Take Back Control of Trigger Foods


You don’t have to have a trigger food.

Yet, there’s so much talk about trigger foods on social media we’ve become unconsciously conditioned to believe that we all have one and that having one is a part of life.

You don’t have to have a trigger food. 

The development of a trigger food is exponentially more likely if you have a history of dieting. And this is the case because many diets tell you NOT to eat certain foods or instill some form of fear around a particular food or food group.

The result is a form of RESTRICTION. 

If a specific food feels like a trigger food, it’s a sign that you’re restricting yourself to some degree – this may be emotionally or mentally, too, not just literal physical or nutritional restriction.

In today’s episode, I’m sharing a behind-the-scenes replay of a recent Wednesday 5% Fire Coaching Call within The 5% Community with you.

Throughout the episode, you’ll work to develop an understanding of the origin of your beliefs around this specific food and how they’re working against you. Then, you’ll be introduced to a step-by-step process to begin conquering this trigger food so that you can make peace with it and feel in control of it once and for all! 

Start Listening!

Thank you for being here.

If you found today’s episode valuable, please share it with a friend or family member who would benefit from hearing today’s message.

Follow me on Instagram – @paulsaltercoaching 
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Episode Key Highlights:

  • Learn what I specifically define as a trigger food and be walked through an exercise to help not only uncover your trigger food(s) by the reason you label them as such.
  • Recognize the common process that transcends a food you used to enjoy into one you now call a “trigger” food.
  • Understand the myriad of reasons that a specific food eventually gets placed into the trigger food category (this is important to know!).
  • Discover the framework I’ve used for years to help others make peace with their trigger foods once and for all!

How I Can Help You:

I help women over 30 lose weight and rebuild limitless confidence so that they never have to diet again. 

To date, I’ve personally coached more than 1,500 women and helped them to collectively lose 10,000+ pounds of body fat and keep it off for good, while simultaneously empowering them with the education, strategies, and accountability needed to feel and look their best. 

Click here to learn more about how I can help you.
Follow me on Instagram – @paulsaltercoaching


Paul Salter:

You don’t have to have a trigger food, yet there’s so much talk about trigger foods on social media that we’ve become unconsciously conditioned to believe that we all have to have one and that having one is just simply a part of life. But let me tell you again, you don’t have to have a trigger food.

Hey, I’m registered dietician, Paul Salter, and you are listening to Screw the Scale Radio. If you’ve been losing and regaining the same 20 pounds and struggling to have a positive relationship with food and a loving relationship with yourself, you’re in the right place. Ready to get out of your own way and truly feel and look your best? Buckle up as I dive deep beyond the nutritional Xs and Os to teach you how to build massive amounts of self-confidence, self-love and self-trust so that you can not only lose the weight you desire and keep it all for good, but truly feel your best.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another episode of Screw the Scale Radio. Stoked to be hanging out and connecting with you yet again. And today, I have a very special episode, a behind the scenes look at one of our most recent coaching calls within the 5% community where we tackle the hell out of trigger food. If you are someone who is sick of feeling stuck in the weight loss, regain cycle, hopping from one diet to the next without ever experiencing lasting results and you’re ready to finally learn how to keep the weight off for good, but more importantly, become the most confident, loving, sexy version of yourself who truly understands how to put her own needs first? Then I invite you to connect with me. Reach out to learn more about joining the 5% community to give you the opportunity to surround yourself with like-minded women with unmatchable coaching, support, education, and accountability to help you feel, look and be the best version of yourself. Send me a DM on Instagram @paulsaltercoaching with just 5%, and I’ll gladly reach out to connect with you and we can get a time on the calendar to discuss a little bit more about what the 5% community is, what your goals and biggest frustrations are to see if it’s a mutual perfect fit. But without further ado, onward we go to tackling trigger foods.

And with that said, the last one I have, or two quick ones, just a big, warm welcome to our newest members, Angie and Emily, and then a big just freaking shout out to all of you. The energy and the engagement in the community the last 10 to 14 days, holy shit, Kelly and I are messaging because I was like, “What the fuck has gotten into everyone? This is awesome.” We are excited. Let’s keep it up. It’s such a wonderful way to start the year.

But I want to remind you that we can bring this energy into February. Yeah, Alison, January is a hell of a drug, but we can always harness this energy. It is always inside us. And we’re all going to have our fair shares of harder days, down days, whatever we want to call it, but we always have that potential right inside of us. Remember that, and let’s continue to roll with that positive energy and momentum into January and well into 2023.

