12-week wellness program

What Are Your Eating Triggers?

Recognizing what seems to derail your healthy-eating intentions is the first step to preventing slip-ups.


What makes you eat foods that aren’t the smartest choices for your health? Each of us has different eating triggers, and some might be more obvious than others. (Tracking in a food journal is an excellent way to spot occasions and foods that tend to trip you up.) Learning to recognize what cues you to overeat or make poor food choices will help you figure out how to deal with these situations. Which of these common eating triggers trip you up?

Certain places or actions. Walking in the door when you get home from work, sitting down in front of the TV or even sitting in a particular comfortable chair can be powerful “feed me!” triggers. Or perhaps you can’t talk on the phone or read the newspaper without having something to nibble. However it began, you may have come to associate those activities with snacking.

Seeing and/or smelling food. Tantalizing aromas and seductive visuals of food can get your digestive juices flowing and activate your “hunger” meter. Some people seem to be more susceptible to these cues than others.

Boredom. If you’ve got downtime or are busy with a task that doesn’t command your full attention, you might crave food simply to have something engaging to do. Going to get something to eat might feel like switching channels to a better station.

Emotions. While some people react to stressful or unpleasant situations by losing their appetites, many others find themselves eating more to help them cope. It’s easy to see why: food is pleasurable and comforting and, after all, eating is one major way we care for ourselves. Overeating can even produce a drowsy calm (some call it a “food coma”) that can be quite soothing. The act of eating itself can be a distraction, too, if you’re a procrastinator: ever wonder why you’re reaching for a snack when you really may need to get something done? And even positive emotions can trigger overeating, too. You might find yourself eating more when you’re celebrating an accomplishment or anticipating a happy event, for example.

Now that you’ve identified what situations may pull you away from your healthy-eating strategies, try brainstorming a few ways that you might outsmart these saboteurs. Could you make yourself a cup of tea to sip while watching TV? What might you do instead of eating to deal with boredom or sadness? Write down your ideas, then try them out. Now that you’ve pinpointed your trouble spots, you’re in a position to make powerful changes. Go you!

By EatingWell.com. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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