trigger foods binge eating

Should I Keep Trigger Foods at Home During Recovery?

I want to address the question of whether or not to keep trigger foods at home while you are trying to stop binge eating. Trigger food is a popular term in eating disorder recovery conversations that usually refers to the foods that tend to make binge eaters feel out of control and binge. If you’ve read Brain over Binge or listened to my podcast, you know that I don’t believe any food can cause binge eating—because the urges to binge are the only direct cause. So, when I refer to trigger foods in this blog post, I mean foods that commonly to lead to your urges to binge, or foods that you typically eat large amounts of when you follow the urges, or foods that are simply linked to binge eating in your mind.

Distancing yourself from trigger foods doesn’t cure binge eating

If keeping trigger foods out of the house was the cure for bingeing, then that would make recovery pretty easy—but if you’re anything like I was as a binge eater, you just find a way to get the food anyway, or find something else to eat too much of. Home isn’t the only place to binge, and trigger foods aren’t the only foods that you binge on. Also, it’s not realistic to expect to be able to control all of the food that comes through your door—because roommates, children, parents, partners, relatives, or friends who share or visit your home also need to eat, and they may have different ideas about what food to have on hand.

Even though keeping trigger foods out of the home is not a cure for binge eating, it’s still one factor to consider when approaching recovery. I believe that it is an individual decision, and there isn’t one right or wrong way. If you think about it, the decision of what foods to have at home is one that all people need to make, even if they don’t have a history of an eating disorder. When you look at this choice as just a basic part of living—something you’ll need to do for the rest of your life—it can take off some of the pressure you may be feeling right now.

Will the trigger foods make me binge more?

I realize that the additional consideration during recovery is that you may be worried that certain foods will lead to increased binges, but if you remember that all the trigger foods can do is lead to increased urges, you take your power back. You give yourself the freedom to choose what foods to have or not have at home, and you can learn to dismiss the urges that are linked to those foods. (If you are new to the concept of dismissing urges, you can get my free eBook, the Brain over Binge Basics to help you get started).

It’s okay if you don’t feel ready to have any and all types of food at home right now, but with time and practice, you can gain confidence that you can be around any food and eat any food—without binge eating. On Episode 76 of the podcast, my guest shared her own experience of reintroducing trigger foods into her life, and I think you will find it helpful.

Food temptation is a universal experience

It also helps to realize that feeling tempted by certain foods at home is common, and although the urges to binge will fade, feeling drawn toward food pleasure will never go away completely. Normal eaters often say that they don’t like to have, for example, a dessert item in the house because they believe they’ll eat too much of it, or they ate too much of it last time it was in the house. The reality is that sometimes it’s just easier for anyone—with or without a binge eating issue—to simply not have something tempting in close proximity, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

In the Brain over Binge Recovery GuideI explained that these choices extend beyond food, and I drew a comparison to my choice at the time to not buy paper towels, because when I did, I used too many of them. My kids were very young at the time, and made so many messes, and paper towels were way too convenient. If I didn’t have paper towels in the house, I put myself in a situation where I had to take the time to wash rags and keep them ready for use. Now that my kids are older and there aren’t as many spills, I do buy paper towels again, but I don’t overuse them.

Giving up binge eating and dieting makes foods less “triggering”

The paper towel example could also help you see that your decisions about what to keep in the house can change over time, and if you decide to avoid buying a certain trigger food right now, you don’t have to avoid buying it forever. One day, you may decide you want that food in your house again, and you’ll learn to overcome the temptation, or it simply won’t be as appealing to you once your binge eating habit has stopped. Foods that seem so tempting today could become foods you don’t even think about in the future—this is a wonderful benefit of giving up the dieting mindset and learning to eat everything in moderation.

I wrote a detailed post to share how this happened for me regarding my biggest trigger food—sugary cereal—and how I can now have boxes of it in my house and not even want any (read the post: How I Stopped Binge Eating Cereal and Craving it Too). It’s an amazing experience when you first realize your trigger foods are no longer triggering, and that they hold no power over you. It gives you so much freedom to be able to be around any type of food and know it won’t lead to a binge. But, everyone gets there in their own way and on their own timeline, and it’s okay if you’re not there yet.