And with that said, we are going to move into talking about trigger food. Tonight’s conversation, going to be some education, going to be some exercises, some journal prompts, a little bit of everything in between to talk about taking back control from our trigger foods. And to kick off our conversation this evening, I want to just formulate our working definition of trigger foods for this evening. For our purposes, a trigger food is one that you feel out of control around and as if you cannot stop eating after one or a single serving size. You may also know a trigger food by another name. You might have heard of it or call it a binge food, a forbidden food, or an off-limit food. But again, for our purposes, trigger food is something that you feel out of control around and as if you cannot stop eating after one or eating after a single portion size.

Now, that begs the question, how does a food become a trigger food? How do we separate that? And how does that one get its own special label and status? And the really obvious answer is the easiest way to develop a trigger food is to step foot in the diet industry. Yeah, we’ve just got so much misinformation, so many terrible pieces of information being shared, best practices, diet recommendations that really mess with our relationship with food and set us up to develop some restrictive and unhealthy behaviors.

But on a serious note, the development of a trigger food is exponentially more likely if you have a history of dieting or trying to lose weight, which all of us do. It really makes us more susceptible to start really developing this unhealthy relationship with a specific food or a specific nutrient because we’ve likely been informed that that is mandatory in order to achieve our weight loss goal. And the approach that so many, whether it’s a diet coach company or plan, take around certain food rules and foods is they demonize a certain food and they start to instill a sense of fear.

One of the most common examples, if you eat too many carbohydrates, magically you’d gain 10 pounds of fat overnight, therefore we instill fear in this delicious food group of carbohydrates. And that sends us down a very vicious path of binging and restricting, binging and restricting. And ultimately, your trigger food and your relationship with that food is the result of some form of restrictive practice.

Now, if a food feels like a trigger food for you, it is absolutely a sign that you are restricting yourself to some degree, but not just the obvious restriction of, “I can’t have that Oreo,” or, “I can’t have the ice cream,” there may also be an underlying component of either emotional or mental restriction too. And you might be wondering what do I mean by that? For example, we know our trigger foods are very tasty, delicious foods. They make us feel good. Even if it’s for that microsecond moment, they make us feel really, really good. But we might get stuck in this pattern of restricting how good we let ourselves feel. Maybe there is an underlying belief that we don’t deserve to feel that good. We don’t deserve to feel happy, we are not worthy of success or happiness. That too can really become involved when we think of food being one of the most common coping mechanisms to manage our emotions. Something to keep in mind as well.

Now, on that note, we need to talk about food is a coping mechanism for a minute because restriction and your relationship with the diet industry and past dieting attempts, big, collective culprit behind the development of a trigger food. But it’s also important to acknowledge utilizing food as a coping mechanism. Your personal taste preference when using said food as a coping mechanism absolutely comes into play here. And because, as human beings, we are creatures of habit, the momentary positive impact the first time you used ice cream or wine or a bag of potato chips to soothe your emotions and you started to have that awareness even if it was subconsciously that eating said food made you feel feeling X, Y, or Z, because we’re creatures of habit, we begin to repeat that behavior every time we feel feeling A and we want to feel feeling B. Your trigger food is also a result of just human beings being inclined to develop routine and for being creatures of habit.

Continuing on, common reasons a food becomes labeled as a trigger food. First and foremost, remember, you are the only one who gave that food a label. It’s not like you were taught in elementary school, “Hey, donuts and Skittles and cookies are trigger foods.” You are the one who assigned that label to a specific food. And it’s really important to acknowledge and to take ownership of that because one of the key reminders I want you to take away from this evening is that you are in control, not the food. You put the food in your mouth. The food does not jump off the plate or the fork or the spoon and into your mouth. You are always in control of the food, but you’re also always in control of how you label, view and interact with that food as well.

Common reasons that a food might evolve into a trigger food, first and foremost, a lack of self-trust. You don’t trust yourself to have whatever you deem to be an appropriate portion, which is very relative and unique to you, but you don’t trust yourself to execute or act accordingly. Can also become a trigger food when there is misinformation. Thank you, internet, thank you, social media, thank you, diet industry. Lack of feelings of control, unmanaged and repressed emotions, and offhand or rude remark or comment from childhood can absolutely set the stage to developing a very unhealthy relationship or to see a food in a certain light, and then also you, again being the one in charge of labeling some foods as good, some foods as bad and some foods as trigger foods. But I remind you, you are in control of not only how you label, view and interact with food, but actually putting that food in your mouth, not the food jumping off of your plate.

