Are there certain specific foods that you can’t stop at just one? You eat the whole carton or bag? Or maybe there are foods that you just can’t seem to resist that take you off track again and again and again?

You eat one, then eat another, not having realized that the food you are eating is already taking you over to the point of not being able to control yourself.

We love them until we hate them because we feel bloated and regretful and mad at ourselves for being so weak.

In episode 33 of Thin Thinking, we explore our relationship with trigger foods and look at some interesting mind tools to be masterful with them rather than miserable.

I hope that this episode will help you to manage your trigger foods before they manage you.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

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Rita Black: Are there certain specific foods that you can't stop at just one? You eat the whole carton or bag? Or maybe there are foods that you just can't seem to resist that take you off track again and again and again? We love them until we hate them because we feel bloated and regretful and mad at ourselves for being so weak. In this episode of thin thinking, we explore our relationship with trigger foods and look at some interesting mind tools to be masterful with them rather than miserable.

Rita Black: Did you know that our struggle with weight doesn't start with the food on your plate or get fixed in the gym? 80% of our weight struggle is mental. That's right, the key to unlocking long-term weight release and management begins in your mind. Hi there, I'm Rita Black. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist, weight loss expert, best-selling author, and the creator of the Shift Weight Mastery Process. And not only have I helped thousands of people over the past 20 years achieve long-term weight mastery, I am also a former weight struggler, carb addict, and binge eater. And after two decades of failed diets and fad weight loss programs, I lost 40 pounds with the help of hypnosis. Not only did I release all that weight, I have kept it off for 25 years. Enter the Thin Thinking Podcast where you too will learn how to remove the mental roadblocks that keep you struggling. I'll give you the thin thinking tools, skills, and insights to help you develop the mindset you need. Not only to achieve your ideal weight, but to stay there long-term and live your best life. Sound good? Let's get started.

Rita Black: Hey, all of you listening in real time, happy Halloween! And if you are not listening in real time, happy the rest of the year. I'm recording this a few days before Halloween, but no matter what time of year it is for you, our trigger foods can get the best of us. So Halloween just seemed like a good time since there's a lot of trigger foods in our faces in the stores or in our kids trick or treat baskets or just at the office and floating around the universe. How do those little miniature Snickers find their way in, you know, to the corners and crevices of every single gosh darn thing, you know, in the universe? Right? So, I wanted to give you, you know, I wanted to get into this, right. And, just before I do, I wanted to say that this Halloween show is sponsored by my Shift Out of Sugar Cravings Hypnosis session, which is absolutely free to you and maybe of good use this time of year. It's an awesome session and you'll find it in the show notes. So just go find the link, click on it. I think you put your name and your email address in and voila. It shows up in your inbox. So check it out. And now let's just unwrap the wrapper around these trigger foods and get to the soft and caramelly center of it all. Okay.

Rita Black: So what exactly are trigger foods, Rita, you would ask, so you may know what trigger foods are, but if you don't, a trigger food is a food that we really, you know, we eat one and then we want another one and the wind one, another one, and really trigger foods are foods that our brain and bodies react to, that it kind of render. They kind of render us powerless. We'll eat the whole bag, we'll heat, the whole gallon. We'll eat all of it. And typically trigger foods are wired in kind of in a special way in our brain. And, from my understanding, you know, with working with people and weight management for 20 years, I think there's a genetic component. I think there's an emotional component. And, I think that these foods get wired in our brain and hit our dopamine center in a special way, because nobody has the same trigger foods. You know, I have very specific trigger foods for me. You know, and of the thousands of people I've helped. You know, there, there are, and obviously there are trigger foods that are common for a lot of people. For a lot of people, frozen yogurt is a trigger food. Popcorn can be a trigger food for people. Candy is definitely a trigger food for people and especially that really sweet, sweet candy. And that is me. That is my trigger foods are all really sugar based, but they don't need to be sugar based. They can be, they can be a savory food. They can even be a non-carbohydrate food, but the trigger foods are just foods that we tend to not, you know, once we begin eating them, we really don't have a lot of control over them. We can't stop at just one.

