The key to successful, long-term weight loss? It’s not a pill, special ab machine, or miracle meal replacement shake. In fact, it’s not even a science-based nutrition plan or maintainable workout plan, though both of these are essential parts. It’s your ability to identify, acknowledge, and respond to your “triggers.”
Your triggers could be a demanding work deadline, crabby children, a fight with your significant other, a snarky comment from a co-worker, a poor night’s sleep, or feeling insecure after scrolling through social media. It’s the little (or big) moments in your day that put a pit in your stomach, make your heart race, or get your mind racing about past regrets or future fears. These moments can be a turning point from healthy, mindful eating to compulsively giving in to a plate full of cookies in the break room or skipping a workout.
We all have bad days, difficult tendencies, and busy lives that can throw our minds for a loop on a dime. Sometimes these moments call for down time, a fun night out with friends, or enjoying your favorite treat to turn things around. However, if we end up soothing ourselves with food, alcohol, and Netflix binges too often, we do nothing to proactively cope and confront our triggers. Too much of this will set up a pattern that makes it harder to productively deal with our triggers in the future. Stress hits and we feel bad. We cope with unhealthy habits, feel bad about coping with unhealthy habits, and then punish ourselves for “failing” yet again on our health goals. Ugh!
You can see how the perfect weight loss plan could be plopped on your lap but become totally ineffective if you don’t have the proper tools to identify, acknowledge, and respond to your triggers. These three steps will not only help you with your relationship with food, they will help you overcome challenges in your career, relationships, and loving yourself.
1. Identify your triggers.
How do you know when you’re confronted with a trigger? This is when you’re hit with icky feelings like wanting to jump out of your skin, yell at a significant other, scrutinize and criticize others, quit your job and/or feel sad and lonely, insignificant, like nothing is going “right,” etc. We all have our own unique triggers and responses so it’s important to recognize your own.
Once you realize you’re in the “ick,” you want to pinpoint exactly why. This is the harder part because sometimes what we think is the root cause of our discomfort is only a consequence of being triggered. For example, you think your relationship is in the pits because you just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye. However, earlier that week your boss demanded you complete a last minute project that left you stretched too thin. You’re sleep deprived and feeling unappreciated at work. In your subconscious, you decide it’s much easier to yell at your partner for these feelings than confront your boss about them and put your job on the line.
This scenario shows why underlying issues aren’t always obvious to identify. It’s important to give yourself a moment to listen to your thoughts. When we feel bad we want to distract ourselves and avoid the pain. This is when we turn to those unhealthy habits. So instead, sit quietly and really allow yourself to feel what it is you’re going through. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but eventually it’ll become more natural.
2. Acknowledge your triggers.
Once you’ve identified your triggers, the process becomes a little easier. Acknowledging them is giving them validation. So many times we brush off our feelings. We tell ourselves we’re “overly sensitive,” “weak,” or “damaged.” Well, hunny, you are none of these. Simply wanting to improve your relationship with yourself is strong, brave, and so healthy.
Take a moment to let yourself feel sad, let down, disappointed, frustrated, under appreciated, unloved, etc. Then, write it down. You don’t need to write an essay if you don’t want (we all have a ton of other things to do, right?). Just write down your trigger and the emotion(s) that followed. This gives you a paper trail to help identify your triggers quicker in the future. Want to go one step further? Give yourself a hug. I’m not kidding. It can feel so good to just wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze.
3. Respond to your triggers.
Now’s the fun part! This is where we get to decide what healthy habits we want to use as self-care tools. This can be a bubble bath, phone call with your best friend, face mask, butt-kicking workout, a satisfying healthy meal, a comforting cup of tea, a nature walk, meditation, Yoga class, or your favorite Netflix show. Yup, once you identify and acknowledge your triggers you’ve already done the work and you are welcome to give in to distraction. Why? Because I can guarantee that the way you feel after going through Steps 1 and 2 will be completely different than if you jumped straight to 3. We’ve changed the path to coping from compulsive and hurtful to deliberate and productive.
How do you deal with uncomfortable emotions so they don’t derail your health and fitness goals? Do you struggle with emotional eating? I would love it if you shared with me in the comment box below.
Health and happiness,
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*Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist or doctor. The advice I give is information and opinions I’ve acquired through my own life and the advice of other experts. If you are struggling with serious mental disorders, please consult your doctor.