How to Un-Trick Your Trigger



Source: Scientific American

Source: Scientific American

Most anybody reading this knows there are foods that trigger at best unhealthy eating and, at worst, going on a binge. 

When I read people’s posts to Facebook I see many references to “food addiction.”  And, for me, that really resonates.  Remember the old Lay’s potato chip commercial – “Betcha can’t eat just one?”  Well, it turns out there’s a reason for that – which has very little to do with whether or not we have the “will power” not to overindulge.

For most of us trigger foods usually are those that either have a ton of sugar and/or gluten.  Here’s a brief list of common trigger foods:

  • Candy
  • Chips
  • Ice cream
  • Bread or flour based foods

All of these foods have something in common: they are carbohydrates – but not just any carbohydrates.  These particular carbohydrates mess with both our ability to think straight and our ability to stop eating them.  There’s plenty of information out there regarding the fact that sugar “gets us high” by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins.  Which is why we can’t eat just one.   Who wants to stop feeling good?  We felt great when we ate that first handful of chips or slice of cake – and those endorphins make us want to keep eating those chips (or move on to a bowl of ice cream and then maybe a few cookies.)

The real bummer is that these foods send a message to our pancreas demanding that it produce more insulin.  This is what leads to something called insulin resistance which can result in developing metabolic syndrome:

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. –

breadOf all the foods listed above, most of us probably think that bread or flour based foods are the least likely to send us off on a binge.  Not so.  It turns out that bread has the highest glycemic index, which means that when you eat bread, other flour based foods (such as pasta), and cereals the demand on your body to produce more insulin sticks around even longer than a candy bar.  And it gets worse.

Recent research indicates that we’ve been sold a line of goods when it comes to basing our diets on “whole grain goodness.”  Turns out that all grains have a high glycemic index.  Research also indicates that whole grains are a factor in developing not only metabolic syndrome – but even Alzheimer’s!

Untricking Your Trigger

Make a list. Make a list of all foods that, for you, come under “betcha can’t eat just one.”  These will be foods you will scratch off your grocery list. 

Hide but don’t seek. If for some reason you need to purchase these foods (for instance your spouse of roommate insists that since they can eat just one they shouldn’t have to “suffer”) keep them in a specific cabinet or drawer reserved only for high-glycemic carbs (preferably in containers you can’t see through.)  This place is your own personal “No Man’s Land” – meaning a place you simply don’t go.   Additionally, limiting your opportunity to see these items as you go about food preparation also limits how often you are exposed to these trigger foods.

Become a great imitator. Snack on low-glycemic carbs and, yes, most vegetables qualify.  Make is your business to find recipes that “mimic” high glycemic choices.   For instance, if you’re into ice cream, seek out recipes for healthy smoothies.  Are you addicted to potato chips?  Learn how to make your own vegetable chips.  Warning:  many gluten free products and flours are high on the glycemic index.  I know, that’s a bummer – just be careful about what you buy.  For example, almond flour is a better choice than most “gluten free baking flour.”    Here are a couple great low-glycemic recipe resources:

Recipes from

Recipes from

I’m not suggesting that everyone completely stop eating grains.  What I am suggesting is that you educate yourself about the impact of a grain-based diet and then make your decision according to what you discover.

For those of you who just aren’t buying into the notion that grains (even whole grains) and other high-glycemic foods are toxic to both your body and your intentions to attain and sustain a healthy weight, here are two books you will want to read where you can find all that research I’ve been talking about (they link to their respective websites so you can check out what they have to say for yourself.):

fafdafafdadfaWheat Belly by William Davis, M.D.    



grain brainGrain Brain by David Perlmutter, M.D.



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