Just make the best decisions that you can right now as far as what to keep in the house to support yourself in recovery, knowing that you can make adjustments, and add new foods over time. Eventually your urges to binge will fade and go away completely, and all of the things that once triggered them—including certain foods—will no longer lead to urges. You’ll be left with some standard temptation and cravings like all normal eaters, but it will be so much more manageable. You’ll find yourself doing things that you never thought were possible—like forgetting you have leftover cake from a birthday party in your house, or throwing out half of a batch of cookies you baked last week with your kids because you never ate them.

Dismissing urges to buy the binge foods

I want to take a step back and also talk about buying the foods at the store, because that’s ultimately how they get to your home. Even if you make a firm decision about what foods you want to have in your house, and that doesn’t include many of your trigger foods, your lower brain might try to change your mind at the grocery. You might feel urges to buy a lot of binge foods—just in case. This is all part of the habit—you’re simply used to buying them, so habitually, you feel like you need to keep buying them. An example I thought of, which I’ve experienced myself, is a parent whose child gets older and out-grows the baby items that they used to need frequently; but the parent still finds herself automatically going down the baby food or diaper aisle.

You can think of urges you have in the store as just your lower brain telling you what it thinks you need—based on your past shopping and eating behaviors—but now that you have changed, you don’t need to follow those messages anymore. Dismissing urges to buy the binge food is good practice for dismissing urges to actually binge. You don’t have to get upset with your brain for encouraging you to buy certain things, just try to observe your thoughts and gently remind yourself that you no longer binge. You don’t have to tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have certain foods—because you can learn to buy and eat anything you want in moderation, provided there are no allergies or other health issues. However, if you only want to get the food to binge on it, then you can react to the urge to buy it like the parent of an older child would react to an urge to buy baby food—you can just shrug it off, maybe smile a little, and say, “Oh, I don’t actually need that anymore.”

In your case, it might not be that you don’t need any amount of a certain food, but you may simply need much less now that you are eating in a normal way. You don’t want to create a situation where you’re saying no to yourself too often for food you actually like and want in your house. You ultimately want to find a balance of foods that are going to nourish you, and foods that you buy purely for pleasure. Again, this is something you’ll need to do for the rest of your life as part of taking care of yourself and the people who share your home and food.

If you can keep a grateful mindset for all of the food you have the ability to buy and keep in your house, it can help the food feel like a gift instead of something to fear—and this can help your decisions surrounding food feel easier.

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If you want more help learning to eat in a normal way and dismissing the binge urges around any food, you can check out the Brain over Binge Course that is now available for a low monthly price. 

eating disorders and digestive health

Ep. 74: Eating Disorders and Digestive Health (Interview with Pauline Hanuise)

December binge eating recovery

Ep. 73: A Different December: Don’t Wait for 2021 to Recover

are you truly binge eating

Ep. 72: Are You Truly Binge Eating?

cookie rosenblum kathryn hansen

Free Class with Cookie & Kathryn

I’ve heard from many people who aren’t sure if they binge or not. They know they are doing something with food that doesn’t feel good, and they know they are eating too much at times, but…

Is it binge eating?
Is it compulsive overeating?
Is it emotional eating?

There is some subjectivity in labeling problematic eating behaviors, and there is often overlap between behaviors. However, it’s valuable to determine what you are specifically struggling with, because when you know what your problem is, you can better apply targeted solutions.

I’ve recently talked to my friend and colleague Cookie Rosenblum about this, and we have decided to host a free online class to help you determine if you are binge eating, compulsively overeating, or engaging in habitual pattern of emotional eating. We want to help you understand how to overcome each of these issues!

The class will be on Wednesday, November 18th at 12pmET, and you can register now.

Cookie is an expert at helping people overcome problematic overeating and emotional eating, and of course, I help people stop binge eating.

Because the term binge has become mainstream (think of “binge-watching” shows), it is sometimes applied to any behavior that seems excessive, including eating behaviors. However, binge eating is not the same as overeating, and overeating isn’t always a problem. Everyone overeats from time to time, but when it feels compulsive and too frequent, it’s definitely something to work on.

If you aren’t sure what type of eating issue you are dealing with, but you want to be free of your struggle with food, I hope you will find the upcoming online class with Cookie very helpful.

This is a one-time class and space is limited, so I encourage you to register today.

