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Stop! Don’t Pull that Trigger!

By Michelle May, M.D.

You are not powerless over food!

Our environment is loaded with triggers for eating when we’re not really hungry and for continuing to eat past the point of satiety. Learning to recognize these triggers and respond in an effective manner is the key to thriving in this food abundant environment.

What is a trigger?

TriggerThink about the word trigger for a moment… In behavioral terms, a trigger is anything that serves as a stimulus that initiates a reaction or series of reactions.

This concept is analogous to a mechanical trigger, defined as a mechanism that activates a sequence. Thinking about a trigger in mechanical terms is helpful because it takes the emotion out of it for a moment. More importantly, it reminds us that a trigger has no effect on its own and must be activated in some way.

Similarly, your triggers for overeating are powerless over you – until you choose to act on them.

Dismantle the machine

The following mindful eating concepts will help you break the automated response to your triggers. (For those who have participated in Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshops and/or read Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, you’ll recognize this as a version of FEAST from Chapter 3):

Focus: Whenever you want to eat or continue to eat, that is your trigger to pause and ask, Am I hungry? or Am I still hungry? In essence, you are creating a new trigger for yourself – wanting to eat now triggers you to pause and check in. This pause creates a gap between the stimulus and response, allowing you to respond instead of react.

Explore: If you’re not hungry, get curious! I wonder why I want to eat right now even though I’m not hungry. What was the trigger?

Accept: Don’t judge yourself. You wouldn’t judge a machine for having a switch! Instead, say, Hmmmm, isn’t that interesting?

Strategize: Choose how you will respond. I could eat anyway if I want to. For now, I am not going to activate this particular sequence of events. Let’s see…what else could I do until I’m hungry?

Take Action: Each time you choose not to pull the trigger, you weaken its connection. It’s as if the wires rust and eventually break. Further, each time you choose a different action, you create new connections. With practice, you will hardwire these new pathways – like insulating the wiring.

As always, I acknowledge that the concepts I share with you are simple, but not always easy. (Remember, I’ve been through all of this personally as well as with thousands of other people just like you!) If you need help, please tap into our other resources including Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshops, retreats, self-paced program, and coaching and/or seek out additional support.


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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