I keep my favorite (former “trigger”) foods in the house at all times, and I experience ZERO self-doubt or anxiety with this. I no longer say to myself:
I can’t have that in the house, otherwise I’ll eat it all.
I have to throw the rest of that away, or I’ll inhale it all.
I don’t have any self-control around XYZ food.
I’m an all-or-nothing person when it comes to food.
I’m just an abstainer, so I can’t have those foods around.
However, I used to say and vehemently believe every single one of those!
I believed I was destined to live a life of mistrust with food.
Any delicious processed foods, including ice cream, cookies, peanut butter, tortilla chips, you name it. I really don’t discriminate, and I used to live in fear of ALL of them. Truly.
I believed that I just didn’t come with the genetic programming that allowed me to eat these foods consciously and in moderation.
“How can those women just not finish the whole thing? And not even think about it?”
That kind of life and interaction with food felt impossibly out of reach.
As per usual, that was a lovely little story I acquired somewhere along the way of my journey (i.e. life), and from where I was standing, it wasn’t malleable. That narrative was solidified.
Thankfully, as I continued to practice meditation and mindfulness consistently, my awareness of these thought patterns and false identities came to light.
I thought to myself:
“Maybe these are just narratives that are convenient for me. Perhaps they’re enabling me to stay stuck, whether I want to be or not. Is it possible that these aren’t true?”
I challenged the assumptions about myself and my relationship to these foods, and that sliver of doubt of the validity of those stories was all I needed to jumpstart this reformation.
That sliver was the gateway to a whole new realm of possibilities for me and my food stories, and while uncomfortable at first, it quickly became liberating AF!
With freedom comes responsibility, however. We’re forced to take responsibility for our attitudes and actions. Playing the victim just doesn’t jive with food freedom, so accept that now, and the process will be MUCH easier. And a hell of a lot more fun!
So, how did I go from:
living in complete fear of the most delicious foods and banning them from my house
welcoming any and all foods into my house and onto the table while being able to have one bite, three bites, the whole thing, or none at all? Or even forget I have them in the first place?
Four Steps to Keeping Trigger Foods in the House (and eventually forgetting you have them)
1. Be open to the possibility that all the stories you’ve told yourself about your ability to trust yourself around food are false. This might shatter your identity of “abstainer”, or any other label you’ve given yourself. All we need is an open mind right now. It’s OK to still be somewhat skeptical!
2. Get rid of “good” and “bad” food labels. Unless you truly need to avoid particular food (s) for health reasons, tell yourself it’s OK to eat it. Hell, I even eat the foods I have intolerances to when I choose, and I’m still alive! Neutralizing foods is KEY to being able to have them around you at any time, in any quantity.
Think of it this way: some foods are more calorically dense, or nutrient dense, or calorically light, or nutrient light. Sure, they have different effects on the body, and some can be considered more physically healthy, but that’s meaningless if we don’t have a mentally or emotionally healthy relationship with food. Some feed our physical health; some feed our souls.
3. Exposure therapy: start adding these “trigger” foods into your routine on a REGULAR basis, starting with small amounts, building trust, and then adding more. Let’s use dessert as an example, as this is a common one amongst clients.
Start by ordering dessert whenever you’re at a restaurant. Consciously decide beforehand that you’re only going to have 1-3 bites, and you can even tell the company you’re with that this is your plan. DO THIS CONSISTENTLY!
You’ll feel uncomfortable in the beginning—100%. You’re rewiring your habit loops, so you’re going to be met with internal resistance, but I promise it gets easier! This proves to your brain that you can—in fact—eat a few bites.
Once you’re comfortable with that, bring single servings into your home. It’s common for eating habits to shift once we’re in the comfort of our own homes, so this may present a new wave of discomfort. Again, you’re teaching your brain new ways of interacting with these foods, so there will be resistance in the beginning! Commit to a few bites daily.
Once consistently comfortable with this, then bring multiple servings into your home (i.e. an entire batch of brownies, the whole jar of PB, the bag of chips). The work here is to continue to have only a few bites at a time.
By slowly exposing yourself to these foods over time, you’re rewiring the habit loops in your brain, and you’re witnessing yourself develop trust around these foods.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself able to just a few bites, the whole serving, or none at all without batting an eye!
4. Consider integrating these foods into your diet MORE often. Say what? Yes, by continuing to proactively include small amounts of these foods on a regular basis, you won’t ever feel like you’re “missing out” on anything, you’ll continue to remain satisfied, and you’ll consistently reinforce trust around these foods!
I have found that this isn’t a requirement for everyone, but it can be really helpful if you’re starting to feel less than satisfied with your meals day-to-day, which may eventually lead to a binge. Add in more pleasurable foods, and continue to work that trust muscle while you’re at it :)
Avoidance of certain foods might seem like the best approach in the short-term—out of sight, out of mind. However, this approach leaves us completely powerless when we’re eventually exposed to these foods, as we haven’t developed the SKILL of moderation after years of all-or-nothing.
We don’t come out of the womb with extreme attitudes or relationships with food. These are learned over time, and without awareness, they can easily become part of our identities.
Just as they were learned, they can be unlearned!