Here are just a few common triggers for my clients and how they cope with them. Hopefully you will be able to learn about yourself from these examples and can use them as a starting point to challenge your own triggers! If you like this post, I will add more examples at another time. Remember, these examples are from clients who have all types of eating disorders. What works for one client, may not work for another.
I try to shop early in the day after I’ve had a good breakfast. I feel strong and more positive in the morning.
I keep my time in the store to 30 minutes and go with a list that I can stick with in that amount of time. If I spend too long, I either get too overwhelmed by the choices or I spend too much time reading every label on the shelves and then begin judging my choices!
In the past, sometimes I would put off going to the doctor because I didn’t want to be weighed, I didn’t want to be judged, and I didn’t want a lecture. Now, I set the tone of the visit by saying I don’t want to get weighed and that I’m working with a nutritionist on a meal plan that seems to be making me feel good.
I asked to get weighed backwards without seeing my weight. I ask them not to tell me the number so that I don’t fixate on it.
When eating out I try to make safe choices for myself, ones that don’t prevent me from enjoying the meal but ones that I feel won’t make me obsess before, during and after the meal. If I am not very hungry or if I am too anxious, sometimes I will order an appetizer and soup or salad. If I really want dessert, I split it with someone else.
Buffets are difficult for me. I don’t like to watch other people overload their plates because I feel very uncomfortable, almost as though I’m the one who has eaten too much. There are so many choices. When I’m faced with this type of situation, I try to stick with food I really want in portions that I can handle without getting too full. I find that feeling too full is a trigger for me and I may be tempted to use a behavior afterward.
I try to remember that portion sizes in restaurants are sometimes large. If there’s a small portion available on the menu, I’ll order that size or the “lunch” portion. I want to feel satisfied but not overwhelmed.
I feel safer minimizing my choices on menus. I’ll only look at certain sections of the menu.
Restricting myself on menus only leads to bingeing, so I allow myself more freedom.
If I feel the urge to binge, I go to sleep or sometimes I’ll even make myself leave the house, even for a short period of time. I have to do something to pass the time until the urge passes. It usually passes. It may come back again, but it will pass again.
I keep my refrigerator stocked with “safe” foods and snacks. “Safe” foods are those that I am at less risk of bingeing on but are enjoyable.
I try to only eat at the kitchen table. I have a special place mat I use to remind me that I am trying to be mindful while I eat.
I keep positive quotes around the house as reminders of my value and self-worth. The most important place I keep kind loving words is in the kitchen.
In order to not feel self-conscious, judged or criticized by others in my family, I try to pay attention to things other than my food or their food. I try to keep the conversation light-hearted and not about food.
Other people’s food boundaries – I’m very careful now to set clear boundaries and not let other people cross that line. When I’m in a restaurant, I hate it when someone else reaches over to try something on my plate. Don’t touch what is on my plate unless I offer it to you! When I was first trying to get comfortable with this new idea, I became very possessive about what was mine. My husband does the grocery shopping and I used to feel guilty about spending extra money on my own food. I realize now that no one knows better than I about what I feel like eating.
People’s comments – It drives me crazy when someone says, “You’re losing weight” or “You’re gaining.” I hate it when someone comments on what I eat or what I don’t eat: “I didn’t expect you to eat that.” “I thought you were on a diet.” “Come on, try this. A little bit won’t hurt.” Nowadays, when someone comments on my food or weight, I simply ask them a question about them. People love to talk about themselves more than they like to talk about others. It works well!
I avoid people who make me feel powerless or lousy about myself. I’ll politely excuse myself or explain that I need to speak to someone on the other side of the room. I’ll plan to spend time with someone who makes me feel good about myself, someone I’m comfortable with.
I avoid extremes in people. I don’t hang out with someone who severely overeats in public or with the person who constantly talks about dieting or calories. I find these extremes too triggering for me emotionally. It is difficult to regulate my thoughts and eating afterward.
At parties, I find that there’s usually foods I find challenging and food is served at times that are not my normal times. Also, they involve eating in full view of others. I want to eat “normal” amounts so I appear “normal” but I have no idea what normal looks like. I usually end up feeling deprived, stuffed or crazy obsessed. I usually don’t leave a party feeling like I have enjoyed myself so I try to get as much information about what is being served and at what times so I can feel prepared. I also usually bring something that I know is a comfortable food for me so I can eat it with no negative emotions.
I’ve learned to say no. Sometimes I just don’t go. I know now that I need to make decisions for myself, to protect myself. It took me a long time to realize that this was okay.
If it’s something I can’t get out of, I make sure I don’t go into the situation thinking that it’s going to be awful. I try to find something good to focus on or something to look forward to. I find that going to the event with a positive attitude is a big help.
Before I even leave the house, I make sure I have “safe” snacks at home so I don’t come home and binge.
Sometimes if I want to go to be around people, but I’m feeling vulnerable, I find ways to keep myself busy. I bring my camera and take pictures, I help out in the kitchen washing dishes, I play with the children, or I go for a walk. I try to eat something that I’m comfortable with but also try not to make the event about the food.
When I get home, if I’m feeling stressed, I do something “normal” to get myself back on track. Even if I’ve overeaten at the social event, I eat a meal or snack that I feel comfortable with to get myself back to my regular routine.
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