Sep 28

The Difference Between Control and Responsibility

By Sarah Campbell | Uncategorised

Control is limiting, responsibility is listening.

Control is about ratcheting down behavior, responsibility is about responding to situations in an appropriate way.

Say you have a puppy that is whining and barking. To control it, you could just put it in a crate and ignore it. To be responsible for it would be to go interact with it and see what it needed (to go outside to pee? Some play or training? A nap?), and then respond appropriately.

When it comes to our own lives and selves, the ideal situation to be responsible to our own needs isn't always available. Sometimes it does feel like it would be better/easier to put our needs aside and just get on with whatever it is we feel that we have to get done that day.

Here's the thing: this doesn't have to be black and white, one choice or the other.

Yes, it would be ideal if we could all have the time, space, and resources to meet all of our authentic needs in a timely and healthy way. However, sometimes we are hungry at work and it's not time for lunch yet, or we are lonely for someone that lives far away. Does that mean that you have to deny that need, put your puppy-self in a crate and ignore it?

Nope. Just as we would a puppy or young child, we can speak to ourselves with practicality and kindness. In the example of being hungry when it’s not feasible to eat yet, you could speak to yourself kindly: “Oh, I do wish I could help you right away, but I can’t quite yet. If you wait a little while, I will make sure you get taken care of, okay?”

While that doesn’t help the primary problem (hunger), it addresses the possible negative fallout from that hunger- anxiety, feeling uptight (is that just me?), and impatience, because we are acknowledging our needs, which is responding to them, being responsible, instead of trying to control them, which might look more like, “You can’t eat yet. Just wait and be quiet!” which is much less reassuring.

The bottom line: The sweeter you are to yourself, the more comfortable you will be in everyday life.

Please notice that I did not say, “let go of all your practical guidelines and do whatever you want to do in each approaching hedonistic moment.” That approach, in the long run, is not practical or kind.

What do you think? Next time you find yourself arguing with reality, would you be willing to approach yourself with kind understanding?

Love your inner puppy.

Sep 06

10 Reasons Why Emotional Eating Happens and 10 Ways to Stop

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

1. Wanting to avoid a task.

I’ll get to that, right after a snack. Ok, now, time to get to that work I need to do…. Hmm, maybe just a bit more food first. Procrastineating is commonplace, and isn’t necessarily a problem unless it’s getting in the way of your health or productivity goals. It’s easy to see how stalling by nibbling can contribute to extra pounds, in addition to not getting as much done as we could be.

2. Delaying a confrontation.

This is really similar to the above problem of procrastineating, but specifically, avoiding a confrontation with another person has a separate element of squashing down our feelings, not just buying us a few more minutes.  

3. Needing a break from work, responsibility or pressure.

Try to keep yourself in perpetual work mode 24/7 and you’ll find out that it’s an impossible task. If you don’t plan and allow yourself breaks and rests to balance out your daily exertion and toil, you’ll end up sooner or later zoning out, often into food you don’t physically need.

4. Wanting to not feel anything.

Scientific evidence backs the numbing qualities of eating. We feel more physical and emotional pain in a fasted state, compared to when we are fed, but unfortunately, all the food in the world can’t numb strong pain completely or permanently. In the absence of other ways to cope with discomfort, though, it’s understandable how easily we can turn to food.

5. To lift and comfort ourselves in sadness.

Pleasant stimuli like creamy mouthfeel, rich flavors, crispiness, and sweetness are appealing when emotionally we feel empty, sad, or are grieving a loss. Even if we aren’t hungry or have no appetite, the temporary lift and distraction from taste and smell can make eating feel so rewarding that it becomes a recurring habit, potentially leading to weight gain.

6. For company during loneliness.

Humans don’t thrive on our own for unlimited stretches of time. Even introverts can thirst for conversation, company, or just someone to reassure us we aren’t alone and that our thoughts and ideas are understandable. Feeling commonality with other human beings is a basic psychological need. In the absence of that connection, we can reach for food or make purchases to try and feel better. “Maybe adding this to my world will help.”