Rita Black: And mine, mine are just to share with you sweet tarts. Mine are also candy corn, AKA the Halloween candy. That is my biggest nemesis. And then my other one, probably my favorite one, other than frosting, and I've done a whole episode on frosting so that I'm not going to get into frosting today, but I'm talking about candies today cause it's Halloween, are wine gums. Do you guys know what wine gums are? Now, if you're British, you absolutely know. Or if you're maybe Australian or, but, or even Canadian. But wine gums are kind of like gummy bears, but you know, like you think wine gums. When I first moved to England, I moved there with my husband in the beginning of well, many, many years ago. So I lived there probably about 30 years ago at the beginning of our married life and wine gums. I discovered them and I people say, yes, oh, I love those wine gums. And I thought they were talking about gum that was flavored like Chardonnay or Cabernet. And that was the, you know, like, I don't know if anybody's watching Ted lasso, you know, which is about an American coach who's over in England. And you know, he kind of highlights all the different isms between the Brits and the, the Americans. But I'll tell you a really quick, funny other thing is there's this pickle and in England and it's a, it's a, it's a spread or, you know, you put it with cheese, you eat it with cheese. It's like a dark brown, very sweet relish basically. It's like a dark brown relish that has onions in it. And it's, and it's, uh, you know, it's, I don't think it does have pickle in it, but they call it pickle. Right. It's like a chutney. And I worked when I lived in England, I worked at a sandwich shop very briefly during I was a student there. So I had, you know, like a winter break. And so I got some, you know, job, I needed some money, so I got a job at the sandwich shop and somebody came up and they'll go, oh, yes. So, you know, have a Turkey sandwich with pickle. And I thought, oh, well, they wanted pickles in the sandwich. And I went to go and, you know, go to the refrigerator and look for it. And I was like, where are the pickles? And where's the pickle, where's the pickle. And, you know, the girl who was working with me, it was like, oh, it's right over there, it's right over there. You can't see it, it's right in front of your face. And I was like, I don't see any pickle. And then she brings out this jar of brown stuff. And I was like, eh, that's pickle.

Rita Black: So, that was my introduction to pickle. And actually I really, when I lived there loved pickle because it had sugar in it. And of course anything with sugar stimulates my brain. But anyway, so our trigger foods, I digressed greatly, I'm sorry, I'm going to bring you all the way back. I had my little, you know, remembrance of England, but, you know, I'm bringing you back to this idea that your trigger foods are always your trigger foods. And, and I think what I see people getting stuck in is it's kind of like smokers. You know, when I work with smokers, they think that, you know, sometimes people think that, you know, when you quit smoking, if you go for enough time, you know, after a while, you could just have a cigarette every once in a while. Right. But the problem is in my experience with working with smokers for 20 years and being a former pack and a half a day smoker myself is once the brain is wired with a highly addictive substance. The wires, even though there are no longer though, those wires are no longer primed those, uh, you know, the, the wires of that habit, they exist, right?

Rita Black: So, so with smokers, a lot of times, they'll stop smoking and then, you know, they'll go for a year or two years, or, you know, I've had smokers tell me stories. They went for 20 years. And then they were like, well, it's been 20 years. I haven't had a cigarette. I can just have a cigarette and they smoke one. And then that part of their brain gets a little nicotine. And it starts to sort of trip wire the rest of the wiring. We're going to see this again. And again and again. So, you know, when I work with smokers, it's like, you, you know, it's, you have to understand that, you know, you smoke one, the rest smoke you. And, it's really, I do see with our trigger foods, I'm not saying with all foods, not all sweet foods, but with a lot of trigger foods, it is the same sort of thing for people.

Rita Black: So, like if I eat candy corn, the impact in my brain, you know, because my brain has been wired, I have an emotional connection to candy corn. I have a physiological connection to candy corn, and I have a history with candy corn, where I've been able to sit down with two bags of candy corn and eat the whole thing and get myself into a sugar, high sugar coma, even though candy corn and me are an unhappy Yokan because obviously all of those episodes with bags and bags of candy corn had ended up with me laying down in a sugar coma, feeling horrible and awful, and, you know, totally feeling like a fool and, you know, like a loser and all that too, for not having that willpower. You know, even though I've had those memories there, it in my mind, you know, the next year, because it's been a year, oh, this year I can manage the candy corn. Right. And then I'll buy it. And then again, I'm, you know, I'm brought to my knees by candy corn again and again, and I'm brought to my knees by wine gums again. And again, I can tell you another quick London story.