And the last reminder I want to share before we dig into some exercises here for a period of time is that you don’t have to have a trigger food. You don’t have to. You can make peace with all of your foods. And we’re going to walk through a step-by-step process to do that this evening. But I think it’s really important to start accepting, celebrating and taking full ownership of this possibility. Amy, I’m going to call you out because we’ve talked about it before. Just chips and queso you can just enjoy lovingly; they don’t have to be a trigger food. I can enjoy cookies in peace with the utmost intentionality and mindfulness, and ice cream and peanut butter; I got a few to work on, but neither here nor there.

But the thing is you get to determine how you view and label foods. And you don’t have to have trigger foods. Again, similarly, when you had your indoctrination into the diet industry, someone didn’t walk up to you and say, “Hey, you need to choose three foods to consider bad foods and choose two foods to be considered trigger foods.” No one ever asked that of you so you never have to have a trigger food. However, all of us do, and most of us probably have more than one. And it’s really important that when it comes to really changing our relationship with that certain food, we focus on one at a time. And we’ll walk through that in just a little bit.

But what I would love to know right now, using the chat box, what foods did we bring this evening? What did we bring to the table? I’ve got some cookies here. I’m not at my house, but there’s also chocolate chips in my fridge, ice cream in my freezer, but I brought the cookies along. We’ve got chips and queso, Dr. Pepper, dark chocolate, cookies, ice cream, whipped cream, wine, kettle corn, box of truffles. Chlo, I didn’t even see you sneak in here. Welcome, welcome. Gummy bears, wine, brownies, cookies, spicy jalapeno Cheetos. Oh, that’s very specific, very specific. Oh, melted chocolate chips and peanut butter. You’re after my heart. Woo. That’s tasty. Cheez-its. Yeah, Cheez-its, those are good. Like the spicy Cheez-its especially, Kelly? Those are really good. But I digress. I won’t get us too sidetracked. Just curious; wanted to know what we’re working with here. It seems like there’s a theme of sweet, but we got a few outliers who love the salty as well. Yeah, Amy, it must be a Maryland thing. I don’t know. They’re so good, so, so good.

Placing your trigger food in your hand right now, if you do have it handy, holding it, I just want you to drop an adjective or two to describe how you feel holding this food in your hand if it still exists, April, if it is still present. I’m sensing a theme. Janet says, “Uncontrollable. Mouth would water.” Oh yeah, that’s a good point. Guilty. Feels like true love. Mindless munching. Like I shouldn’t even have one. Carrie, do you deserve one? Just curious. You can type that in the chat. Lisa, great answer, “Ready to enjoy.” Chlo, “It was delicious.” Oh, Sarah, really good, some compassionate curiosity there, “Wondering how I feel if I drink it.” Dr. Pepper is very good. Yeah, absolutely. “Being that it is closed, wanting to open it. If it was open, I would just want to have some.” Okay, great Awareness on just how you are feeling.

And I want to take that one step further now. And you might have a similar answer. Carrie, great answer, appreciate you following up. You might have a similar answer to this question, but I do want you to think about it and see if your answer differs. Reflecting back to the most recent time you indulged more than you planned to or wanted to on this particular trigger food, can you identify the root feeling that might have served as the catalyst for that behavior? Stress, lack of connection, lack of attention, boredom, filling a void, excitement. That’s a good one. Hunger. Racist shit, yep. Shouldn’t be eating this, fun and tipsy, boredom, yeah, anxious, stress, tired. Very good.

The reason I bring this up, because, as we know and everything I talk about, it’s feelings, feelings, feelings. But I had this epiphany today on a walk. If you’re familiar with the book, The Habit Loop, great book, it’s by Charles Duhigg. It was the most groundbreaking book on habits until James Clear wrote Atomic Habits; it blew everything up. Both are great books, but The Power of Habit is really cool, and the way it introduced how habit formation occurs is a three-step process. There is a cue, and he also uses the synonym trigger, that triggers a routine to achieve a reward. Cue, routine, reward is his little loop.

But it hit me that there has to be something that precedes that cue. And in the case of trigger foods, it’s a feeling, it is absolutely a feeling. 90% of the time or 100% of the time until we’re having tonight’s conversation, that feeling was below your conscious awareness. It was there. It was somewhere in your body. And you might be able to reflect back and think, oh, yep, when I feel anxious or stressed, I feel tightness in my chest. Or when I’m anxious, I feel knots in my stomach or a piercing headache. But there’s always a feeling present.

