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Environmental and emotional triggers that control your brain and cause self-sabotage

Nutrition, Success

More and more of you are learning and embracing that this North American Diet-Mentality of “eat this, not that” is incomplete as a standalone approach to your weight-loss and weight-control.

I talk about this a lot in my book “The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight-Control.” Specifically for people with real eating issues and problems with food I wrote the 3-book series “Food Issues and You: Finally Facing Your Phantom Menace.

I wrote these books from my decades of experience working with clients who keep hopping from one diet ‘solution’ to another, without ever realizing that for them, the diet-mentality is the problem, not the “solution.”

The only two supplements anyone really needs in the quest for weight-loss and weight-control are “behavioral supplements” of regularly practiced discipline and consistency.

But how often do you sabotage yourself when it comes to ‘regular practice’ of discipline and consistency?

Some of you know exactly what your “triggers” are for sabotaging your wellness; and then some of you think you know but are wrong. And then some of you have a vague idea or notion of where and why you struggle.

The important thing is to stop with the incorrect focus on “what” you eat during those times, and start realizing how and why you are sabotaging yourself.

Food indiscretions and missing your workout sessions–these are only symbols and outcomes to self-sabotage. They are the result of “stinkin thinkin.” The truth is that you have “high risk situations” to sabotaging your weight-control efforts, and it doesn’t matter if other people have these issues or not, because this is about YOU and YOUR struggle, not about comparing yourself to others who don’t struggle. You have to identify these high-risk situations and then plan a course of action so that they have less power of influence over you.

Most of the time you have two types of triggers to your self-sabotage: environmental and emotional.

And of course these two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They can easily reinforce each other.

For instance, take a look at the most common “triggers” below. The more of these you identify with them, the greater the likelihood is that you struggle with weight and/or food.

Identify what applies to you by checking any one of the spots below that apply to finishing this sentence:

“I am at high risk for sabotaging myself with deviating from my weight-control efforts for diet and exercise when I am…”

  • Alone
  • Lonely
  • Bored
  • Depressed
  • Very hungry
  • With other people
  • At a party or social event
  • At a restaurant
  • Anxious
  • In a bad mood
  • Over-scheduled (no time to unwind)
  • Other
  • Celebrating
  • Frustrated
  • Feeling rejected or unworthy
  • Procrastinating
  • In a certain place (work, car, etc.)
  • Cooking
  • Around tempting foods
  • Certain rooms in your house
  • Certain times of day
  • Exhausted (sleep deprived etc.)
  • Nurturing fatigue (taking care of everyone else)

These are just a few of the most common emotional and physical and environmental triggers out there that lead to self-sabotaging your attempts for long-term weight-control.

How many of these apply to you? Only one or two?  Several?

Now, what you need to realize is that looking at this check list only gives you the “what” when it comes to your triggers. You have to look deeper. You have to investigate and ask yourself what it is about these emotions or environmental triggers that make them become issues for you. Maybe they illustrate some irrational thinking strategies you employ in their presence. Maybe you don’t think at all in their presence and “impulse” just takes over.

Something may trigger a memory for you for instance, or an emotional state may be so unwanted in you or so hard to deal with that you seek to escape it, so you never learn to deal with it.

Take the other side of things for instance, like social events. This is a very common trigger for self-sabotage, whether at the actual event or later alone and by yourself, even a few days later the social event can still be the trigger. But again, ask yourself what it is about that environment that makes it a problem.

Maybe it’s not the social event itself, maybe people you know shove food in your face all the time at these events, or maybe you have some social anxiety. In this example the same trigger of “environment” can really be a trigger environment for two entirely difference reasons: one being social anxiety and the other being food presence.

Once you identify your triggers you have to then decide what you are going to “do” about them, because just identifying your triggers is not enough to change anything. First understand that “prevention” is always easier than a cure. So does this mean “avoid” these triggers that you checked off? Well, that depends on how realistic that would be. In the example of parties above, if you enjoy social gatherings and family and all the rest, is it “realistic” to just say you are never going to another party or Christmas celebration or whatever till your weight is under control? That is not “realistic” prevention, nor is it healthy.



Almost always realistic prevention begins by desensitizing yourself to the trigger, whether that trigger is environmental or emotional.

This means giving yourself low levels of exposure to the trigger, in environments that you control.

To think that you just can’t be around indulgent food and stick to a regulated diet-strategy of some sort at the same time is just another lie you tell yourself.  Again, ask yourself is that realistic? Can that ever work long-term? You are never going to escape indulgent foods in our modern world, so you need to learn to be around it.

If tempting foods are your trigger, then when you go grocery shopping slowly walk down the bakery aisles and take in all the sights and smells. Remind yourself “calm energy” and realize you can get through it.

Desensitizing means knowing that your triggers are about creating unwanted impulses in you; and impulses aren’t something you fight with, because fighting with them just makes them stronger in you.

You just need to learn that impulses seek acknowledgement, not fulfilment. This means that something as easy as “I really feel like eating pizza right now” or “I’m so tired I’d love to skip my workout right now” — both these mental statements just “acknowledge” the impulse, without fighting with it or resisting it, and without giving it any emotional attachments. Therefore it has no power over you. It’s now “just a thought” and you can let it pass. It doesn’t ever mean you have to give into it.

Dealing with triggers that sabotage your physique goals is NEVER about going on a different diet. That doesn’t change a single thing.

Dealing with triggers, has to do with “identify, prevent, plan a course of action, and effectively deal with the trigger.”

And very often, this is going to require Coaching,  an ongoing interactive approach to get you out of your own head in dealing with your triggers.

If you have several triggers in the above list, then you need to accept and be realistic enough to know that you aren’t ever going to out-diet or out-exercise these issues. You have to deal with them. And as we say in Zen/Tao logic -> “the only way out, is through.”

Some of you will get it.

Some of you will not.