Learn to Conquer Your Triggers: Family and Social Events

Weightloss IS 1

Learning to conquer your food triggers at family and social events can be the biggest hurdle on your weight loss journey. In fact, family outings, holidays, and social events can cause dieting disasters.

You are not alone in your struggle. Over 34 percent of Americans over twenty are obese according to a 2007 survey.1 Like most people, you probably have a long list of favorite foods that can be found at the family get-together. The same is true for just about any social event. For some people just being in a social situation is a cue to eat.


When you feel the urge to eat in certain situations – even when you are not really hungry – you are falling victim to your dieting triggers. A trigger causes something to happen. Red wine may cause you to become tired. Watching TV may cause you to crave ice cream or other snacks. If not held in check, triggers can lead to uncontrollable eating.

Trigger Foods

Trigger foods are always prevalent at family and social events. Your personal trigger foods are the foods that cause you to begin a course of overeating. Everybody has different trigger foods.

When you are in the presence of your trigger foods chances are high that you will lose total control. You will lose the diet battle and fall victim to foods that are usually high in sugars and fats.

It is just these foods, foods high in sugars and fats, and refined foods, that are the number one trigger foods at family and social events. Consider foods such as ice cream, potato chips, dips, breads, and other salty and starchy foods. These trigger foods may give you short-term satisfaction because they allow your blood sugar to rise rapidly. Unfortunately, you will soon experience a big crash when the body responds and forces the blood sugar levels to drop.2

Body Cravings

Science tells us that there is proof of these triggers and cravings. ‘Physiologic cravings’ occur most often with refined foods that are high in carbohydrates – breads, chips, cookies. You will experience these cravings as a response to triggers in the first few weeks of dieting.

Many nutritionists compare these trigger foods to a drug. A person can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop eating them. You can have headaches, fatigue, the shakes, and more physical symptoms when you stop eating refined foods or stop using caffeine.

The Environment

Your environment, especially at family and social events, contributes to food triggers. In fact, an environment can become a food trigger. You may notice that certain environments cause you to eat more or different types of food.3

Let’s look at some popular food trigger environments for family and social situations:

  • Movie theaters
  • Family reunions
  • Buffets
  • Sports events
  • Bars
  • Birthday parties
  • Christmas and other holidays

It is important for you to learn to manage your food triggers no matter what the environment. If you are unsure of your trigger environments you can keep a journal. Note when you eat and where. This should give you an easy reference to see the environments that cause you to overeat. It is impossible to control you environment in many situations, however, you can learn to manage your food triggers.

Now that you know what environments trigger you to overeat you can begin the process of managing them. Remember that your trigger food cravings will be greatest in the first weeks of your diet. During this time you may want to avoid trigger environments.

What Can You Do?

There are specific measures you can take to change the way you think, (and eat), about food triggers. First, be honest with yourself about what your triggers are. Do not be embarrassed. Think about why you are hungry, are you hungry or is it a craving, and how you can address the real reason you want to eat.

Stand firm in your decision to conquer your food triggers at family and social events and all other situations. This is a delicate time for you emotional and it is important to have the support of friends and family.

If you are close to giving in to eating the wrong foods, visualize what it will be like when you do eat that Little Debbie. How will you feel? Sometimes imagining the aftermath is enough to get people over the hump.

Constantly go over your commitment to conquer your food triggers. You can develop a new set of distractions or habits that have no food related connotations. For example, when you are experiencing (University of Tennessee Extension) cravings at family or social events or other situations step outside for fresh air. Make a commitment to only eat fresh foods.

You can carry over these trigger changing behaviors to other aspects of your life where food plays a part. When you start to crave a certain type of food remove yourself from the situation if possible. You can brush your teeth, take a walk, e-mail a friend, complete a crossword puzzle, read a novel, walk your dog, or find another activity you love.

Family and social events are one of the biggest pitfalls for dieters. The foods alone are not always the reason that people ‘fall off the dieting wagon’. There are many emotional triggers related to family and social events that trigger eating. Discover your triggers and implement new habits right now for a successful dieting experience.


Overweight and Obesity Statistics. (2011, July). Retrieved from Weight Control Information Network: win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/index.htm#what

2  University of Tennessee Extension. (n.d.). Retrieved from Tennessee Shapes Up: utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP622.pdf

Centers for Disease Control. (n.d.). Retrieved from Causes and Consequences: www.cdc.gov/obesity/causes/index.html


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