Trigger Foods

When I was a teenager, I had friends who went to OA (Overeaters Anonymous) meetings. The premise there is that you are powerless over certain foods and, like members of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), you make the decision to abstain from a particular food, for life. At the time I thought, ‘This is ridiculous–I am more powerful than any food!’

As I have aged, I realize that during periods of my life, I am powerless in the face of certain food. Last season it was Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies. This season, it’s Once Again Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter (no salt added).

“It’s organic, how bad can it be?” you ask. Pretty bad when you’re eating it off carrots, fingers, spoons, knives, or anything else to which you could get it to adhere!

It was to the point that every time I walked by the counter, I would have to have a bite (or two). And when Michael (my partner) would empty a jar (leaving at least a tablespoon around the edges), I would oh so generously offer to clean it out for him. My tool of choice was usually a spatula.

Once I admitted that I was indeed powerless in the face of this particular food, things got better. With much chagrin, I asked Michael to 1) put the peanut butter away in a cabinet that I rarely use and 2) put dish soap in the pseudo-empty peanut butter jar and fill it up with warm water.

Fortunately for me, Michael is wonderful and agreed without even so much as a smirk.

I have other triggers, but this season peanut butter is the killer. It’s deadly not because it’s lacking in nutritional value, but because we keep it in the house. Most of my other trigger foods are easier to avoid–such as the “healthy cookies” that I made 36 batches of (and ate) last year when I was going up for tenure, the Dark Chocolate Dove pieces that I would occasionally keep stored in in my desk, or the chocolate croissants at the Dirt Cowboy.

A trigger is not a certain type of food (although most of mine involve lots of sugar and/or fat), but any food that you feel like you have to have whenever you see it. In fact, whenever you have to have anything, you are out of control. And when you are out of control, you are–effectively–powerless.

My first step, like my friends from OA, was to identify the foods not only that I ate uncontrollably, but also triggered the overeating of other foods. The second step was to avoid the ones that I could–that is, I stopped making cookies, I walk down the other side of main street when going into town, and I steer clear of the candy isle at CVS–and make contingency plans to help me deal more effectively with those that I couldn’t. The third step, which was probably the most difficult, was realizing that when I couldn’t manage it on my own, it was perfectly okay to ask for help.

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