Again, and you’ve probably heard me say this before on past coaching calls, it is such a powerful tool of awareness if you can start to associate when you feel some of those, and I’ll use this term loosely, negative feelings, which are just communication signs like stress, like anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, despair, frustration, or anger, if you can identify specifically where you feel them in your body, that is a wonderful way to start understanding and recognizing that you’re on the verge of feeling a certain way the moment your stomach starts to clench up or your chest feels tight. And it’s just a good little tool and piece of awareness to have because as soon as you notice your chest start tightening, physically you might recognize that’s associated with stress, that’s one of my personal ones, before you put it together, oh shit, I’m feeling stressed, and then you go down the rabbit hole of managing your stress with food or some other unhealthy non-behavior that you want to indulge in. Something to keep in mind there. Very, very important tool is recognizing what is the normal feeling that precedes gravitating toward that trigger food.

And building off of this progression, we know how we feel, we know what precedes the eventual conquering of devouring that delicious food, using the chat box again, how do you typically feel after? Let’s be real, let’s be honest. Do we feel guilty? We feel excited, like shit. Yep. Big, bloated stomach. Feel worse. Yeah, bloated; there it is. Disappointed, sick, guilty, gross, bloated, crappy, physical reaction, shaky. Yeah. And it’s not like this is groundbreaking, new information, this piece, you know if you go eat an entire bag of spicy Cheez-its or an entire tray of Oreos, you’re probably going to feel like shit after. And logically we know this, but remember, the feeling or the emotion that preceded the behavior has greatly turned down the volume of our logical, rational, critical, decision making brain and turned up the emotionally reactive one, the one that is in the driver’s seat is more likely to make irrational decisions. Just that recognition is important because, again, if we’re working at the very beginning of this little cue routine, reward cycle, and I’m telling you to identify the feeling. The better you can connect those negative emotions that tend to fuel this type of behavior with some type of physical sensation in your body, the quicker you’re going to be able to catch it and then introduce a new strategy to turn up the volume of your logical, rational, critical, thinking part of your brain.

And I will never get tired of saying that one of the best ways to do that is to find your breath. Complete a round of box breathing, in through the nose, one, two, three, four, holding for four, exhaling for four, and holding for four again. Your breath helps to bring presence and awareness to that particular moment and gives you back a sense of control.

And then the last question I have, then I’ll pause for questions from either one of you, is using the same food, the same set of questions we’ve been going through, what do you feel is the origin of this food’s evolution into a self labeled trigger food? Why is this food becoming labeled as a trigger food for you? What do you think is the reason behind that? When did it occur?

And I can tell you, one of mine for a long time was bread. You’ll never see bread in my house. I love bread. Once in a while I’ll go to Publix, get a freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread; it’s phenomenal. But I remember when I was in the early stages of my body building career, this must have been 2012 or 2013, I read an article that basically, more or less, was titled, Bread Makes You Fat. Someone focused on body building, that was like, oh my gosh, never again will I eat bread. I didn’t eat bread for years. And I still catch myself sometimes having that little voice pop up into my ear, “Hey, you probably shouldn’t eat that bread.” And again, logically I know that, but it was so ingrained so deeply in my psyche with such an emotional charge, I can still remember reading that article. There was a picture of a delicious looking loaf of bread as the title image drastically altered my relationship with bread. Now, fortunately, going to Europe will help alleviate that because all the bread there is delicious, but neither here nor there.

It’s important to recognize where did this belief come from? Where did it come from? Because, as I shared in the beginning of this call, it’s not like someone asked you when you first stepped foot into the diet and fitness industry, “Hey, what are your two trigger foods?” You developed this belief, you created this label, you put these foods in this category, so you need to recognize when and where that happened. How did it happen? Why did it happen? Amy. Oh, you guys are funny. Get really clear on where.

And it’s important too just to check in real quick. As we’re going through this, for many of us, trigger foods have a very strong emotional component so it’s just an important time to remember, give yourself some grace here. A lot of this, you didn’t make these decisions because, I’ll be candid, you were misled in some capacity by someone or some aspect of the diet industry, but you did the best you could with what you knew at the time. And you know what? For part of that time, giving up a certain food or food group, it might have played a small difference in helping you achieve a goal because it probably influenced other better decisions and other areas of your life. But give yourself grace, the utmost forgiveness, and just explore those past behaviors with compassionate curiosity.