Rita Black: So I had been on a diet and I had quit smoking. So I was a big smoker when I lived in London and, as many people are, and I had quit smoking, I lost weight. I was like, oh, okay. You know, I went and in the underground they had, like, you know, the candy shop, like the 7-11, but it was underneath in the underground. In those of you who are, you know, like in cities that have underground transportation, it's probably the same like New York. I think. I, I don't remember, but I know, I would get off the tube and I would pass by this sort of stand that had wine gums and cigarettes. And one day I was just like, you know what? Its been so long since I've had a cigarette. And so long since I've had wine gums, I'm going to buy both. I'll just have a few wine gums and I'll just smoke a few cigarettes and I'll throw away the pack and I'll just eat a couple of wine gums and then I'll give them to my husband and, and then I'll be done with that. But, you know, I just feel like I can have a couple. And of course then, you know, it cut to me walking down the street, like eating four wine gums all in my mouth at the same time and smoking a cigarette and then, you know, smoking another cigarette and eating another four wine gums and then, you know, smoking myself and eating wine gums, like after wine gum. And it was just like, it was, you know, of course I was brought to my knees by both of my habits.

Rita Black: So, we really have to understand that we have a relationship. Our brain puts our wine gum in the same place in our brain, as our friends and our family, there is an emotional, visceral connection to our trigger foods sometimes. So it's really hard for us to really make peace with the fact that maybe we need to put those trigger foods to the back of our mind. And we, you know, you can, there's a million other foods. Like there's so many other candies that I can have a few of and, you know, take it or leave it. Chocolate is one of those. I'm not a chocolaholic, I mean, some of you may be, but, that's not something that's a problem for me. I can eat a nice piece of chocolate, be like, okay, thank you very much. That was lovely. And enjoy mindfully and move on with my day, it doesn't haunt me and hunt me down like candy corn does.

Rita Black: So, I just wanted to have this conversation with you guys, because I want to be real with you with regards to your relationship with your trigger foods and maybe starting to have a different relationship with them. So I'm wanting to give you a couple of tools so that they don't own you. And especially if you're one of those people that around Halloween, those foods end up in your household, whether it's you buying them or your family buying them or your kids bringing them in their baskets, you know, I'd like to give you a word of caution. And I don't mean to be a killjoy because I know again, like you, it's, it's, it's a love-hate relationship. You know, we're eating and we're like, why am I eating this? I don't want to be eating this. And you know, so there's a love-hate, like we don't want it, but we do want it. And I completely, our brains are so screwy when it comes to things like smoking. People would be like, why am I smoking the cigarette so much? And the other part of the brain is like, I see you love it. You know? So the part of your brain that loves your trigger foods doesn't really care about your weight management. It doesn't care about your happiness, doesn't care about your blood sugar insulin levels or that you're pre-diabetic or that, you know, it's a problem for you. It's just like, I want what I want when I want it, and you're going to give it to me.

Rita Black: So we have to start to listen and really create a firm boundary with ourselves and our trigger foods. So one technique I would say is to religious make your trigger foods not an option for you and to get really clear on what they are. I think sometimes people aren't quite sure, like, is that a trigger food or is it not? So hopefully this conversation has helped you kind of ascertain, like, is that, you know, is that really a problem for me? Or is that not? I mean, and if you're thinking it's a problem for you, it probably yes, but sorry, but it probably is. Again, don't hate me. I'm just the messenger. I am, I didn't make this up.

Rita Black: So, what I would say is creating something like a not-an-option zone or, and, and I'm going to get into a way that you can have your trigger food. So don't hate me completely, but the not-an-option is just really clear because, and I would just say, I am XYZ free. Like I am wine gum free, or I am candy corn free. Because when I say, I don't want to eat candy corns are I don't eat candy corns. I'm trying not to eat candy corns, or I'm trying to do this Halloween without eating candy corns. That's all deprivation language in my brain. And that makes me feel deprived. It makes me feel like, oh, I'm one of those dieters and I have to. But when I say I'm candy corn free in my brain, it opens up my brain. It's like, oh, I'm free. I've chosen my freedom. I've chosen to stay clear of that stuff because I know the second I put a candy corn in my mouth, I'm not there anymore, but that other part of my brain is there saying, and now I have another one, and now have another one, and now have another one. Right.

