Can you believe we are less than 60days away from 2016, a brand new year! It’s crazy how quickly this year flew by, how much happened and yet how much I feel like I have left to do. It’s right around this time that I pull out my list of goals I write out at the beginning of every year. There are goals on there that I have accomplished, a few that I still plan to conquer by the end of December, and some that I totally forgot about.
What kind of goals did you set for yourself this year? How many of them did you accomplish? Many of us will include a health and fitness related goal on this list. That goal, for me, seems to always be sabotaged by the holiday season.
Perhaps you love the holiday season (as i do) or maybe not so much. One thing most of us do have in common, however, is that we’re surrounded with baked goods and delicious (but not so nutritious) food seemingly everywhere—potlucks, work-related events, birthdays, etc. Year after year it’s the same cycle: try to get fit all year long then BOOM holiday season wrecks all our progress and sets us right back to where we started. This is so frustrating! Can you relate to this?
I am BREAKING the cycle this year. I am announcing and declaring it to you all so I can be held accountable. Will you do the same with me? Let’s promise we will not eat our way through this holiday season and will not end 2015 with an increase on that scale. I am committing to this goal and to myself. What’s your END OF YEAR COMMITMENT??? I want you to write it in the comments below OR private message me with it because if you say it, write it, declare it, you’re more likely to stick to it and achieve it. So who is with me?!
Now while committing and being accountable to a goal is great, a goal without a plan is not going to get us to success. So I took some time to really think about what causes my nutrition to falter during the holidays. I narrowed it down to a few things, but the MAIN one for me (and this might be different for you) was trigger foods. I did some research and came up with a strategy to help me (and you!) make smarter decisions around trigger foods. Having a strategic plan in place will help us avoid overeating & destroying our healthy lifestyle commitments. So here’s what I found out…
Trigger foods are those foods which we have no control around. The words balance and in moderation do not exist around these foods. We all have our trigger foods. Usually they are those foods high in sugar, salt, and fat. This is not the same thing as eating a favorite food, a comfort food, or having a craving. This is about food that’s addicting and tricks your brain into thinking you need more of it, even if you really don’t.
How can identifying and understanding trigger foods help us achieve weight loss?
Food triggers signals in your body that tell your brain to release feel-good hormones. This response can produce addiction pathways similar to those caused with drug addiction. Your brain literally gets high! These signals in the brain and body lead to overeating by telling your brain “this is just too good to stop eating” and the next thing you know you’ve consumed the whole pint of ice cream or your staring at the bottom of an empty chip bag.
Some experts describe trigger foods as “gateway” foods. I was amazed to find that the effect of these foods on the brain and body can last up to 3 days! This explained alot to me… It is why one unhealthy indulgence for a person can often trigger a “relapse.” One bad choice, leads to another and another, day after day. This is how we fall into a slump on our health journey. Don’t be discouraged, though. That’s why it’s called a jounrney– there will be road bumps and hills but keep your foot on the pedal always moving forward. Do not give up because of a day, a week, or even a month of bad eating habits. It can be overcome! Learning to identify and strategically fight back against trigger foods will, in turn, help you maintain your ideal weight and fitness goals.
Which foods make you feel out of control?
A few of mine include pastas, chocolate, almond butter, and ice cream.
What strategies can help you when you’re faced with a trigger food?
- Identify and Eliminate-
First, identify what the trigger food is. Are they salty or sweet foods? Maybe both! I don’t deprive myself from eating these because I believe in an 80/20 type of diet, which allows for indulging every now and then, but I know all too well that if I actually keep any of those foods in my home they will torture me. Even if I keep them out of sight, just knowing they are easily accessible in my home will make me want to eat it and eat it all. This will leave me feeling guilty and bad about myself afterward. And who wants that? So I’ve learned to simply eliminate them from my grocery list and meal planning.
- Remember that feeling-
I have implemented journaling to help track my trigger foods and any emotional or environmental patterns that might be related. It’s helped me learn a lot about myself and my triggers. It is also a great way to remember how I felt after overindulging– physically and emotionally. Recalling my goals and how good I feel to see progress makes me think twice before giving in to certain foods. The feeling of sluggishness, fullness, and being bloated can give me extra motivation to reach for a fruit or veggie, instead of something high in sugar and fat.
- Find an alternative-
This is one thing I am always experimenting with. I constantly try to find healthier substitutes for my trigger foods and often it does the trick. If ever I really just need the real thing, then I may give in but I try not to make that a habit. Some of my favorite swaps include roasted edamame with salt instead of chips, cacao-avocado pudding instead of chocolate, banana nice-cream instead of ice cream, and edamame pasta instead of regular pasta. I’d love to hear what some of your healthy alternatives are too.
- Move On-
When the inevitable happens and you DO give in to those trigger foods, it is important to move on. It’s going to happen! Yes, I am going to sample all of the desserts on Thanksgiving. It’s okay that it happens as long as it doesn’t happen ALL of the time. Just promise to do better the next time 🙂 Refocus on your long term goals, have a strategy in place, and get some one to stay accountable to. Keep moving along on your health journey, speed bumps and all.
Stay healthy this holiday season. Finish the year off strong! Don’t forget to comment below with your end of year commitments/goals.