Any questions right now? Any components of what I’ve shared so far that I can clarify before we keep moving full steam ahead? Sarah, any questions from you? Good? Okay. Carrie? You look deep in thought; I’m just checking in. Okay, Lisa, any questions? Danielle? All right, full steam ahead. Let’s keep moving.

And we’ll pivot our discussion to talking about how to begin making peace with and rebuilding a self-trust with those old trigger foods. Here’s a big reminder. You know how much I like to harp on every single one of you, myself included, for your word choice and your self-talk. And we’re going to keep with that theme. From this point forward, we are going to start talking about the concept of a trigger food in the past tense. “This food used to be my trigger food.” And if it helps, you can call it your peace food, your fun food, your favorite food. But if we’re going to use the word trigger, we’re going to talk about it in the past tense. We’re already setting the stage mentally up here that we have conquered that food and we are moving forward. And then, again, I invite you if it feels right, your fun food, your favorite food, whatever else you want to call it.

One of the many wonderful aspects of our brains is that they are really, really good at finding evidence, sorting through decades of memories and snippets of information to support the stories we tell ourselves. If you continue to tell yourself, “You suck. You’re a failure. You’re stupid,” your brain will find 1,000,001 different memories to reinforce that belief so it just becomes deeper and deeper ingrained in your psyche. But the same holds true, if you start focusing on some of the positive experiences you had, enjoying the perfect amount of chips and queso and the perfect number of cookies or the perfect a portion of salt and vinegar chips, and you handled it with grace and you felt in control and you felt great after, your brain will start finding those memories to reinforce the fact that you have conquered that food; it is no longer a trigger of food.

I want you right now to think about what is one occasion you can remember in which you did indulge in that food, but you did so feeling in control and you felt, if not positive after, at least neutral and indifferent? Can you find a memory or experience of that happening? April, right now. Okay, I like it. Andrea’s made peace with ice cream portions. Very good. Yeah, my mom makes this… Well, I don’t even know how to describe it. This chocolate walnut toffee stuff. She only makes it once a year during the Christmas holidays. And every year, I like to go really hard when I visit home for a few days on it. But this year, I was able to just take a couple pieces out of the little tin container, put it on my plate, slowly eat it, and go about just the rest of the day. It was a big win for me because sometimes it’s all or nothing with that food. There’s much emotion wrapped up in that food because that’s my childhood. I haven’t lived at home in 12 years. Or, no, longer that; 14 years. There’s an emotional component there.

Let’s see, Christmas chocolate ganache pie tonight after dinner. Angela says, “Sunday got a king size Kit Kat and been slowly enjoying it.” Reese’s are better, but Kit Kats are pretty good, Kit Kats are pretty good. No, I’m just kidding, Angela. Good, very, very good.

Take the time and don’t overlook this question. It might sound silly, but there is an opportunity in your past to remind yourself, “Hey, I did eat that food and I was fully in control. And I had no shame and no guilt.” Get clear on that. Start remembering that. Remember how you felt. Remember how capable you were, because you still are that capable, and even more capable.

And again, it goes along the lines of your brain being really good at being able to pull those memories from the past to reinforce the new story that we are now telling ourselves, that we have conquered that food. It is no longer a trigger food. Yeah, a lot of Kit Kat.


Quality. A clarification.

Paul Salter:



Is a trigger food mean you have to binge it? Or is it the fact that you feel guilty? Or you say, “Screw it, I’m all…” Because we’ve also learned that no food is off limits. Well, I feel guilty because I’m trying to… I can’t eat a portion of chips and dip that really can fit into your macros very well or you’re going to be hungry, and so you’re giving up on… You’re not eating good nutrition, and so there’s a guilt to it. But I’m not a binge eater till I’m sick. Yeah, it happens, for sure. And chips is one. And wine can happen. I was just curious, is trigger, is it a all or none type thing? Or is it a binge? Or is it just how it makes you feel, like guilty, like I can’t enjoy it?

Paul Salter:

All of the above, but let me clarify and repeat. The working definition that we’re using tonight, Betsy, is that, one, is a food that you feel out of control around and as if you can’t stop eating. But that also implies there’s absolutely a level of guilt associated or some type of negative emotion that does not leave you feeling your best. Yes, there might be the foods where you’re able to control it but you don’t feel after, but I think a trigger foods, one slight unique differentiation is you have trouble stopping that amount that you’re eating. There’s an absence of control there that’s missing.


