Identifying your triggers

How to identify your triggers

Have you ever been totally overcome by a craving? One moment you are casually going about your day, and the next you find yourself standing over an empty bag or plate having just eaten something you really didn’t want to. If you’ve had this experience you are definitely not alone!

Food cravings are powerful urges that demand instant gratification. 

When you think more about them, however, cravings are usually the result of specific triggers. Once identified, these triggers are much easier to manage.

Time of day

There is probably a certain time of the day when you are most susceptible to food cravings. For many people, this is the window between 7-10pm at night. You have had a long day at work and want to reward yourself for your effort. Even though indulging in your favourite foods in moderation can be enjoyable, the ability to identify your “craving window” allows you to make proper plans geared towards the right decisions. If, for example, you know that 7-10pm is the window where cravings are strongest, why not create a practice of self-care that you really enjoy at this time in order to feel less tempted?

Food for thought: 

  • What time of day are you most susceptible to cravings?
  • How can you plan for this part of your day and use this time in new and fun ways?

Specific foods

One person prefers a fast food cheeseburger and fries, while another enjoys an all-you-can-eat buffet. More often than not, it is your favourite foods that you tend to over-consume. Do these foods come with a cost to your well-being? Do you take out the shame stick and beat yourself up? Do the effects of these meals linger in your mind? On your mood and energy? What is the price you pay emotionally, physically and spiritually? 

Take some time to write out exactly how you feel after having these “treats”. Once you have identified your trigger foods, it is so much easier to manage them!

For example, if you know that ice cream from the grocery store is a food that you tend to consume a lot each weekend, you could decide to only purchase it on the last weekend of the month, and mark that date specifically in your calendar. If ice cream is a trigger food, it might be a better idea not to keep it in your home at all. This way there are more barriers to satisfying the craving. Adding this sort of buffer will give you the time to reflect and make a decision you’re comfortable with.

Food for thought: 

  • Which foods do you most often crave?
  • What are some strategies you might use to manage your consumption at the grocery store? At restaurants? In your household?

Your emotions

Do you experience cravings when celebrating a happy life occasion? Are you someone who tends to overeat unhealthy foods when you’re feeling lonely or depressed? Maybe both?

Simply put, your emotions have the ability to influence your dietary choices. This can happen without you even realising it. Luckily, there are strategies that can be used to become aware of your emotions rather than letting them govern all of your decisions.

For example, if loneliness causes you to overeat, you can learn to identify this feeling and perhaps phone a friend. This will ensure that you are making plans that you can look forward to rather than ones you may come to regret. Remember that you get to decide what you think, and that what you think about directly affects your feelings.

Food for thought:

  • Which emotions make you more likely to experience cravings or overeat?
  • Make a list of the emotions, and some activities you could do instead of eating.


Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • “C’mon. Just have one cookie…”
  • “You deserve it today…”
  • “The diet is going to start tomorrow…” 

These are phrases most of us constantly hear courtesy of our “addicted voice.” 

This is a voice inside our head that can lure us into behaviours that we later come to regret. The most important thing to know about your addicted voice is that it is making suggestions rather than commands. You do not need to listen to it. Instead, learn to quickly recognise this voice and avoid following its commands. 

Questions for thought: 

  • What are the top 3-5 lies your addicted voice tells you?
  • Formulate a response for each one.