7. For a diversion when we are bored.

Life contains a lot of patterns, such as daylight activity and nighttime routines, driving the same roads, walking the dog at the same times, and these rituals can help ease anxiety and make us feel safe and organized. However, spontaneity and change reward us by piquing our interest, and getting us to think in new ways. One of the ways we add variety to our lives is by trying new foods, or foods we haven’t had in a whille, or visiting a restaurant we haven’t dined at before. These can be enriching positive experiences, but turning to food as the default anytime we don’t know what else to do can mean that we eat many times a day when we aren’t hungry, or wander into the kitchen and start munching whenever we’re home alone for more than an hour.

8. To cope with tiredness.

Being tired isn’t comfy. It makes your head foggy, your eyelids droop, and your head subtly ache. It feels difficult to get up out of your chair to do a small task, yet at the same time hard to focus even if you sit still. And tiredness isn’t just a physical condition - it’s accompanied by emotional characteristics such as feeling easily bothered and low on patience. So in a sense, being fatigued can be as much an emotionally difficult state as a physically hampered one. And in this state, going to food may seem like a promising solution. Eating doesn’t require a lot of thought, focus, or physical exertion, we don’t have to talk or have our wits about us, it seems like an appealing thing to be doing when we’re tired as hell!

9. To soothe anxiety.

“Do something!”, anxiety says. “Do it now! This situation as it is is NOT OK.” Yet the vague not okayness and the something that we absolutely need to do about it may never seem to show themselves. Or, anxiety can bloom from caring deeply about something that it is simply beyond our control. We feel restless, discontent, and uncomfortable. Changing our state and doing ANYTHING can seem better than doing nothing, and grabbing food in those moments of anxiety is all too easy.

10. To act out, feel rebellious.

Damn the media and their ultra-thin beauty standards! This traffic makes me want to scream! To heck with my boss and his preferential treatment of people at work! Argh, why is my bank charging those fees to my account?! Many things in life can make us feel trapped, coerced, controlled and pinned down. Even our own diet rules about what we can or can’t eat can spark rebellion and a desire to do the exact opposite. What we choose to eat is one of the few things about which we actually do have free choice, so (like fashion) it’s an avenue by which our rebellious moments can erupt. Taking control of the world may not be possible, but grabbing food (especially food someone else would look down on) can be a hasty way we flip the bird to all the worldly forces trying to control us.

10 Things to Do About Emotional Eating

1. Let the feeling out by writing it down instead of burying it.

No matter what the feeling is, there’s a benefit to writing it down. “What on earth will that do?” you might be thinking. It’s true, no one will intervene because you’re feeling sad or step in and call a time out because you’re feeling overwhelmed. A white horse won’t stride up, ridden by a handsome knight to slay your feeling and set you free. However, getting rid of the feeling or getting out of your reality isn’t the goal.

If you jot down “I notice I’m feeling _______.” it does three key things. First, it requires you to put a name to your emotion. This helps you wrap your brain around it more and understand what is going on with you more than “Aaaaargh, bad feels…. Need cookie!!!!!” (Emotional brains don’t naturally pin specific words or descriptors to a situation, which can make the feeling seem all encompassing, like we’re surrounded by 360 degrees of BAD as far as the eye can see, feeling BAD in the past, present and future, all we can see, hear and touch is BAD. We are BAD.) Writing down the specific emotions you can identify is indescribably helpful in defining the feeling. And once something has a definition, it has borders.

Second, writing down “I notice I’m feeling _______” separates your observy brain from the emotional brain that is just feeling it. Now you’re able to step aside and notice it, observe it, not fuse your consciousness into one with the feeling. Now it’s more like a specimen under glass, or a weather phenomenon you can observe in the sky, it’s not YOU.

Third, it automatically generates a mindful moment. Getting a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and finding a surface to scrawl on may only take 30 seconds but it’s a pause when you need it most. And it’s hard to get yourself to do, which is why it is so beneficial.

