I wrote a blog post recently called “The One Food You Just Can’t Give Up May Be What’s Messing You Up The Most”. In the post, I surmised that your intense emotional/physical cravings for one particular food (you know which one it is) may be a good indicator that that food is not so great for your body.
It may be coffee, Doritos, Diet Coke, alcohol, chocolate, corn, or something else – foods that pique our taste buds and switch off our self-control. Foods that distract us from our work and families and ease the pain of life a little bit. You can often pick people’s trigger food out in conversation when they refer to it as “my coffee,” “my popcorn,” etc. As in, “If I don’t get my coffee in the morning, watch out!”
If you don’t possess any food triggers, consider yourself blessed by the gods of purity and feel free to stop reading now.
But if you’re currently salivating over just the thought of your trigger food, then please read on. Whatever that certain food does to our brains, it’s powerful – that is for sure. Even just the thought of giving it up can be gut wrenching and scary. Sort of like this.
But our bodies often react, paradoxically, in an addictive way to foods we are sensitive to. That’s why the guy who is very sensitive to corn may be wildly partial to whiskey. Or the person who is sensitive to gluten may never be able to get enough of her bread and always craves it.
In other words, the one food we can not resist may be contributing to certain health issues, like insomnia, skin problems, digestive issues, etc. It seems like a dirty trick nature plays on us or something, testing our will power. Either way, in my opinion, it’s worth testing out whether you’d be happier and healthier without “your” trigger food.
Testing Your Trigger Food
I can tell you (like I did in my last blog post) to just give it up and that’s that. Bam, you stop eating your popcorn/bread/Starbucks Frappuccino and your life is better. But I know that’s easier said than done, so here are some tips about the process. Next week I’ll give you a 10-step path to quitting your trigger food.
How much time do you need to actually feel a difference in your symptoms?
Well, to be honest it could be as short as one day, but it depends on the symptom. For instance, if you get headaches every day and you don’t eat the food that gives you headaches for a day, you may not get a headache. But if your symptom is eczema and you’ve had it for years, then it might only take a couple of days for the eczema to stop being so inflamed and itchy, but it may take a month for it to completely go away. Because of this variability in time requirements, you have to be diligent about monitoring your symptom(s).
Do you have to give the food up forever?
That really depends. There are some foods that people’s bodies just can’t handle ever. Then there are foods that you may be able to have in small doses some time in the future when your body is healed up a bit. This topic warrants an entire blog post on its own, so I’d just say be prepared to give it up for at least 6 months to a year before you try putting it back into your diet successfully. And even then, it shouldn’t be a regular thing or you’ll likely end up back where you are now.
Give yourself undeniable evidence that it’s worth it throughout the process.
- Take pictures of your eczema/acne/psoriasis before you give up the food. Or write down how much of your body it was covering and how itchy/inflamed it was when you started. Continue to take pictures and write about it every few days.
- Write down when you have headaches and how severe they are in your calendar. Start writing them down before you give up the food so you can remember later on how frequent and intense they were after you remove the food.
- If yours is an emotional symptom like anxiety, just write a brief synopsis each night of how much anxiety you had that day. Or write down a number from 1 to 10 in your google calendar ranking your anxiety for the day.
- Get feedback from your friends and significant other about how you’re doing, whether it’s a visible symptom or a mood thing. Sometimes they can see you more clearly than you can.
- Whatever the symptom is – weight loss, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, joint pain, irritability, constant cravings, etc. – just make a note of what your symptoms look and feel like while you’re still eating the food and how they end up looking and feeling over time after you stop eating it.
- It doesn’t necessarily need to be written down, but it’s way easier to see results or lack thereof if it is.
Don’t have your trigger food in your house, if at all possible.
If you have it in your house now, eat/drink it all up before you start, or give it away to a friend. If you have roommates or family and they want it in the house, maybe ask them for their support and see if you guys can remove it from the house for a week. Maybe that means they just hide it in their rooms, and that’s fine. Whatever it takes to keep your eyes and nose away from it for as long as possible will be helpful. Otherwise you’re going to have to conjure some serious resolve…
If it’s freely available at your work all the time, then you’ll definitely want to find a substitute for yourself so you at least have something while everyone else is having your most favorite food.
Take a B-vitamin complex supplement.
B vitamins support adrenal and brain function and can help curb cravings. I love Designs for Health, the brand pictured here, and this page is a cheap source of it. They use natural folate instead of folic acid, which has some potentially cancer causing effects.
A lot of us are depleted in B’s due to stress, birth control pills, other pharmaceuticals, or a vegetarian or otherwise nutrient-depleted diet.
I take a B complex as well as SAM-e, which is a natural precursor to serotonin, and they greatly improve my mood and ability to think clearly. Sometimes that’s all it takes when you’re trying to give up a food.
So in summary, take it one day at a time. Remove as many temptations as you possibly can, record your progress so you can look back and say, “Yeah, this is working,” when you’re really tempted to give up, and take some B-vitamins. Next week I’ll go into more detail about how to successfully remove your trigger food so you can see whether or not it’s actually affecting you.