Menu

Monthly Archives: August 2017

Aug 13

How To Conquer Your Trigger Foods

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

How many of you have foods that you try to steer clear from because you know - you just know! - that once you start, you can’t stop? Or perhaps you find yourself intentionally seeking that specific food out after a particularly trying day.


A trigger food is a food that you have a difficult time eating a reasonable portion of. Eating a little bit, in other words, usually leads to cleaning off the rest of the plate. These are oftentimes highly palatable foods including chips, cookies, or chocolate. Usually, individuals have an ongoing, tumultuous relationship with said trigger food, and while they may love the taste of it in the moment, it usually doesn’t end well.


Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to conquer trigger foods. Follow this 4-step process below to break free.

1. Accept that you are in control


Forgive the bluntness of this next statement, but it’s crucial to establish as a fact. Your brain controls the movement of your voluntary muscles, so moving your limbs, reaching out to put the food into your mouth, and swallowing it, is your choice. No person or potato chip or slick marketing can take over your limbs and jaws, even if you feel powerless or aren’t aware of your thoughts.


The reason that our sole locus of control is so important to hash out is that the facts can be very different from the way things feel to experience. We can find a lot of evidence (if we look for it) to build a case that we weren’t in control because it felt really compelling to do something. If we regret something after eating it, our natural cognitive protection mechanisms look for a way to not feel as bad, and that can lead to justifications to decrease the amount of responsibility we feel. “But I didn’t want to eat the chips, I just couldn’t help it,” “My brain shuts off when there is chocolate around”, and the like.

These insinuations that we weren’t in control in the moment do not help you change your behavior. You can’t effectively work on changing something you’re still partially in denial of. And if you’re reading this article, we can conclude you want to know how to change the phenomenon of trigger foods leading to overeating for yourself or someone else. So, commit with us right here that eating is a choice, and it’s a choice we can control.

That’s doesn’t mean it’s easy! That doesn’t mean we always choose in line with our values and goals -- far from it. It just means we accept our place as Head Honcho of Things Consumed, the most empowered stance to take. In fact, better to chuck the term “trigger food” altogether. It’s a food you have overeaten in the past. It’s a food you have struggled with moderating, perhaps. But no special status. It’s one of thousands of foods, made of carbon and oxygen and some nitrogen and other chemicals. There’s no wizardry; it’s just ordinary edible stuff, even if you have a bit of checkered history in how you chose to consume it.


2. Break the Cycle


Okay, Head Honcho, time to use those executive powers for good. Sounds like there’s a pattern that you’ve picked up on, and that is that your hands + a certain food = a situation that hasn’t ended well. And that’s okay, there’s exactly zero helpfulness in blaming yourself or looking at why, let’s focus on breaking that pattern. You and your so called trigger food can always reunite down the road, but a little separation for now will stop the recurring negative experience.


Do you need to get the food out of your kitchen or house? Do you need to chuck it, donate it, or just commit to a week of not seeing each other? Take charge and do it. Break the cycle of hurt and abuse, then you can re-form a healthy relationship.

3. Create Safe, Supported Scenarios for Reintroduction


Think about the negative experiences you had with that specific food in the past. What was going on? Where were you? What were you feeling? What time of day was it? Were you at home, in your car, at the office or your parents’ house? These factors all contribute to the ease or difficulty of eating in line with our values. This means you can engineer an easier scenario by thinking about when and where and with whom you are least likely to overeat a particular food. You don’t want to just rendezvous any old time and place, you want things to be different this time. Let’s use some examples:


Easier not to overeat ice cream:

I’ve bought a portion from the ice cream shop with my friends, mid-afternoon on Saturday, and I’m walk around the park eating it. What are the odds of going back for seconds? Pretty low. I’d have to go back, wait on line again, make another purchase… and it would be odd to do with the other people around who are doing the usual buy-and-eat-one pattern. If I were trying to establish a healthy moderate relationship with ice cream, this would be a good situation to put together. Invite a couple friends and you could make this happen. In the end, you’re likely to have scored one experience of your eating ice cream in the way you want to. High five.

Now, a situation in which it’s much much harder:


I get pulled over after a stressful day at work, and a rude cop gives me a hefty fine. I get home to see fraudulent charges on my credit card which now I have to deal with also. It’s cold and raining and my husband is away -- I feel alone and sad. I have no decent food in the fridge, and there’s a large container of Oreo ice cream in the freezer.

This is not a helpful scenario in which to decide it’s a good time to try eating ice cream again. If you have had difficulty moderating consumption of a particular food, it’s generally not favorable to try and change that when you’re emotional, stressed, not well slept, in the later hours of the day, alone, and have multiple servings in easy reach.


You can control when you choose to have the food again after your break from it. Do it when and where you are feeling assured of your success. Rig the game so you win.

4. Gradually Ease Up On Parameters As You Gain Confidence


Once you’ve had a chance to eat the food and stop at a place you feel good about, it’s not over. It will probably take many repetitions to bolster your confidence that this food is not, in fact, a volition-sapping delicacy.


