5 Ways to Prevent Trigger Happiness

by | March 6, 2018 | Diet and Nutrition, Health

You walk into the house.

You put your bag down in the same spot you always do.

You grab your “favourite” hanger from the closet.

You put the hanger into your jacket the same way as always, left side first, then the right.

You head right to the kitchen and open the fridge like usual.

You sit on the couch,

Turn on the TV

And starting chowing down.

And all of the above happens without any conscious awareness.

Everything you just did was a series of automatic responses.

And those automatic responses were set off by triggers.

Hanging up your coat triggered heading to the fridge.

Opening the fridge triggered grabbing food.

Sitting on the couch meant grabbing the remote.

Grabbing the remote triggered turning on the TV.

Turning on the TV triggered eating.

And so on on and so forth.

So much of our lives are dominated by automatic responses of our bodies to triggers we encounter in our lives.

These triggers could be physical things in our environment.

For example, cookies on the countertop.

Or they could be emotional.

For example, “I am bored”.

Eating is exciting.

“So, I’ll eat.”

Or “I am sad.”

Ice cream makes me happy.

I need ice cream.

These patterns have developed over years of “practice”.

And guess what, the more you do them, the more firmly engrained they become.

Fighting back 

So, it is obvious that triggers can work against you to make you more fat,

Less fit,

A poor role model to your kids,

And a burden on the health care system.

The truth is your brain is lazy and it will always take the path of least resistance.

So, you have to fight back a little bit.

That fighting back will come in the form of you battling against those triggers and automatic responses,

And also by controlling your environment to be more conducive to looking, feeling and living better!


1. Food journal

Bringing what you eat to conscious awareness helps you make the right choices.

Having to commit the food you are eating to a journal makes it real,

And often times, you don’t want to commit that double chocolate mousse to a food journal.

So, a food journal is a great way to start fighting back against an unhealthy habit.

Download a food journal from our friends at Precision Nutrition.

2. Notice and name 

No habit can change without your awareness of it’s existence.

Bringing these thoughts, patterns and behaviours into conscious awareness makes them real.

And it actually starts to change them by simply acknowledging them.

So, the first step to changing a habit is to notice and name what you are experiencing.

Just like we mentioned above, we do need to fight back against these patterns.

And recognize, that it will be a fight, you’re battling against a lifetime of deeply engrained habits.

It won’t happen overnight.

When you find yourself eating without even thinking, here are 3 questions to ask:

i. What do I notice?

Do you hit up the drive-thru after a stressful day at work?

Do you crush cookies when trying to relax?

Do you inhale whoopers at Burger King when you travel?

Do you consume a week’s worth of food when you are home alone?

ii. What would I name that thing I am noticing? 

Is it boredom?


Lack of control?

iii. How will I respond? 

You can then work backwards and break the chain.

As in, disrupt the link between trigger and response.

You would just replace your current behaviour or eating with whatever activity was required to alleviate that feeling you are having.

If you seek relaxation and comfort – take a warm bath or massage.

If you’re bored – find something you actually like to do.

If you’re lonely – take a yoga class to connect with others.

If you stressed – have a spa day.

A great way to begin noticing and naming is using a behaviour awareness journal

3. Red-, yellow-, green-light game

This can be used for foods in your kitchen.

We wrote an article on that here.

This game can also be used for red-, yellow-, green-light situations in your life.

Red-light situations are a no-go. They do not set you up for success.

Eliminate red-light situations.

For example, entering the house through the front door instead of through the kitchen may prevent you from grabbing a Clif bar as you walk past the pantry.

Yellow-light situations are sometimes okay and sometimes not okay.

Proceed with caution.

For example, you have no problem watching TV and not eating….except when you’re alone.

The next thing you know you’re surrounded by empty bags of Doritos,

chocolate chips cookie crumbs,

And a half-empty peanut butter jar.

Green-light situations set you up for success.

These situations fire you up,

Inspire you,

And keep you motivated.

This could include:

A bangin’ playlist that triggers you into gym-mode,

Starting the day with a super shake that prevents over-eating later in the day

Or a morning workout that makes you want to eat well for the rest of day.

4. The discomfort deal 

Let’s be real here.

Change is not easy.

Anything worth doing, is probably uncomfortable at some point in the process.

Being okay with discomfort is part of making change in any aspect of your life.

So, when you want to emotionally eat and have a craving for a Shamrock shake from McDonalds.

Don’t give in to the immediate gratification of the moment.

Wait 5 minutes and think about what you’re feeling.

Sit with it.

If after 5 minutes of thinking about how you feel,

make the choice that feels right.

5. Change your environment

If your kitchen and the people around you are making it impossible to reach our goals,

we wrote an extensive article on how to make your environment work in your favour.

Check it out here

A note on binging and beating yourself up

a. Binging

Often times, people binge to fill some sort of emotional need.

It does serve a purpose.

Just dropping it all together may result in some emotional backlash elsewhere in your life.

The best best bet it to chip away at your binging by

i. seeking out a professional

ii. using a behaviour awareness journal

In the meantime, you can go back to an old favourite.

The first or our anchor habits – eating slowly.

So, what we’re saying is if you feel a binge coming on, just binge slowly.

b. When your unhealthy trigger is beating yourself up

We beat ourselves up on the daily.

“You’re such an idiot, why would you say that?”

“You’re so fat, everyone I going to be staring at you in the gym”

“You don’t deserve happiness”

But, we now know that this does not serve us well.

Being self-compassionate helps you

Lose more fat,

Learn new habits and skills,

Have better relationships,

Have less anxiety,

and have better overall mental health.

So, why subject yourself to the useless torment of self-criticism?

Here’s how Precision Nutrition suggest you fight back against your pattern of self-criticism.

i. Think about how you use criticism to motivate yourself

ii. Write down the trait you criticize yourself about

iii. Write down how that criticism makes you feel

iv. What would your favourite teacher from grade school say to you regarding this trait?

v. Now, write down the most supportive message you can think of regarding this trait

vi. From here on out, when you come down on yourself about this trait, notice and name how it makes you feel and then say your supportive message from the step above.


Many of the actions we take,

The behaviours we consistently do,

And the people we become are a result of automatic responses to the world around us.

Whether those responses are to our physical environment or emotions we experience,

We can often feel like we are at the mercy of these triggers.

But, we can fight back.

It just requires focused effort,

Some conscious awareness,

A little discomfort,

and shaping your environment.

So, ask yourself:

Are you a robot just going through life on autopilot?

Or are you the type of person that takes charge of their life and makes it happen?

The choice is yours to make.

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