Rita Black: So I choose my freedom. It's the same as smoking. I've been a non-smoker for 25 years. I've chosen that. You know, I've seen people smoking and it looked, I was like, that looks damn good. You know, I'm like, you know, occasionally, most times I see people smoking, I feel so sorry for them, but, you know, occasionally I'll, and it hasn't been for years, but I remember in the first years of my being a non-smoker, I'll be like, oh yeah, that looks good. But then I'd say, but, but then I would wait if I had that cigarette, I would wake up tomorrow and then I would want another one. And then I would want another one. And my mind wouldn't be my own anymore. It would be gone. And I've learned that having that freedom of my mind being clear and being aligned with myself, it feels so much better than eating candy corn, you know, because really honestly, after three bites of candy corn, we don't even experience it anymore or whatever your thing is. We're then off to the races and our dopamine center is just going and again, and again, and again. Remember, I don't know if you've heard me quote this study, but you know, they gave rats sugar water and they stimulated the dopamine center in the rat brain. And the rat continued to drink sugar water 'til its stomach exploded. So you know, that part of the brain that is driving your eating that trigger food doesn't care about you or your health. Right. You can see like, so we need to be aggressive back because that part of our brain will speak to us and it's smarter than us, right. It will say, oh, come on. You'll just have one, oh, come on. You know, it's, it's, it looks so good and you're going to enjoy it. And then tomorrow you're not going to eat it again for another year, you know? Oh, they're only here this time of year, or, you know, if you go and oh, they only have them in this part of the state, you know, whatever it is, it's it, the brain will bug you like a child that wants some money from you. Right? Like, and, and if you aren't clear, like, no, that's not an option. I'm choosing to be wine gum free. Thank you very much. Now believe me, I've had people bring me bags of wine gum from England. You know, every time people come to visit me in my house, I don't know. I tell them, don't bring me wine gums and their brains must just absorb, oh, bring her wine gums because, they bring me these bags of wine gums. And I'm like, Nope, I'm not going to take them. I give them to my, I'm just like, get rid of these, to my husband, you know? And of course then my kids end up eating them or whatever. But, yeah, I'm wine gun-free and I'm a happy one gum person until they do until they invent wine gum that sugar-free gum that tastes like wine. Maybe I that, say, it's not a bad idea.

Rita Black: So now I want to read to you from my book From Fat to Thin Thinking. And yes, it's, I'm being lazy. It's the lazy man's way of walking you through this other tool and technique. But, you know, I think I laid out pretty well in the book. So I'm just going to read to you from it. And this is in underneath stimulus control, so that's the one of the skills of weight mastery is stimulus control. It's really a huge skill. And people really don't seem to know that so much is that, you know, if a food, especially a trigger food is in our environment, it's going to call our name. It's going to say, Hey, Rita, I'm over here, come and get me. And it will wear you down. So one really key skill is to remove those things from your environment. And you know, and I think a lot of us think, well, I should be able to have them in my environment. Well, why? Like really why? Like, would an alcoholic have an open bar at their home?

Rita Black: And, and again, I, I don't want us to think of ourselves as like, oh, we're this person who just, you know, can't be controlled. It's no, you're a powerful person. And you're a cool person and you're a highly functioning person, but your brain has been wired in or in your body has been wired in particular way around this particular food. So why the hell would you have it in your house? Why the hell would you have to have a conversation with that thing again, and again, and again? It's kind of like a toxic friend, you know, like you had a lot of fun in the beginning of the relationship, but now they're kind of bugging you, you know, and now they're bringing you down. And, uh, so I have them around honestly, you know, get them out, respect yourself enough for doing that show up for yourself and love yourself. And you can have other food in your house. I'm not saying you have to strip your house bare of all goodies. I'm just saying that these foods that bring you to your knees, love and respect yourself enough to get them the hell out of your house and bring some foods in your house that you can enjoy and have in your house, right? Like show up for yourself.