Deciding to take that pause is powerful because the urge to react or distract ourselves is going to be strong. Both of those are the opposite of mindfulness, they are focusing away from the feeling and they keep emotional eating patterns going strong. Intervene! By choosing to take those 30 seconds you are choosing to care for your own wellness and help yourself learn to be in control of how you act when your emotions are running high. Notice if you are continually refusing to take those 30 seconds, and be radically honest, asking yourself if you truly want to change.

2. Talk to someone, even yourself, out loud.

Does it make you feel silly? If it works, do you care? Similarly to writing down that you notice you’re feeling a certain way, verbalizing it checks a lot of the same proverbial boxes. Translating feelings into spoken (as opposed to written) words gives us the same benefits, plus there’s an added effect of communication with another person. It feels good to be understood, and get something off our chest, even if the other person just listens and gives no advice. (In fact, often we feel best if they don’t try and advise us!)  If you’re going to talk to yourself, start off with the same sentence stem as the writing suggestion above. “I notice I’m feeling _____.” And then, keep going!

3. Practice difficult conversations.

Not every fix for emotional eating has to be something you do in the thick of an emotional uproar. You can plan ahead and set yourself up for smooth sailing by acknowledging that if difficult conversations make you want to run off and hide with a box of Oreos, you can do something about it.

A lot of us are naturally conflict averse, even conflict phobic, and that can lead to not opening our mouths and speaking up when something is bothering us. It can lead to not asking for something that would make our lives easier (since we “don’t want to bother anyone”) and in the inevitable situation when we eventually have a disagreement with someone or get unfavorably reviewed… we can feel many degrees worse than we would if we had taken time to get comfortable with difficult conversations.

It’s outside the scope of this brief article to talk about the volumes of ways a person can work on their communication skills, but I did want to mention that it’s an immeasurable relief to stop feeling the heavy stone of dread in your stomach at every potential even mildly unfavorable interaction. (That used to be me.) And a little practice or even just reading can be a major player in not having icky-conversation-induced runs to the bakery (that would be me as well.) Two books which I recommend are:

Crucial Conversations

Communication Skills:

4. Stretch, move, or dance.

Moving your body has a way of decreasing alarm, releasing tension, and bringing in a sense of control. You hear people say all the time that feel more clear-headed after a run, or that they have more perspective after a yoga session. It’s not imaginary. You can thank changes in neurotransmitters and arousal level for exercise’s therapeutic effect during highly emotional times. Not to mention, once you’re outside moving, food won’t be within eyesight or arm’s reach, so instead of emotionally eating, you can focus on the fresh air, your breath, or how your muscles and limbs feel.  

5. Nap or go to sleep for the night.

Intense emotions are exhausting, and sometimes giving ourselves a break from feeling and thinking about whatever is bothering us leads to a breakthrough. Staying up late all too easily leads to munching, and shorting ourselves on sleep for just one night ramps up appetite for the following day.

6. Remind yourself that you always have choices.

Whatever caused the situation that’s sparking intense emotions - even if it’s completely out of our control - we get to choose how we react. We can choose to argue, to listen, to fight back, apologize or ask for an apology. We can choose to do nothing about it. We have complete autonomy over what we say and choose to do, and focusing on using that precious power in a way that fits our values can supplant the desire to react with food.  

7. Ensure that you take breaks to rest and play regularly.

After more than 10 years of coaching people who struggle with emotional eating, it would be impossible for me to ignore a clear pattern: people who habitually manage emotions with food also tend to habitually manage them through avoidance, aka working all the time. “I find it hard to sit still”, “I always feel like I could get more done”, or “I haven’t done enough” are common sentiments.

When was the last time you just hung out, relaxed or did nothing? Played tag or catch with your kid or fetch with your dog? Went to a movie or got a massage? Chronically lacking these experiences in favor of a perpetual must-be-productive mode might be just the thing you need to quell urges to eat when not hungry.