Keep going. Get those positive experiences in when you are confident it will go your way. And over time, you’ll notice that confidence growing. Maybe after 6 or 7 times having ice cream from the shop with your friends, you feel okay to go on your own and buy a single serving and walk around the park enjoying it. You might not want to jump right away to having 16 flavors at home in bulk supply, so take small steps. You don’t HAVE to keep anything at home, and many people find their peace with sweets and alcohol when they choose to leave them at the store, not bring into their homes. Consider progressions like this (again, no need to go all the way to the last one if your life is easier without it):


  1. Having the food with company, out of the house

  2. Having the food on your own, out of the house

  3. Having the food with company at home (buying just enough for no leftovers)

  4. Having the food on your own at home (buying just enough for no leftovers)

  5. Having the food on your own at home, even if there’s leftovers



The Bottom Line:


You are in control of what and how much you eat. If you have particular difficulty with a certain food, that’s normal and not permanent. You can change that.

Start with a commitment to stop repeating what isn’t working so you don’t keep rehearsing the overeating experience with that food. Take a break from the food long enough to think of a specific situation in which you are darned sure you will not (even cannot) overeat it. When you’d like to have the food again, have it under your terms. Keep the supports in place to rack up many experiences where you eat that food in a way you are happy with. Ease off the supports if you feel you don’t need them any longer, but keep the ones which make your life easiest. Here’s a summary graphic to help keep it all fresh in your mind:

There are no medals for withstanding temptation, so consider it your lifetime right to choose where, when and how you meet particularly tempting foods.


This article was co-authored with Sohee Lee​, and if you haven't read her stuff and followed her yet, get on it, because you've been missing out!  Visit her site and follow her on Facebook!



Aug 05

10 Things No One Told You About Food Prep, Straight From a Dietitian

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

Millions of busy adults suffer from food prep problems, also known as FPP. Are you one of them? Symptoms of FPP include:

  • Possessing 3 or more items in your refrigerator which are furrier than your dog
  • Not having the right things on hand to assemble a meal, so your order Pizza or Chinese
  • Throwing out food on a weekly basis (that once would have been fine to eat)
  • Overeating because you skipped a meal earlier (may cause paradoxical weight gain brought on by grocery shortage)
  • Skipping meals during the workday because you’re too busy to go out and don’t have anything with you to eat
  • Two items in your crisper have achieved sentience, and are battling for dominion over the lower refrigerator
  • Your past google searches include “How many weeks past the ‘sell by’ date can I eat deli meat?”
  • Paleontologists have requested access to items in your freezer

Maybe these are all familiar to you (sounds like you’re afflicted)! Or maybe you’re not quite that bad off but you toss out more food than you’d like to, and get caught a time or two per month in a pinch, and don’t eat as well as you could on those instances. Either way, here are some tips to help you do a little bit better at the logistics of food prep, which can help you manage your weight more easily, save some cash, avoid those long overly hungry stretches (which aren’t fun, to say the least) and last but not least, avoid missing out on fun things because you got food poisoning from decrepit lasagna.

1. You’re not a bad person for throwing out food.

If you buy lots of fresh, whole foods and fall short of eating it all, of course you have to throw some out. It’s still worth being proud of yourself for surrounding yourself with the good stuff. Tossing food is a much better alternative than swearing off the produce section or eating food that is unsafe “to avoid wasting it”. With some more practice, you’ll get better at matching your purchasing habits to your consumption patterns, but all of us end up throwing things out sometimes. It’s okay, we’re all going to make it.

2. You’re also not a bad person for not knowing this already.

Some parents teach their kids kitchen skills, some… don’t. Some people pick up useful strategies from Home Ec class or some foodie roommate. A few lucky souls pair up with a food provider extraordinaire and marry their way into a steady supply of home cooking and lunches packed with love. But if you didn’t get culinarily inclined parents, your roomies lived on ramen and you and Martha Stewart just didn’t hit it off… no one taught you. Don’t fault yourself for being busy learning other things. No one springs from the womb, Saran wrap in hand, ready to make next week’s lunches this Sunday. We all start out not knowing, and we have to be taught or figure out the rest.

3. You don’t have to sacrifice your entire weekend.

If you feel good spending several hours shopping, washing, slicing and baking on a weekend day, rock on. But if you would rather do an extra 15 minutes every other night, that’s plenty! Using your time and appliances wisely is key here, not investing hours.

For example: Putting a pot of rice on to boil takes 2 minutes, IF you’re slow to measure out the rice and water. Then you can set a timer, walk away and do other stuff. About the same time would be needed to wrap some sweet potatoes in foil and pop them into the oven. Putting something in the slow cooker similarly can be a quick affair, and then you don’t have to hang in the kitchen. You can even go to bed and wake up to stick it it in the fridge. That’s right, you can literally cook dinner with your eyes closed.

4. You don’t need an extensive tupperware set, 60 dollar lunch box, portable cooler, or anything weird.

Just like investing lots of free time isn’t the key, neither are pricey doodads. Some tin foil and parchment make for easy cleanup, other than that you just need food and basic kitchen appliances like a stove and oven.