Okay, thanks. One Oreo for some is a whole role or a whole package.

Paul Salter:

Guilty, but yes. Thank you for asking that. Okay, so we talked about the collective experiences. The next reminder I have, and then we’re going to go into a five step process here, is, again, when we’re trying to conquer those trigger foods, we start with one, just one. Don’t go tackle the Oreos, the salt and vinegar chips, the Cheez-its the wine all in one fellow swoop; it doesn’t work. And to be honest, you probably have a different relationship and underlying emotional attachment with each one of those certain foods, you create a massively uphill battle. Start with one, and start with one for a period of 30 days. That is the timeline that we are going to use to completely conquer that food and to turn it into a peace, fun, or just enjoyable food that is completely absent of that trigger label.

And the way that we’re going to do that is by acting or answering or either executing one of these five questions or tasks. The five step process to conquering your trigger foods begins with this: How do you want to feel after eating this food? Again, all back to feelings. How do you want to feel? Do you want to feel satisfied, like your taste buds danced, accomplished, fulfilled, content, happy, pleased, over the moon? I don’t know, but get really, really clear because, as you’ve heard me say a million times, when you’re clear on how you want to feel, you can take the most appropriate and the most effective action steps to feel that way.

For example, let’s say you want to feel in control while eating Oreos. Maybe what that looks like is you take three out of the little tray or sleeve container and you put them back in the pantry, you walk into a different room and you go slowly, mindfully, with the utmost presence, enjoy them. Maybe you pick them apart, eat one at a time, whatever your preferred way is to eat set Oreo. But you have implemented a level of control because you stated you want to feel in control, and then you took the action steps; you only chose three, you went to a different room. And maybe you’re going one step further in getting really specific on how you eat and enjoy those Oreos.

Number two, how do you want to feel during the actual act of eating that food? And more than likely, most of us just want to feel present or aware because what often happens, and this is me speaking from my experience, I’m sure there’s some relatability here, is we eat that portion in the blink of an eye. It’s like, holy shit, 10 Oreos went down just like that, or that Ben and Jerry’s pint of ice cream was there 30 seconds ago, I swear. How do you want to feel during the actual process of eating that food?

Similarly, that allows you to take action steps, set boundaries. And one of my favorite ones is putting the utensil down in between bites, engaging in conversation, taking a drink of water. One of the few times it could be very advantageous to have your phone nearby just to at least stop you from eating, to slow you down. Setting a timer, setting a reminder on your phone, reading a book, watching a video from the curriculum. My little shameless plug there. Whatever it may be.

Step three, for conquering trigger foods, purchase the trigger food. Have the food in your house because, first and foremost, it’s no longer a trigger food; we’re conquering that son of a gun. But you have to have it around. Your ability to blend emotional management, energy management, restraint, willpower, whatever label or word we want to use here depends on repeated exposure. Over time, with the right support, the right framework, the right deep work, you’re able to build that collective amount of willpower and discipline and restraint up just like a muscle, so you need to have repeated bouts of exposure. You have to have it in the house, so you’re going to go purchase it.

Step number four is a series of reminders and affirmations. And I strongly, strongly encourage and invite you to speak these to yourself before you eat whatever that food is that used to be a trigger food. First and foremost, give yourself permission to eat the food. Fuck that all or nothing mindset; you have absolute permission to enjoy that food whenever you please. Give yourself permission. You do not need to feel guilty for enjoying the Kit Kat, the Reese’s, the Butterfinger, the ice cream, the wine, whatever it may be.

Remind yourself that you are in control. The food is not in control, the bread is not in control, you are in control always. Remind yourself that you can stop after X amount, whenever the appropriate portion size you have deemed, saying, “I can stop after three Oreos. I am in control.” That goes a long way. You’re setting an intention, you’re bringing presence to that moment.

And then remind yourself that no single food makes you fat. No single food, no single meal, no single moment of eating undos, all of your… undoes, rather, all of your hard work ever. It’s very easy to make a really, really big deal out of overindulging in a particular food because we do carry so much guilt after the fact. But no one food is ever responsible for such a significant event or change in your body fat percentage. No, not at all. Give yourself those reminders.

