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

I Pigged Out!!! Now What?!?

Let’s assume you’ve gotten off the exhausting diet/binge roller-coaster and you’re now building a sane relationship with food. You’ve been practicing waiting on hunger, choosing food that satisfies, savoring it fully and stopping when you’ve had enough. What’s not to love?! You’re feeling good in your body and mind and you intend to continue living this way.

Then, the holidays hit.

What’s felt pretty balanced begins to feel messy and confusing again. Food is everywhere – and not just any food. It’s special food…food most of us have a long, tangled, emotionally-charged history with.

So, what do we liberated eaters do when we stumble back into old patterns?

Unlike our old dieting days, overeating doesn’t have to send us tumbling into a shame-filled downward spiral. This time we can actually redeem our stumbles. In fact…

We can learn more from doing it wrong than from doing it right.

Let’s take 3 Logical Lessons from the “Normal” Eater’s Playbook:

I. Relax, everybody overeats sometimes. Normal eaters don’t catastrophize overeating. We don’t have to either. Take a few deep breaths and acknowledge that this is not the end of the world. You’re not “bad” because you’ve overeaten. You just feel bad.

II. Don’t punish yourself. Normal eaters don’t chastise themselves after they’ve overeaten. No extreme diet, exercise or cleanse is required. This foundational difference is one reason normal eaters don’t continually swing between eating too little and eating too much.

III. Go right back to what was working. Normal eaters are in sync with their body, so feeling uncomfortable elicits a natural response – not an emotional knee-jerk reaction. They may take a walk, skip the next meal or not eat till the next day. They may prefer lighter foods after a heavy meal. This isn’t about penance; it’s about listening to your body which is naturally seeking balance and health.

We have plenty of ways to remember to eat mindfully and joyfully this time of year – and – its mighty good to know that an overeating experience doesn’t have to hijack us or our holidays.

Mercy opens the door to wisdom, peace, and balance – three things we’ve been hungry for for a long long time.


*Thanks to TOMKAT Studio for the delicious photo

I've Been Electrocuted! (By Vanilla Oreos)

stressYesterday I had an electrifying experience; only a person with food issues will understand.

After my workout I remembered we were out of milk. I ran in the store to get a gallon and on my way to checkout I passed a display of vanilla Oreos. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was tired. As my eyes landed on the golden packages all neat and inviting I literally felt a jolt – a jolt of desire, a jolt of wanting lots of crunchy sweet cookies and creamy icing in my mouth – one after the other.

In the old days that cookie-shock would’ve set off a crazy chain reaction:

1. Buy the Oreos
2. Hurry to the car
3. Rip open the bag
4. Eat several in the parking lot
5. More on the way home
6. Either:

a. Finish them off and throw away the empty package at a gas station
b. Take the rest home and hide them for later
c. Put them in the pantry and hope no one asks who ate most of the cookies

7. Feel sad, weak and deeply regretful – hopeless to change myself, my weight, my food addiction
8. And then of course, THE SHAME. Believe I have a terrible secret…no one knows how hooked and hopeless I am.
9. Isolate myself from others, at least emotionally – not able to be fully available because I am preoccupied with my food, my fat, my failure.

Does this sound familiar?

But here’s what happened yesterday…

I felt the old feeling and was surprised by it. I haven’t felt that impulsive/compulsive shock of desire in a very long time. That unexpected jolt was my reminder. Oh yea, even now – years later – the old deep neuropathway is still occasionally triggered, especially when I’m tired, thirsty and hungry.

But now.

Now I’m not under its spell. I have power. I have years of healing and positive food experiences under my belt. That jolt is just a feeling – an old worn out feeling attached to a distant path. I can keep walking because I know now that when I do I won’t even remember those cookies by the time I get to my car. The loving choice to keep walking is not hard to choose anymore.

PLEASE KNOW THIS:   The old path may never be erased completely (ask an ex-smoker if he doesn’t occasionally think an after-dinner cigarette would be pleasant) BUT, over time it will diminish to the point that it almost never raises its ugly head. Yesterday was a rare experience. In fact, were it not for sharing it with you now, it would be long forgotten.

So what do we learn:

  1. Over-confidence is dangerous. On some level, we will always need to remain diligent and aware of our tendency to use food in a way that takes us away from ourselves.
  2. Healthy self-efficacy is powerful.  We can be, and should be, confident that we can and will indeed live with food in a beautifully peaceful way. It is no longer our enemy or our biggest thrill.
  3. Real lifestyle change (and healing) is a process – and worth all the effort it requires. Devotion to changing your food-life and health – in mind and body – is more more more than worth the effort, time, and expense you invest.

Walking past those Oreos was empowering. They’re just a sweet treat – a dime a dozen. And I have plenty of delicious things to enjoy at home. Things that will serve me and my dreams.

Feeling free of mind and strong in body, feeling full of vim and vigor IS GOLDEN!

Life is too rich, too full of meaning and beauty to remain lost in our old food, fat, failure focus. Now we have the knowledge and support we need to gain our freedom – the liberty to live this one amazing life whole-heartedly present.

Uninstalling the Food Alarm, those emotionally charged feelings toward food, is part of our journey of change.

Look to the future, dear liberated eater…it is bright and comfortable and free. The work you are doing is good and true.


If you need support on your journey – or aren’t even sure where to start – check out our online Liberated Eating community. We’re walking this path together – keeping each other strong and encouraged – and we would LOVE to have you join us!

Click here for more:

How To Tame a Brownie

How To Tame Trigger Foods

So, you’ve been working on eating thoughtfully for a while – and healthful changes are happening. But. There are certain foods that you just can’t seem to eat mindfully yet. When you’re around this stuff it feels impossible not to overeat it…

If this sounds familiar to you – you are not alone.

Let’s look at a few ways to deal with this frustrating situation. These strategies are not exhaustive or one-size-fits-all, but certainly they give us some powerful tools and options.

Ideas for dealing with “Trigger Foods”:

  • MAKE A SHORT LIST –  Identify your top trigger foods. You can work on one at a time or several. It’s all up to you.
  • DON’T GIVE FOOD MORE POWER THAN IT DESERVES – Decide to stop letting these foods scare you – you are creative and capable and will find your way through this compulsion.
  • ONE APPROACH: TURN YOUR BACK ON IT – Don’t buy it. Choose not to have it in your house. This puts you in charge of your environment. This is not about dieting or restricting – it’s about wisdom and proactive self-care.
  • OR, ANOTHER APPROACH: HAVE IT EVERY DAY – Plan on a reasonable* amount of this trigger food every day until it loses its power. A brownie every morning for breakfast (along with some protein please) will eventually lose its pull.
  • FIND A YUMMY WHOLE FOOD ALTERNATIVE – For example, I almost never even think about Reese’s anymore because I would rather dip a spoon of fresh ground peanut butter into mini-dark chocolate chips and sprinkle with sea salt. “Real” food has a way of stealing your heart, your stomach and your taste buds!
  • KNOW IT’S GOING DOWN – Remind yourself that you are capable of working through this process. Be confident you will succeed. It’s just a matter of time.
  • SEEK TO UNDERSTAND & SHOW YOURSELF KINDNESS – Understanding is not always necessary but sometimes it’s helpful to see where the pull comes from. Does this food remind you of a beloved relative or was it a safe comfort when you really needed one? Give yourself mercy around why this food triggers something deep within you.

Bottom line: Don’t give up. There is a resolution and you will find it. And if you need some help – just holler at me!
*I hope it goes without saying that good health is always our highest goal here at TLE. I do not advocate disregarding your health care provider’s guidelines.