5. Some stuff preps well in advance, some stuff doesn’t.

Soup, stews, meats, grains and starches all work great to cook in advance. You can also prep veggies by rinsing or cutting them up ahead of time. However, there are a few things to steer clear of trying to do in advance:

  • Putting dressing on a lettuce or spinach salad ahead of time can make it soggy. Ditto for sandwiches, so you might want to wait until mealtime to add condiments. (Raw kale or cabbage salads however, can hold up better, so are possible exceptions.)
  • Any crispy breaded or roasted items (like chicken fingers or crispy home fries) won’t be crispy after storage. Sometimes they can be re-crisped using the oven or stovetop, but not always.
  • Do you like crunchy cereal or flaked almonds atop your yogurt? Me too. But don’t add them ahead of time, because they will get soft and lose their crunch.
  • I wouldn’t consider this a “deal breaker”, because it’s relatively minor and just cosmetic, but remember that cut apples, guacamole, and fresh basil or pesto tend to get brownish during storage.
  • Reheat fish at your own risk. The texture can be unforgiving.

6. Some foods freeze well, some don’t.

Did you know that if you mistakenly bought too much milk you could just freeze it? You can! Pasta dishes, cooked grains, sauces, soups and stews also tend to be great freezer candidates. But not everything can go in the icebox and come back to life with good results. Beware of freezing dairy based sauces or soups, because they often separate. Fruit and veggies can be frozen, but will be much softer when you pull them out. Think of them as good for smoothies or omelets, but not for salads.

7. Never cook a single piece of chicken, or one potato.

If you’re going to the trouble of heating up the pan, the grill or the oven, put several pieces on there so you have extra portions for coming days!

8. You can repeat meals if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

By the third time I’m eating a dish, the enjoyment has dropped precipitously. I’ve done the huge-ass pot of chili you eat all week. I’ve done massive egg bakes or frittatas. Oversized vegetable soups. Vats of stuffed cabbage. And if you enjoy one pot meals (and don’t mind reheating cooked eggs) these are perfectly fine meals for you to use. Personally, I find things a lot more enjoyable if I can make different meals from the components I cooked in advance.

9. If you cook up basics ahead of time, you can always season or flavor them differently at meal time.

A big pot of brown rice. A half dozen chicken breasts. Four baked potatoes. Two pounds of browned ground beef. These sort of staples on hand can go into a variety of different meals. The rice can be served plain or with soy sauce as a bed for stir fry, be mixed with the ground beef filling for stuffed peppers, or be flavored with garlic and butter for a side dish. Chicken can be sliced atop a salad, put into a sandwich, cubed and tossed with pasta and sauce, or used to fill a quesadilla. Baked potatoes can be topped with salsa and black beans, chopped into a green salad, Sauteed up for a side dish with eggs, or smothered in broccoli and cheese. Cooked ground beef can become stir fry, bolognese tomato sauce, stuffed peppers, salad, burritos. In general, starchy foods and proteins are best for prepping ahead of time.

10. Condiments, seasonings, canned goods and jars are your friend.

They’re smart, not inferior or lazy. When you have your pre-cooked proteins and starches on hand, putting a meal together comes down to doing something with some veggies, and making it all tasty. Veggies can be cut up and eaten raw as a salad, or you can steam or saute them in about 5 minutes. That leaves us with flavoring.

Having some sauces, salad dressings, and mixed seasonings on hand means you’re set. Sure you can make your own, but again, you don’t have to. I enjoy lots of bottled salad dressings and rarely make my own. Jarred pasta sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce, miso, ketchup, mustard, sesame oil, olive oil, lemon juice and vinegars can all help flavor your meal. Steak rub, Cajun, Italian, and Greek seasoning blends, lemon pepper, or Mrs. Dash can be added to already cooked meats to flavor them, or used on vegetables to give them some zing.

Lastly, despite their limited talent for pep talk, canned beans are a fantastic teammate to have in your corner. If you run short on starches or don’t feel like taking the time to boil pasta water or cook potatoes, open a can and you have a high fiber, vitamin rich side dish. Some of the easiest ways to jazz up canned beans include stirring cumin and or chili powder into black beans (add some cilantro if you have it), or mixing chana masala (an Indian spice blend), or tomato paste and curry powder with chickpeas. Frank’s Red Hot and a squeeze of lime juice work with lentils, kidney beans or black beans. Rosemary and olive oil are a perfect pairing for white beans, such as Great Northern Beans or Cannellini. And all the flavors I mentioned above are shelf stable things you can keep in your pantry for months or years. So buy them when you stock up on canned beans, and as long as you don’t lose the can opener, your Plan B side dish is always ready.

Bonus Tip #11. Stay safe.

If you’re cooking food to eat in the future, get it cooled down as soon as you can. Leftovers are safe for 3 or 4 days, but after that your risk of food poisoning increases. If you think you won’t use something within four days, freeze it right away. When I am hesitating on a particular food’s safety, making a judgement call on whether to taste something or toss it, I compare my dissatisfaction with throwing it out to my feelings on throwing it up, and that usually settles it decisively.

You know people who need these tips. They might be your kids, coworkers or friends, so please share it with them. Help us cure FPP.