I don’t think only people with eating disorders have triggers that push us to eat or do some other behavior, even when we might not consciously want to do so. Product manufacturers or sellers have banked on that, and endeavored to capitalize on it since advertising was first created. However, I think people without addictions or other types of disorders are better able to withstand the triggers when they occur. They might even spot them happening when with compulsive eaters, the foods already in our mouths, down the gullet and on its way to being digested before we stop to think.
There are lots of different types of triggers that start the chain effect of eating. Some are sensory. You’re walking along in the mall and the aroma of chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven, wafts to you from that storefront you’re approaching. Ohhh, they smell scrumptious and your sensory recall brings back the crunch and flavor of them melting in your mouth with chocolate-y deliciousness. Don’t you instantly crave one or, if you’re a binge eater, a dozen?
You walk by a co-worker eating lunch, see what they’re eating and it looks soooo much better than the meal you packed hours before when you left the house for work.
Hunger is another sensory trigger. Naturally, there’s real hunger that occurs when you haven’t eaten for awhile. Unfortunately, there’s also mental hunger when your head tells you that you’re starving even though your body really doesn’t need food at that moment.
I learned something about situation or association triggers when I went through a smoking cessation program many years ago. (Actually, 28 years ago last Monday was when I quit smoking. Booyah!) The instructor warned us that we had many situations where we were accustomed to lighting up even if we didn’t crave a cigarette right at that time. Once he made us aware of such things, I could immediately identify them in my own life. Whenever I got in my car, I lit a cig. When I sat down at my desk – yes, back then we could smoke at work – was another trigger. If I went to a club I was used to holding a drink in one hand and a cigarette in another. Lighting up after meals – another trigger. Those situational events were almost harder to break than the very real, physical craving. You see, they also taught us that there’s a definitive timeline to a nicotine urge. It builds for up to ten minutes but when it peaks, it goes away, whether or not you have a cigarette.
I’ve never been able to find out if the same holds true for a hunger craving.
Certain food triggers are a given for me. If I’m somewhere and food is displayed out on tables – like at a party, or if someone brings in a pile of candy to work or leaves snack foods up for grabs in the kitchen — I want it. If I have certain foods in the house – they’re often on my mind. Just the fact that they are in close, available, proximity can serve as a trigger.
Plus, if they’re easily accessible and I fall prey to an emotional trigger, then the foods also become the bullets. Stress, anger, loneliness, external events that upset or sadden me can allll trigger the urge to eat. Granted, I could binge on celery if that was the only thing in the house to eat. While the behavior itself isn’t healthy, at least the food would be better for me than candy.
That thing about keeping trigger foods in the house and believing that I am strong enough in program to withstand going on a binge-fest on them? It’s a myth of my own making. I’m fooling myself if I think that’s possible. To be honest, I’m a little sad and a little pissed off to admit this. I’d really hoped that I’d become one of those people who can make a single candy bar last a week. Program teaches us that acceptance is the answer to all of our problems. This is a reality I need to accept. I need to not have those trigger foods in the house.
I don’t know why this simple truth annoys me so much. When my mother was alive, we completely understood that she needed to keep a dry house. Come to think of it, she resisted the notion, too. She always wanted there to be beer or wine in case we wanted it to drink — despite the fact that we told her time and again that we didn’t want to drink in her house. We didn’t even care enough about it to order a drink if we were all out to dinner. It was her thing to insist. I guess nobody likes to admit that we have so little control over our own diseases and addictions that booze or drugs or food have power over us.
Intellectually, I get it. Emotionally, I hate it. Spiritually, I work toward accepting that if I want to avoid wounding myself and setting back my recovery, I need to be more aware of my trigger foods and keep them as far out of range as possible.