Thursday, March 25, 2010

All those Triggers

Have you ever been hypnotized? There is a tool in hypnosis called triggering. This is used in a variety of therapies as well. Basically, it's creating a connection between actions, or between an action and a message.

Negative triggers are ones we often develop over time, and are usually unaware of.

Reaching for sweets when we feel hurt. ("Here, baby, have a cookie while momma puts a bandage on that skinned knee.")

A soda and large popcorn - with butter - at the movie theater. (We've ordered it so many times, we don't even thing twice. And the popcorn is halfway empty by the time the previews are over.)

A donut at the monthly writer's meeting as we chat with friends. ("What? I always have a donut. Its only once a month and everyone else is having one.")

Bailing on exercise when we've had a bad day. (Sure, we know it'll probably make us feel better. But the first day it happened in our exercise commitment, it was easier to collapse on the couch with the excuse that the day sucked and just be done with it. The second sucky day was even easier to justify. By the fourth one, we just head straight to the couch, no justification needed.)

A bad number on the scale, despite dedicated, hard work toward losing weight. Its so hard to do everything right and not see results. This is one of those purely emotional triggers, and this number on the scale often pushes us to throw up our hands, cuss and give it up. After all, we did our best, didn't we?

Usually, we don't even hear ourselves make the decisions for these choices. They are simply habits. Habits triggered by circumstances and whatever emotional tie we've created over time.

How do we break triggers? The first step is awareness. The second is interruption. The third is consistency.

Think of an unhealthy habit and try to figure out the trigger for it. Say the movie theater popcorn, soda (and sometimes redvines, right?). The movie is the trigger for the junk food. This is awareness. Now find an interruption. For me, I knew I didn't want to give up the popcorn, so I pop my own and smuggle it in my purse (shhhhh). For you it might be a smaller soda and popcorn. Or water instead of soda. Or... well, figure out what works. Now -as you start to place your order, interrupt the habit and replace it with the new one. Less junky movie-snacking. The consistency part is pretty much self-explanatory, right? *g*

The most important thing, though, is to be very aware of why you want to change the habit. What's your motivation? Is it strong enough to overcome the trigger urges? If it isn't, you need to find a stronger motivation or avoid the situation until you're able to control the urge.

Next week, I'll talk about motivation triggers and how to create positive triggers that can help you make healthy choices, push you to exercise and inspire you to stick with your program.

So... what are some habits you have, and do you know what triggers the bad choices?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at


Sally Kilpatrick on March 25, 2010 at 10:31 AM said...

Hmmm. Bad habits. I'm really bad about wanting something sugary in the afternoon when my blood sugar hits its inevitable low. I can often combat that by making sure to eat a snack before I hit that point, but if I'm traveling or something then I sometimes miss the mark.

As for the movies, the price of admission kept me from buying snacks last time. ; )

Michelle Butler on March 25, 2010 at 10:36 AM said...

This was really helpful, Tawny. Most of my triggers to overeat come from emotions - particularly negative ones - stress, nervousness, anger, anxiety, doubt, etc. I've done a lot to break that trigger cycle in the past year with a lot of success, but I still have those moments when I give in to that trigger. Sometimes I'm aware of what I'm doing and sometimes I'm not.

Another trigger for me can just be opportunity or seeing tasty but unhealthy food - particularly if it's a buffet/serve yourself situation. This can be all the free food that is at work after catered events or when I'm eating out.

One of my "trigger" foods is chips and salsa. And, I think the unlimited serving aspect of it hurts too. But, I love it. I'm not sure I want to eliminate it from my diet - though I do have it much less frequently.

Michelle Butler on March 25, 2010 at 3:39 PM said...

So, was anyone else "triggered" to go get a treat while waiting for a GH or Rita call that may not have come? Sigh. At least my starbuck's earl grey latte with skim milk had some nutritional value because of the milk - not so much the oatmeal chocolate cookie OR my pizza lunch. I'm still within my points for the day, but I can't say I hit a home run in terms of nutrition today. My breakfast was very healthy though!

I do think one of our followers is a GH finalist. Heather Snow, is that you? If so, congratulations. My critique partner Laura Graham Booth is also a GH finalist. Yay, Laura. Anyone else out there???

Tawny on March 25, 2010 at 10:23 PM said...

LOL Sally -that price of admission is good at inhibiting consumption, isn't it?

Knowing your tendency toward crashing blood sugar must really help you avoid the trigger to junk-eat, huh? Like you say, we handle it when we can. When we can't, well, we try to handle it next time :-)

Tawny on March 25, 2010 at 10:24 PM said...

Michelle, its great that you have such a great handle on most of your triggers. It really does help to know what makes us go in certain directions, even if we can't quite stop ourselves from actually going all the time.

Unlimited portions of anything are hard for me, too. Chips and salsa, bread, all of that stuff. Why don't restaurants offer up free baskets of carrots and celery, for crying out loud?

Tawny on March 25, 2010 at 10:25 PM said...

:-D It was an exciting day watching those GH/RITA lists grow, wasn't it?!

My CP, the amazing Beth Andrews, finaled in the RITA with my favorite book in the world. I'm so proud of her, and did manage to avoid all triggers while waiting to hear (by sleeping) and after the news was out (by working)

Michelle Butler on March 26, 2010 at 9:14 AM said...

Awesome news about Beth! It was a great book. (I'm a superromance fan and read and enjoyed it a lot.)

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