8. Chat with a friend or a group online.

Facebook and other forms of social media are tricky. They can be intensely isolating and depressing, (“look at all the fun other people are having while I’m cleaning up dog vomit, soothing a screaming toddler, and working overtime”) or they can help us feel connected to other people. The best way to feel supported is to have an interaction with others. That means not lurking, but touching keys to make and share words. If you’re most comfortable one on one, send a personal message to a close friend. If you have a supportive group you are a member of, sharing what is going on with you is likely to bring you into contact with many other people who can relate. If anyone’s remarks seem nasty or disrespectful, you have my permission to block them. I do. 🙂

9. Sit with your emotions and breathe. Remember that feelings are temporary, harmless.

The grandest change of all in the experience of emotions is when we realize what they actually are. While a feeling can seem like it’s forever, or we can believe that it will overpower us, kill us, or that we “can’t handle it”, none of these have actually ever happened to a person. Feelings are not dangerous. They can make people do dangerous, uncaring or hurtful things, or they can be unpleasant, but when you consider that a feeling is nothing more than temporary impulses along neurons, they become easier to handle. You can see a feeling as a thing you are having or experiencing, and that you can and will outlive it. What you do during uncomfortable moments is up to you, and you can choose to practice anything on this list instead of reaching for food if that isn’t, in the big picture, what you want for yourself.

10: If there's someone around that you feel safe with, get a hug. Hug yourself.

Human connection and touch have a physical calming effect as well as an emotionally healing one. Hugs are free, and often leave you feeling better than snacking would. I’ve never regretted a hug.

Aug 18

Cheat Days Ruin Results, and It’s Not Just About the Calories

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

We know that rigidly adhering to diet rules is a short road to failure. It works for a small percentage of the population, for a short time. When you hear about it “working” for someone, you’re hearing about one of two things:

  1. You’re hearing about it working for someone for the month or two that they were able to keep doing it.

  2. You’re getting “survivor bias” you’re hearing from one of the small percentage of people who can make it work. You aren’t hearing from the much larger percentage of people who struggled and failed with it.

Again, for the small percentage of people that a cheat day can work for, that leaves most of us that it makes things worse for. The majority of people find that a cheat day sets them on a mentally draining cycle of restricting too hard and then cheating too hard.

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The majority of people find that a cheat day sets them on a mentally draining cycle of restricting too hard and then cheating too hard.

The cycle of too much restriction and too much cheating is a downward spiral that keeps getting more and more extreme until it you break.

Fortunately, there’s a better way, that works for more people, more often. It’s amazing how powerful and effective it is for people to start to even out their diet intake each day, and continue to practice their food skills with treats.

A Smarter, More Effective Way

What we’ve found is that most people get much, much better results when their food consumption is pretty even from day to day.

  • We take the “too little during the week,” and bump it up
  • We take the “too much on the weekend” and bring it down

We even things up.

We work on "eating just enough" all of the time. We always pay attention to how our stomach feels and what's going to have us feel good during and after the meal.

We find that we can have treats from time to time, but we don’t really ever have to go overboard.

Why People Want Rules

People want hard diet rules like “Don’t eat this food!” or “No carbs after 4pm” or “No treats except for your cheat day” because it feels like it's going to be easier and simpler than taking the time to practice actual skills.

Unfortunately, it just doesn't work if you don't have the skills.

It takes time and practice to build your own food flexibility skill-set.  It takes time, but it's worth it.

No one set of rules is going to work for everyone. You need to have food skills and philosophies that are tailor made for you. You need to practice the skills, and hone them to a perfect fit for you.  Fortunately, we're going to go over some of the skills you can use for this in the second half of this post.

Example: Samantha

Samantha has been really focused on “eating clean” for the past few years. She’s really careful about what she can and can’t eat during the week. Then, on the weekends, she “does ok for breakfast and lunch” then “falls off the wagon at dinner” with a appetizers, the bread basket, a big dinner, desert, and alcohol, if she goes out. If she has a weekend in, it’s mostly just eating desert all weekend. Often, she’ll look up from a bag of cookies to find she’s eaten much more than she wanted to.