Ep. 71: When Weight Holds You Back: Reaching Your Own Healthy Size (Interview with Heather Robertson)

Ep. 70: Fasting Behaviors and Disordered Eating (Interview with Elisa Oras)

Brain over Binge free book

Brain over Binge Inspiration & Book Giveaway

“The view of bulimia as a coping mechanism is so pervasive in our society that it is generally accepted as fact … I changed once I decided to view my eating disorder differently: by dismissing the belief that I ate for deeper, more profound reasons and, in turn, completely changing how I approached my problem.”Brain over Binge, Preface

If the mainstream theory that binge eating is a coping mechanism is helping you recover, there is no need to change course. But if what you are believing now isn’t bringing you closer to a binge-free life, I want to encourage you to be open to a new way of looking at your behavior.

When I published Brain over Binge nearly 10 years ago, my goal was to provide an alternative perspective and empower people to use the amazing ability of their brain to end the binge eating habit. I did this by simply sharing my story—what I experienced and what I learned along the way. The book is raw and I didn’t hold back when talking about what I went through, how bingeing affected my life so deeply, and how the help that was available to me at the time wasn’t actually helpful.

I spent years viewing my binge eating as a coping mechanism, but it simply didn’t help me stop the behavior, and I’ve learned that I was not the exception. I don’t believe that my approach is the only way, but if you are interested in an alternative perspective and looking to simplify how you approach recovery, then keep reading to learn how you can receive a free copy of my book.

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You can get Brain over Binge for free in a book giveaway on Instagram, starting on Monday (9/21/2020) and repeating each Monday for 10 weeks. I have 100 books that I want to give to people who could benefit, so I’ll be giving away 10 copies every week for the 10 weeks.

Here is how the giveaway will work:

  • First, you need to find me on Instagram @brain_over_binge and follow me so that you don’t miss the giveaway posts.
  • Next, you need to look for the giveaway post every Monday at 9pmET on Instagram.
  • Finally, you need to be one of the first 10 people to comment on the giveaway post, and I’ll ship you a copy of Brain over Binge. 

*I need to limit book shipments to United States addresses only, due to postage. Even if you are not living in the US, I encourage you to share this information with someone you know who struggles with binge eating and who could benefit from the book.

If you are one of the first 10 people to comment on a giveaway post, you will need to send me the shipping address through Instagram direct messaging or by emailing it to me at kathryn@brainoverbinge.com. Your shipping address will be deleted after shipment, and never used to send any promotional materials.

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I hope that having a copy of Brain over Binge will be helpful to you at this time. If it supports you in finding freedom from binge eating, all I ask is that you share your story to inspire others.

When I wrote my book, I didn’t know the impact that sharing my story would make (and I wrote about this in my first blog post), but I’ve been overwhelmed by the response over these last 10 years, and I’ve loved hearing and reading the recovery stories of others who have used this approach. No one’s recovery is exactly the same, and even if Brain over Binge resonates with you and helps you, you will have your own insights and overcome your own unique challenges along the way. You will have a valuable voice to spread the message that complete freedom from binge eating is absolutely possible, and each one of us can achieve it.

I want to leave you with an inspiring message from a woman who emailed me recently, and I hope it helps you believe in your ability to change as well:

“I just wanted to write you an email to thank you for your book Brain over Binge. I struggled with binge eating for more than three years and when I bought your book I really thought that BE was something that would be a part of me for the rest of my life. Every time I binged, I promised it would be the last one but after a few days or weeks, I would do it again. Honestly, I lost hope and when I googled how to get over it, many articles/YouTube videos/testimonies focused on how to control it and reduce it, but not many talked about how to get over it once and for all. Someone in the comments of a Youtube video recommended your book and after reading a few reviews online, I bought it on Amazon. 

I cried so much with your book because your story resonated so much with me, and at the time I thought binge eating was something very uncommon that almost no one did, and I felt a bit alone in that sense. To be honest, at the beginning of the book I didn’t believe what you said about being sure of not relapsing again. It seemed to good to be true, especially after trying so many other things before (food diary, tracking my emotions…). But almost two years later, I am so proud to say that I’ve never binged again and that now I too think that I will never do it again.
 I left your book to a friend that was also struggling with binge eating recently, and she gave it back to me the other day. I reread the parts that I had highlighted and I felt so happy to realize again how far I’ve come. It’s crazy to think that something that used to cause me so much pain and stress is now something that feels so far away. I just wanted to let you know that your book changed my life and that I will be forever grateful for you.”

 

If you want to participate in the book giveaway, remember to follow me on Instagram (@brain_over_binge).