Rita Black: So here's, now, having said that here's a way it's called creating a lovey loving boundary with your trigger foods. So I'm just going to read from the book. So life is long and there will be times when you want to indulge in a pleasurable treat, including your trigger foods. How do you set your mind up for success when having that treat? Make a rule with your inner coach ahead of time about when and how much of a treat that you are going to enjoy. That treat is not an option at any other time. I call this strategy creating a loving boundary, Allen Daher, PhD, a neurologist, yes, a neurologist, I read that right, at Montreal's Neurological Institute, conducted a study on expectation and brain activity with regard to smoking. He measured the brain activity of smokers who were kept from smoking for four hours. One group was told that after four hours they could smoke. The other group was told they needed to continue to abstain from smoking for six more hours.

Rita Black: The smokers who expected the cigarette after four hours began to show high levels of arousal, the closer their time came to smoke. The other smokers who did not expect a cigarette showed no arousal. When the brain knows that a reward or treat will not be forthcoming, it puts the attention elsewhere. Once you make a decision about something and you are clear about that boundary, it helps your mind to say 'no' easily. So here's an, and this definitely happens with smokers. Like I ask them all the time and say, you know, when you get on a plane and go, are you okay? Even though they might be a very heavy smoker. Yes, I'm fine. You know, I might think about the cigarette, but it's not an option in my mind. Does, you know, forgets about it and moves on to something else.

Rita Black: So here's how to do it step-by-step. Identify the trigger food. This should be easy. It's the one you can't stop eating. Think of what a single serving would be in both amount and calories if you're, you know, if that's your thing. And make sure that it allows you to, you know, make sure that that is a real serving. It's not like a multiple serving, but a real serving cause you don't want to eat too much. You don't want to trigger your brain. And now think of an environment in which it will be safe to eat a single serving. This environment is one that you have not had a stimulus control issue in. So like, I wouldn't advise in your car. I wouldn't advise in your home. You want to take it outside your house. So create a limit. How on how often you might enjoy your trigger food in this setting create a limit. It keeps you from overindulging or abusing the boundary. Like for instance, you say your trigger food is ice cream. If you can't stop eating the ice cream until the carton is empty, our stimulus control strategy would keep ice cream out of your house. But what if you want to be able to enjoy it's creamy goodness every once in a while, you can create a new loving boundary with ice cream. For example, a loving boundary for ice cream might be once a week. I can have a scoop of my favorite at the ice cream parlor, right? Or your local ice cream store. So you're sitting and eating it there, or, you know, outside on the street, but you aren't taking it into your home and you're not buying a carton. You are giving yourself something you enjoy, but in a moderate and measured way outside your environment.

Rita Black: So, that is a way that you can create your loving boundary around your trigger foods. So, I hope with this Halloween season or any season that you might be that you have found this a helpful conversation. So, this Halloween don't buy candy. That is your trigger. Do yourself a loving favor. And if you have kids and they bring that trigger food home, just, you know, have them, keep their candy out of sight, out of mind from you, right. Stimulus control. You might even have a little mantra for yourself. You might have a mantra for yourself that says, you know, it's my kid's candy, not mine, or I don't wear my kids clothes and I don't eat their candy either. Right? So just keep it out of sight. Out of mind, practice stimulus control practice. It's not an option. And you know, if you want to have a Tootsie roll, if that's your thing or trigger food, you know, have it Tootsie roll, but not in your home, not in your car somewhere out and, you know, have one, enjoy it, be mindful of it. And I would also advise having it, not on an empty stomach because that will even tripwire your brain more quickly, but have it after a meal. Okay. And you don't put that loving boundary around it.

Rita Black: Okay. Happy trick or treating, and don't let the treats trick you this Halloween season or any time of the year. And don't be shy. Don't be shy, go in and grab that free sugar craving hypnosis. It might help you this holiday season and grab it before Halloween. Have an amazing, spooky Halloween week. And remember that the key and probably the only key to unlocking the door, the weight struggle is inside you. So keep listening and find it.

Rita Black: Thanks for listening to the thin thinking podcasts. Did that episode go by way too fast for you? If so, and do you want to dive deeper into the mindset of long-term weight release? Head on over to where you'll find numerous tools and resources to help you unlock your mind for permanent weight release, tips, strategies, and more, and be sure to check the show notes to learn more about my book From Fat to Thin Thinking: Unlock Your Mind For Permanent Weight Loss, and to learn how to subscribe to the podcast so that you'll never miss an episode.