Either way, she feels gross in her body, and thinks about how guilty she feels. Sometimes she feels stupid, knowing that even for a free day, somehow she had too much. She steps on the scale on Monday, which leads to feeling like a failure, feeling ugly, beating herself up, and renewing her commitment to eat even “cleaner” and restrict even more this week. The cycle repeats with regularity, and you could plot how badly she’s going to feel about herself each week on a calendar.

She feels like once she starts eating treats, it’s like she can’t stop. She feels frustrated and stuck, and often feels like her body is her enemy.

Why Rigid Diet Rules are a Recipe for Failure

With or without a coach, you need to ditch the rigid rules. Rigid plans always break when something in your life comes up or you get stressed out. Said simply, rigid dietary rules have been consistently shown as the path to failure.(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)

"Are made to bend in the wind
To withstand the world
That's what it takes
All that steel and stone
Is no match for the air, my friend

What doesn't bend breaks

What doesn't bend breaks"

—Ani Difranco

It’s like buildings and bridges. Buildings and bridges look rigid, but (to quote Ani Difranco's song "Buildings and Bridges") they’re made to bend and sway in the wind. If they’re completely rigid, they break. Diets are exactly same way — if they have rigid rules they break.

Video above: How the Golden Gate Bridge can sway

Food skills, on the other hand, can bend and sway in the wind of your changing schedule and commitment and stress levels. That’s why we work on food skills — they have the kind of flexibility that works in real life.

Cheat Days Are The Consolation Prize for Diet Rules

Cheat days are a way to reward yourself for your rigid dietary restraint, which as we remember, doesn’t work. The black and white thinking is actually reinforced by deliberately having on/off days.

A “cheat day” is simply a free-for-all consolation prize
for white-knuckling your rigid diet rules all week

Essentially, what you’re teaching yourself, is to rigidly restrain your diet all week (which doesn’t work) followed by over the top eating for a day (which also doesn’t work). The cycle tends to get worse over time — people feel like crap after massively over-eating on their weekend, and then restrict harder during the week. Restricting harder during the week increases the over-eating on the weekend, which can even turn into binge eating.

One thing we want to be absolutely clear about — more dietary restriction during the week doesn’t help. More dietary restriction leads to more binging and lower weight loss.(b)(f)

Example: Jessica

Jessica used to cycle between eating clean and cheat days, but has been practicing a habits/skills based approach for the last year.

Her weekends have started to even out. She’s slowly been practicing “Eating Just Enough” with both meals and treats, and is experimenting with leaving room for treats when she wants to have one. She’s noticed that, since she can have treats “whenever she wants” she no longer feels like she “loses control” when she’s around treats. She’s practiced starting and stopping having treats, and now trusts herself to do so. She really likes how she feels now, in general. She likes that she can listen to her body and stop when she’s full. She also knows that some treats are harder to stop with, so she uses the strategy of separating herself from where she can get more, and/or having those treats with friends instead of when she’s alone.

Before, treats would often often completely get away from her if she was feeling sad, bored, or tired. Now, she has treats when she wants treats, and she has treats she really enjoys. When she’s sad, she goes for a walk or calls a friend. When she’s tired, she goes to sleep early. When she’s bored, she reads a good book, watches a good TV show, or weaves on her loom (which is a hobby she really likes, but often forgets to do). She finds she takes better care of herself in general.

Jessica now isn’t afraid of treats, and doesn’t feel like she “needs” or “deserves” a cheat day. She follows her food skills (eating slowly, eating just enough, 3-4 meals per day without snacking) because they make her feel good. When she has treats, they fit into the same skills she always works on. She always feels good after meals, and she likes her body just as much on Monday as she does on Friday, or any other day.

What To Do Instead of Cheat Days

What you want to do instead of cheat days is even it all out.

You want to have the flexibility to have treats sometimes, but still not go massively overboard on the quantity of food that you normally eat.

