Many of us have those certain foods that once we start eating them, we can have a difficult time consuming a reasonable portion of. It can set off a course of overeating where all control can be lost. Eating a little bit usually leads to cleaning off the rest of the plate or finishing of the pack no matter what, it may even be to the point of feeling uncomfortably full, sick or "ready to burst".
These can be known as trigger foods and are normally calorie-dense, easily digested, highly palatable foods that are often combinations of fat and salt (e.g. your crisps, nuts, pizza, chips etc.) and/ or sugar and fat (ice cream, biscuits, chocolate).
We know it is not good for us to over eat them, we probably won’t feel too good after and we certainly know it won’t be good for our body composition finishing off that entire pack of biscuits, even when we are not hungry. But why are some of us still inclined to finish that entire pack of biscuits or polish off the whole tub of ice-cream even though we feel stuffed. What strategies can we use to help prevent this or try and limit our calorie intake?
It is something I have struggled with - My trigger foods are mostly sweet- chocolate, ice cream and certain breakfast cereals. If there is a tub of ice cream, there is no way I am just having a couple of spoon fulls or only half a tub- the tub is getting finished no matter what (sometimes even to the point of feeling sick).
Those kinds of trigger food, the highly palatable, highly rewarding foods can override our natural appetite signalling mechanisms. It is like many “bad” behaviours people can fall into (smoking, alcohol, drugs, gambling etc.). Over eating on tasty highly palatable foods, high in sugar/fat and calories drive our reward system. We do it, as it temporarily makes us feel good or better. Certain foods can provoke a large release of dopamine, which can lead to destructive addiction like behaviours in susceptible people. The more highly palatable the food, the more our brain gets this temporary feel good factor, which can lead us wanting more, leading to binging.
Notice how it is normally foods that are highly concentrated in sugar/fats and salt that people crave, it is never foods like broccoli or peas. Even when we are “trying to be good” and cut down on those high calorie dense foods there is temptation all around us. Smells from the bakery/food shops/restaurants, images and adverts and special offers of those foods, which can trigger our motivation to eat. It can be difficult not to give in to our non conscious urges to eat those yummy, calorie dense foods when they can be so easily accessible.
What can we do to help us not to overeat or binge too much on our trigger foods?
First thing is we shouldn’t confuse trigger foods with our favourite foods. We may have foods we really enjoy but are not compelled to binge on (for example I like fruit but am very unlikely to go on an apple binge like I would a tub of Ben & Jerrys). I also don’t recommend labelling foods or food group as “good” or “bad” or say any foods are off limit. A healthy and happy way of life is balance. Also it is often the case when a certain food is off limit it can make it seem more irresistible.
Below are some tips that may help overcome the urge to binge or over eat on trigger foods.
Jamie Miller- Personal Trainer
UK Fitness Personal Training
FITNESS, NUTRITION & PERSONAL TRAINING