How to stop cravings and other “Triggers” – Recognizing and Naming

What is a trigger? No, not the way social media uses it now, where someone is “triggered” every time they hear something they don’t like or a gun being fired. The type of triggers I’m talking about are the things that lead to us making decisions and taking actions.


Let’s say you get in a huge fight with your significant other. As you are walking away from the situation to deescalate it you keep muttering to yourself. You don’t know where you are going or what you are doing, but you get in your car. Subconsciously you already know where you are going as you start to drive a certain route. On the surface you are still talking to yourself, “owning 5 pairs of Crocs isn’t crazy, it’s simply good planning! She doesn’t know what good style even is.” Suddenly you stop long enough to look up and realize you are somewhere you find comfort, whether that’s the local gym or a less productive place like a bar. Wait… how did I get here?


We all have reactions to certain triggers we’ve developed throughout our lives and experiences. Sometimes those are good things, like when we see a fire we immediately react by grabbing a fire extinguisher or removing ourselves and our family from the situation to allow the professionals to handle it. Sometimes they are not, we get in a fight with our significant other and we end up eating a carton of ice cream or head to the bar to drown our sorrows.


Have you ever thought about how your reactions are related to food and your health? What are some consistent triggers you have during your days? When you realize that something is happening that affects how you eat or act, do you take the time to work through it? Let’s run through a common one:


You’ve been eating great all day, good job! You work on your habits (insert habits link) then you go to a party with some friends where…. uh oh, there’s a cheese pizza from your favorite place calling your name. You ate before you came to keep yourself from over-indulging in foods that won’t help you reach your goal. So, what do you do now?


We use 2 simple steps to figure out how to proceed. We are going to notice and then name.


Notice: I see and smell this pizza and I am now contemplating eating it. Does this help me reach my goals? I just ate, so am I really hungry or is this just because of a feeling (lonely, bored, tired, etc)? Then you weigh what will happen if you eat it and what will happen if you don’t.


Name: Now we take what you just noticed and we put it into a statement for what is really going on; “I want to eat the pizza because it was always a comfort food for me before starting this diet”.


This will help you work to eat based on hunger and need, not eat based on emotions. This can seem like such a monumental moment sometimes. We can promise that as you improve your habits and you start making the small daily changes these decisions become more routine and you make the right choice more often. Most people don’t ever take the time to really think about what they are eating and why, but that ability to know yourself and your triggers is what can help make you an even better version of yourself.


Maybe talking to yourself isn’t something you’re comfortable with. A lot of our staff here at PP do it on a daily basis, so we created a sheet (PN behavior worksheet – create PP one that is simpler and more intuitive ) for you to record your Notice and Name moments over a longer period to collect more information. This is important because it allows you and our coaches here to sit down and figure out how to react to these different triggers and ways to implement positive responses in their place.

While our clients are filling out these forms, they often start noticing specific trends. For some individuals, every time they have a bad day at work it leads to them stopping at their favorite fast food eatery on the way home. Others over-eat via snacks at night. They often eat well all day, but then they wind down with a bag of empty calories and a few extra glasses of wine. So now that we’ve noticed the trigger, be it a bad day or the need to snack while watching your favorite show, we need to name it and figure out how to implement better responses and habits from there. With the night time “snacker,” one of our favorite things to do is simply find a more nutrient dense, but still sweet food they enjoy so they are still eating towards their goal and being productive while watching their entertainment.


Everyone has situations, things, or people that change their intended actions. This is very normal and something that can be leveraged into a positive. The problem is if you don’t take the time to understand what is causing that action and then naming what is really driving the action, the chances of fixing or adjusting it are very small. The staff at PP is all about making small habit changes, collecting data and increasing awareness of situations and your reactions to them. When you put those together it leads to huge fitness and lifestyle improvements.


FAQ’s –

  • Now that I’ve Noticed and Named some things, I’m still having trouble. Is this normal?

 Anytime you try to make huge changes all at once, it can be daunting. What our coaches will do is help you pick 1-2 small actions to initiate to start responding to those triggers in more positive ways. Things like finding another route to work to avoid your favorite fast food place is an easy avoidance.


  • What if I can’t avoid the trigger?

 This is a common one and a great question. This is when digging into emotions and why you feel the way you do can be very helpful. Once you’ve figured out more about why you feel this way it can be a great time to find non-food related actions to change out or swap for the current actions.


Another useful thing is to have an outside perspective on WHY you are taking the actions you are. Sometimes we are so close to the actions we don't know how to adjust them or even see what we are doing. Getting a professional to ask the tough questions and help guide you through this can be extremely helpful. Click Here to work with our Powell Performance staff to figure out your triggers and teach you ways to fix them! 

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