Your flexibility in food skills determines your success.(d)(e)(f) You want to learn how to have treats, practicing the same skills you are practicing for all of your other meals.

In other words — if you are practicing the skill of Eating Just Enough, you can practice that all of the time, including with treats. We know it’s going to be way too much if people eat just enough, and then eat treats on top of that. Instead, if you are going to have some treats after dinner, you can probably have a little less dinner to save room for the treats.

If you’re practicing the skill of Eating 3-4 Meals, Without Snacking, you can practice that all of the time, including with treats. We know people will eat more treats if they have dinner at one time, and then an hour or two later, go have treats. Instead, you can eat your dinner, and have the treat immediately after dinner.

If you are practicing the skill of Eating Slowly you can practice that all of the time, including with treats. We know if people wolf down their treats super fast, they’re going to want more immediately. Instead, you can eat your treat slowly, savoring every bite, and actually be satisfied with it.

People Need a System to Learn Moderation

Fortunately, we have a four step system for learning how to moderate treat intake. Moderation isn’t something most people can do immediately, they usually need to be taught the skills, in these four steps, and practice them progressively:

Georgie Fear and Sohee Lee created the infographic above, and wrote this article about then about how to do each step that you can read here:


The Cool Thing About Skills Is That Treats Fit In

Instead of relating to a diet, where it’s always on/off with rigid rules, skills give you options and flexibility. You can have treats sometimes, and still practice paying attention to your body and eating in a healthy and reasonable way.

Practice the skills, get better at them over time, and you’ll be able to actually fit treats into your life without compromising results or feeling guilty. You’ll have a reasonable, flexible program that you can maintain for the rest of your life, and hit all of your goals.

Here are your three big takeaways:

  1. Being flexible like a suspension bridge is the key to long term weight loss success.
  2. Use the same skills (like eating just enough, meals/not snacks, or eating slowly) for everything you eat, regardless of what it is.
  3. Use the four step system to build your skills with foods your normally have a tough time moderating.

Remember to keep your food plan flexible, like the Golden Gate Bridge.

Huge thanks to Georgie for help with the research on this one —


(a) Palascha, A., van Kleef, E., & van Trijp, H. C. (2015). How does thinking in Black and White terms relate to eating behavior and weight regain?. Journal of health psychology, 20(5), 638-648.

My notes: Thinking about food in black and white “good” and “bad” foods relates to regaining weight that was lost.

(b) Blomquist, K. K., & Grilo, C. M. (2011). Predictive significance of changes in dietary restraint in obese patients with binge eating disorder during treatment. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44(6), 515-523.

My notes: Restrictive eating did not reduce binge eating or increase weight loss. Flexible dieting did cause weight loss and reduce binge eating.

(c) Sairanen, E., Lappalainen, R., Lapveteläinen, A., Tolvanen, A., & Karhunen, L. (2014). Flexibility in weight management. Eating behaviors, 15(2), 218-224.

My notes: Rigid dietary restraint = harder time managing weight and lower well being. Flexible dieting = easier time managing weight loss and higher well being.

(d) Byrne, S. M., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2004). Psychological predictors of weight regain in obesity. Behaviour research and therapy, 42(11), 1341-1356.

My notes: The biggest psychological predictor of weight regain is black and white thinking about food.

(e) Meule, A., Westenhöfer, J., & Kübler, A. (2011). Food cravings mediate the relationship between rigid, but not flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success. Appetite, 57(3), 582-584.

My notes: With rigid dieting, food cravings determine your success (you have very little control). With flexible dieting, your dieting flexibility predicts your success, regardless of cravings (you are in control). Flexible dieting = win.

(f) Smith, C. F., Williamson, D. A., Bray, G. A., & Ryan, D. H. (1999). Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite, 32(3), 295-305.

My notes: The highest predictor of failure was dietary restraint. The highest predictor of success was dietary flexibility. People who believe themselves to be on strict diets are unsuccessful with weight loss maintenance. Also, dealing with binge eating by being more restricting during the week REALLY don’t work.

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.