recognizing your triggers

Recognizing Your Triggers & Avoiding the Pitfalls of Old Habits

September 28, 2018

You finally did it! You made the life-changing decision to have weight loss surgery. It has been several months now, and you are doing great. You are losing the weight. You have been a model patient by following all of the nutrition guidelines and sticking with your exercise routine. All is going well. That is until you have to go to that family gathering with all of that wonderful food and your nosey relatives. No matter what, managing your new lifestyle after surgery can have its pitfalls. The key is to recognizing your triggers and plan ahead!

We all have those situations that cause us to stress or to overeat. The idea is to make sure that you think about those situations ahead of time so that you can have a plan in place before you deal with it. Take some time to think about those times when saying no is difficult.

For example, when I was younger whenever I visited my grandmother her goal seemed to feed me as much as she could. There was always candy dishes around and as soon as you came in the door she was offering food. This was a situation that was difficult to navigate seeing that for my grandmother, feeding me, equaled love to her. I have heard this from others that food is such a part of their culture or family that it is hard not to overindulge. This is the perfect example of how to identify the trigger and come up with a plan.

Recognizing Your Triggers

The first step is to identify those times, situations or even people that might cause you to move away from the healthy path you have set for yourself. Look back and identify when you fell into mindless eating, stress eating, or just unhealthy behavior.

For most of us, there are definite times this occurs. For you, is it when you get home from work? Is that the time that you abandon your healthy lifestyle for sitting on the couch and mindlessly eating? Or, is it when you go out with friends to a restaurant or for an evening out? Or, is it a specific group of people who seem to bring you down and do not support you? “When are you going to eat like you used to?”  It might be a particular situation. Do you stress eat after a long day at work or after a confrontation?

Step back and look where your setbacks are. If you can identify those triggers, then you can prepare for them.

Having a Plan & Avoiding the Pitfalls of Old Habits

Once you have identified those triggers, come up with a plan on how to deal with them. Planning is key. Think about it this way. You would not send your children out for the day without having a specific plan for them. You know who is going to drop them off, where they are going, what they need to bring with them and who is going to pick them up. You need to do the same thing for yourself.

If you know that a situation is going to be difficult, head it off with a well-laid plan. For example, if you know that you are going to be traveling all day and the fast food places at the airport are too tempting, then plan before you get there. Bring healthy snacks with you. Before you go, explore the food options at the terminals. Usually, there are healthy choices. Not only that but most airports have healthy choices in the shops.

Identify what you are going to eat ahead of time. Head temptation off at the pass. A good friend of mine looks up restaurant menus before we go so she can make her decision BEFORE she gets there! That way she is less tempted by the choices when she gets there. As a bonus, it frees us up to socialize more with each other!

Make Your Health a Priority

Planning ahead can sometimes be tough. Part of the reason it is difficult is that many people are so used to putting others’ needs in front of their own. When you make your health your priority it is easier to avoid pitfalls.

Make yourself the priority. Make your health the priority. Breaking old habits are hard. Human beings are creatures of habit. We like things to be the same. The key to breaking habits is to make small changes. Instead of sitting on the couch eating, find something to do with your hands. Come up with a new hobby using your hands so it is harder to eat while you do it. If you tend to stress eat at work, then plan to walk around the building instead of reaching for junk food.

Small steps are the key to success!

recognizing your triggers
Melissa Bailey


Melissa Bailey, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist with active practices in several states. She has been in the field for over 20 years and received her doctorate from Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Chicago with an emphasis in Health Psychology and is currently head of Bailey Psychology Group. In addition to her private practice, Dr. Bailey has a special interest in the field of Autism. Read more articles from Dr. Bailey!