How to Deal with Triggers

We are surrounded by opportunities to eat, especially during summer months with increased gatherings and celebrations. It’s important to be aware of what causes triggers and to have a plan in place. A trigger is any kind of stimulus that results in a reaction. Triggers can be sights, smells, sounds, locations, events, stressful situations, and even people, which can lead to choices that sabotage weight loss efforts.

Here are some ways to start deconstructing your Habit Cycles

CUE: Discover what the trigger is that is causing you to overeat. Ask yourself:
Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Am I sad? Am I excited (or happy or mad)? Am I stressed? Am I bored?

ACTION: Take appropriate action based on Cue Discovery
• If you are hungry or thirsty, feed the hunger or thirst, not the craving! Choose foods and beverages
that provide more nutrients without excessive amounts of sugar, salt, and fat.

• If you are sad or stressed, then “talk or walk”! If you don’t have access to a friend’s or family
member’s ear or shoulder, then get outside and take a 10-minute walk. This will interrupt the cycle
by putting physical distance between you and the perceived “reward,” while at the same time
generating your own natural endorphin release by getting outside and moving!

• If you are bored, commit to a project that you have been putting off. The accomplishment of even
a small task spikes dopamine levels and provides a very productive option for a hit of those “feel
good” chemicals! So make a daily list of projects to tackle and make a habit out of that!

Reward: Mindfulness & Gratitude

“Re-carving” neural circuits requires the release of feel-good chemicals to “anchor” the long-term memory
of these mindful new habits. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that stimulates the release of these feel-good chemicals. So, as you are engaging in mindful strategies to satisfy your triggers, feel proud of yourself by cultivating an authentic surge of gratitude. Keeping a daily gratitude journal can help you with this process.


Last, but certainly not least, is memory. This is the “hook” of all cues and often the reason why breaking the
cycle of habits is so hard. The memory that your subconscious brain has of eating the pint of Ben & Jerry’s
the night before is not the same memory that your conscious brain shares. That is where the disconnect
lies, and unfortunately when it comes to the tug-of-war leading up to “Action,” it’s usually the subconscious
pull that wins because it’s wired for reward. The only way to change this last component of the cycle of
habits is by deconstructing the first three components as explained above and paying particular attention
to the practice of mindfulness and gratitude. With confidence and continuity, it won’t take long before new
neural connections literally “change your mind” and rewire a healthier new habit.


It is important to give yourself grace and remember anything new takes time to learn. You are not expected to break life-long habits and re-learn new, healthy habits in a day. Give yourself the time it will take to learn a new, healthy way of dealing with triggers, stress, and sadness. Also give yourself the grace if you don’t get it right some of the time. The best way to learn is, often, by making mistakes. Don’t give up. You go this!