A few weeks ago I wrote an overview of Metabolic Effect’s concept of buffers and triggers. It’s a powerful tool that genuinely redefined the way I look at food choices for fat loss. To read my overview of buffers and triggers click here. To check out my buffers and how I use them, click here.
Today we’re going to take a deep dive into triggers. Triggers sabotaged my weight loss success for years before I even learned what they were. I would be truckin’ along on my latest diet and BAM! I’d be totally derailed by something seemingly innocent like a mini pack of M&Ms on a coworker’s desk. That tiny little indulgence turned into a cascade of sweets, snacks, extra bites and all out binges.
Metabolic Effect defines a trigger as a food that causes negative changes in hunger, energy or cravings. I’ll take that a little further to say that for me, it’s a food that negatively impacts my self-control and goal-focus. Introducing a trigger food pushes me over the thin line from “I’ve got this” to “I’m out of control”. The extent of damage a trigger can do depends on the day, my mood, my hormone balance and my environment but one thing is for sure: I’m much more successful when I avoid my triggers.
Before you can avoid your triggers you’ll need to identify what they are and how they impact you. When I hear people talk about their triggers they’ll often use phrases like “One I start, I just can’t stop” or “every time I allow myself a taste of that, a spoonful turns into dipping into the jar every hour for the rest of the day!” or “I can’t keep that in my house, I have no control when it comes to that!”.
What are the foods that make you feel that way? I shared last week that common triggers include nuts or nut butters, salty/crunchy snacks, alcohol, dairy products and pretty much any processed snack food. My triggers have changed throughout my weight loss journey but at this point, my triggers include (but certainly aren’t limited to!):
- Nuts or trail mix
- Nut butters
- Protein bars
You might look at that list and roll your eyes. You might be thinking, oh come on, those are totally harmless! Don’t get me wrong – eating Oreos or ice cream or Pringles would certainly open Pandora’s box for me. But triggers are often things that you think would be OK and help you to your fat loss goals but actually derail you. For me, if I have a box of protein bars in my house I might feel like one is an acceptable snack until all of a sudden I’ve eaten 4 and I feel like crap. Or a handful of almonds is a great fat loss snack but I’m almost never able to stop at a handful. I’ve found that triggers are most dangerous when they’re fat loss foods to most but a hand grenade to you.
(TRIGGGGGER!!!! My husband’s snack drawer of trail mix! Ugh. STAY AWAY!)
Remember, triggers can change over time and you might find that as you get further along in your fat loss journey a trigger may not longer set you off and you can in fact start incorporating it regularly or even using it as a buffer. On the flip side, a food that was safe harbor might become a trigger. The key here is to pay attention and most importantly, be honest with yourself. I love nuts. I love trail mix. I could convince myself to eat them every day because sure, they aren’t “unhealthy” but I’d only be fooling myself and keeping my fat loss goals at bay.