And lastly, let’s get tactical. How are we going to start implementing that food into our day? The best approach to begin incorporating a daily Kit Kat or ice cream or glass of wine, whatever it may be, is adding that particular food, and I’m going to use this word very loosely, to what I would call a safe meal. And what do I mean by that? One that is simply in line with your blueprint. It checks all the boxes of protein, veggie, carbs, and fats.

For example, maybe you’re having grilled steak sirloin, a baked potato, some steamed broccoli, and a cup of ice cream on the side. Maybe you are having your egg white omelet with all of the veggies and whatnot, but you’re adding some delicious peanut butter to your bagel, your English muffin, or your toast. Add it to a meal that you already know is nutritious and delicious so that, first and foremost, it feels a little safer. You’re not just sitting down with Oreos, which are not going to be filling, for example. You have this wholesome meal you can feel really good about, and that feel good feeling ripples into your positive relationship that you are now reestablishing with whatever food used to be a trigger food. You’re not going to add it in isolation, you’re going to add it to an already well composed meal that is absolutely in line with your blueprint. It creates such a wonderful, safe space to do so. And after having that full meal and whatever that food that you added to it is, you’re going to be full, so that’s also putting you in a good position because, again, three Oreos, not satisfying whatsoever.

Next, this I guess is technically number six, maybe, it’s the number five. I know I said five, neither here nor there. But how often do we start implementing this food? How often do we start adding it to our safe meal? There’s no wrong way to do it, but I’m going to give you my two cents on how I would recommend you do it. Again, using that 30 day framework, I’m going to substitute and just say four weeks, here’s what I recommend: Week one, you add it once, week two, you add it twice, week three, three times. I think you see where I’m going with this. By the fourth week, you’re eating that food that used to be a trigger food four times. We’re building up repeated exposure, giving you more opportunities to feel comfortable with it, to learn from it.

And again, absolutely free of judgment with the utmost compassionate curiosity when we reflect back because every single time you introduce that food, you need to go through a series of thoughts or answer a few questions to learn from the experience because the times that you feel really good after, remember, success leaves clues. We want to duplicate the shit out of that so we need to understand why did you feel so good after? Why did you feel so in control and then so fulfilled and satisfied after?And then conversely, the times where you felt like shit or you ate more than you planned, why did that happen? Let’s learn from that.

There’s a couple questions we need to ask. And of course, I’ll put all this in writing in the channel as well. But they are as follows: First and foremost is a little prep work. You’re going to fill in the blank, “I am planning to eat this food,” Oreos, tacos, chips and quesos, “on this day and at this time with this meal. I’m planning to add three Oreos on Tuesday with dinner.”

And then the second part is you’re going to explicitly write out what you are having with that meal. “I’m going to enjoy three Oreos with my grilled shrimp, my baked potato, and my big ass salad.” I know some of this sounds like, oh my gosh, this is painstakingly mundane and overly simple, but the reason for this particular step is, again, we want to really build up that safe environment and show, look, you’re having the protein, the veggie, the carbon, and the fat, and then you’re having that other delicious food that you enjoy. It is such a safe place. You’re checking all those nutrition boxes, you’re doing a great job. There’s absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. Oh, wine? Not a bad choice, not a bad choice.

And then you’re going to ask yourself one question during that meal in its entirety is, “During that meal, I felt what?” You’re going to answer a question, not ask. “I felt what?” Did you feel in control? Did you feel anxious, apprehensive, overwhelmed, peaceful, neutral? Amy, I’ll take yours. You can send some chips and queso my way. I’ll take it.

And then building off of that, after the meal, shortly after, bring your little journal or your notes in your phone, or at least think through this question while you’re still at the table, but, “Shortly after finishing the meal, I felt,” blank. Successful, accomplished, indifferent, icky, guilty, bloated? Find that feeling.

And then I recommend an additional question or prompt any additional observations or feelings that came up that are worth noting, write those down. Be a scientist. This is a little scientific experiment to understand how can I make changes? And what changes need to be made so I can conquer this trigger food so it brings me nothing but peace, excitement, fulfillment, and joy, and no more guilt, regret or anxiety? That’s the end goal here is complete food freedom. Bye-bye to the guilt, the regret, the anxiety. But we have to do the work. We have to understand. We have to slow things down. What emotions are present? What actions were taken? What actions were not taken to help get that outcome that either I desired or that was less than desirable? So we can learn from it, or in the case of the former, duplicate it so we have more and more success.

Kelly, let me read your question. “Are we talking an actual serving size or what we would normally eat?” That’s a great question, Kelly. And to be very candid, I don’t think I thought through that in my preparation. I think the best approach, though, is whatever you deem to be an appropriate portion size. That could look different from me to you. Maybe it’s three Oreos for me and it’s six for you, or vice versa, it’s a cup of ice cream or it’s just 1/3 of the pint. But whatever you deem to be a portion size that you’re hopeful makes you feel… or leaves you feeling content, satisfied and fulfilled, completely free of guilt. Does that answer your question? Perfect. Great question. Very good question.

Speaker 3:

Hey, Paul?

Paul Salter:


Speaker 3:

I have another quick question. Sorry. Would you recommend, just clarifying question, doing this during maintenance? To me, it seems a little tricky if you’re in a diet or doing a cut.

Paul Salter:

Great question. I do recommend during maintenance because you have the extra energy to really dedicate toward it.

Speaker 3:

Okay. And then my second question is going back to my whole psychology background, behavior modification, is there a way that we can show some control and actually walk away from the trigger food or choose a different action or drink more water? Or what are your thoughts around that? Or are we just trying to dive in head headfirst towards the trigger food?

Paul Salter:

That’s a great point. From our conversation tonight, the strategy we focus on obviously is diving in headfirst, but I do think there is a time and place to practice, for example, sitting with cookies in front of you, going through some exercises, and then walking away. We didn’t detail that, but if you want to open that discussion, I think it’s a great avenue to explore it, it would just require maybe a separate call. But I love that as a strategy, it just requires a different framework and some different strategies to discuss in further detail, but definitely a viable option.

Speaker 3:

Okay, cool. Thanks.

Paul Salter:

Welcome. Yeah, I’m going to make a note of that. Thank you. Walk away. And then the other couple just additional strategies and reminders I had written down is, first and foremost, remember that most of our cravings that we have during the day, non-emotionally speaking, is related to being dehydrated. Given it’s wintertime and, for whatever reason, all of you guys live in Minnesota and it’s just really cold there, you’re far less likely to hydrate. Keep that in mind particular for this time of year. When it’s cold, you’re less likely to want to hydrate. But being dehydrated is a really strong leading catalyst for giving into cravings, so keep that in mind.

Having the reminders and affirmations posted somewhere, a sticky note on the fridge, on the pantry door, it absolutely can help; it never can hurt. And just continuing to check in with yourself. If you catch yourself eating what you deem to be too much or a food that you don’t think you should be eating, just compassionate curiosity, why? What’s the feeling present? Remember feelings, feelings, feelings. Understand what the feeling is, and you can connect the actions behind it. Understand the feeling you want to have, and you can put forth the actions you want to reinforce and create that feeling. Compassionate curiosity, and explore the feelings behind some of those behaviors that you are proud of that are happening, but also the ones that you’re not too proud of and you want to correct and change to help you feel your best. And then I will copy, paste all the key takeaways, but definitely the five journal prompts I shared and the five/maybe six step process to conquering trigger foods in the coaching call channel for the call recap this evening.

Hey, thank you so much for listening to today’s episode. I hope that you now feel confident and empowered with a plan to begin taking back control of those trigger foods because you do not have to have a trigger food. And if you found this episode helpful and you want more information about joining the 5% community and what it looks like to surround yourself with an unmatchable level of community support, coaching, accountability, and education to help you keep the weight off for good and truly shine your brightest, send me a direct message on Instagram, @paulsaltercoaching. 5% gets the conversation started. Or click the link below in the show notes to learn more about the details of the 5% community.

And if you enjoyed this episode, hey, share it with a loved one, friend and family member who would also find it valuable. And if you have not done so already, I just ask you to take 30 seconds to leave a genuine rating and review of this show. If you’ve ever found it valuable, that is the best way you can give back to support myself and the show.

Well, thank you so much for listening today. Have a wonderful rest of your day. And as always, screw the scale.

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Paul Salter

Paul Salter is a Registered Dietitian and Founder of The 5% Way. Since 2013, Paul has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,500 men and women, helping them to collectively lose tens of thousands of pounds of body fat and keep it off for good. He’s also published nearly 1,000 articles, two books, and 175 podcast episodes (and counting) on all things related to our five core elements of sustainable weight loss.



Micheala is a Transformation and Community Success Coach. She specializes in bringing out the absolute best in you and helping you see that you already have everything you need to achieve the transformational results you desire. Micheala will be an incredible asset for you on your journey since she went through the process herself and has seen long lasting results.

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