It’s a mistake to believe that you just need to know what to eat and how to exercise. I can give 10 random people an eating and exercise plan and 8 of them will still fail…
The process of creating a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about tangible things like facts and research. Instead, it’s largely about the intangible things, like mindset and psychology and your ability to navigate the obstacles inherent in the journey.
One of the biggest pieces of the EQ side (and a little bit on the PQ side as well) is healing unhealthy eating triggers. These are triggers that don’t care about information — they’ll call you to abandon the best laid plans and derail you from your greatest efforts.
Unless these triggers are found, addressed, and healed, success remains nothing more than a wish to be achieved someday.
Through my work with clients, I’ve identified the 10 most prevalent unhealthy eating triggers. Some are physical triggers (Ph) and some are psychological (Ps). Some are both.
If you tackle these triggers head on, you’ll succeed. If you ignore them, you’ll fail. I’ve watched it time and time again. If you need help with these triggers, I show you how to take specific action on them and support you throughout the process in Total Body Reboot.
#1: Nutritional Poverty (Ph)
This trigger is pervasive among people that believe calories are all that matter (or who inadvertently eat too few calories), like those in Weight Watchers.
When you pay attention to quantity over quality, you exponentially increase your chances of being nutrient deficient (and Dieting is inherently energy-deficient).
This causes the Nutritional Poverty trigger, where your brain signals constant hunger in the hopes of leading you to find food that is more nutrient and calorie dense.
Of course, the obesity cycle of insulin dependence that I have discussed before also leads to nutritional poverty.
This trigger is a very visceral one. When the body is starving at the cellular level, it creates a pervasive hunger that’s different from the normal type of hunger you experience throughout the day.
Takeaway: Nutritional Poverty produces a hunger that’s difficult to satiate unless major adjustments are made to your approach to healthy eating.
#2: Macronutrient Mania (Ph)
One of the main goals of a healthy lifestyle is hormone regulation. The body is a complex system that’s regulated by multiple hormones and those hormones also interact with each other.
Food has a huge impact on hormone function. If you eat the wrong things, you literally break your body’s ability to function properly.
Macronutrient Mania happens when poor quality foods or consumed or when the body is overloaded by certain macronutrients (the main three are fat, carbs, and protein).
This occurs easily when consuming processed foods because processed foods are heavy on starches and sugars (carbs) and poor quality fats.
Takeaway: When you commit to a real-food diet, the problem of Macronutrient Mania evaporates. It’s impossible to match the average sugar and starch consumption that we see today on a real-food diet and you’ll no longer be consuming harmful fats.
#3: Sugar Stressing (Ph + Ps)
If there’s one thing I get asked all of the time, it’s “how do I beat sugar addiction and cravings.” This is one of the most pervasive triggers and conquering it for REAL and for GOOD requires a little myth busting, effective psychology, and a slightly unconventional approach.
Note: I have a hugely popular program dedicated to changing your relationship with sugar and processed foods so you can overcome the cravings and get back in control. It’s called Shut Down Your Sugar Cravings.
Sugar stressing is both a physical and psychological trigger. Breaking the physical dependency comes first (usually takes 2 to 3 weeks) and then breaking the psychological addiction comes next. My program is unique in that it shows you how to do both, using a tools not rules philosophy.
Takeaway: You’ll never reach your weight loss or health goals until you develop a healthy relationship with sugar and processed foods.
#4: Mindless Madness (Ph + Ps)
Knowing what to eat is important, but knowing how to eat is just as much so.
The fact is that most people have poor eating habits when it comes to when they eat, where they eat, and what they do while the eat.
Mindlessness directly contradicts a healthy relationship with food and triggers further disordered eating while the disconnection makes identifying core issues, patterns, and other triggers very difficult.
Takeaway: Your relationship with food requires your full, undivided attention. Ending mindless eating, restoring the connection to the food, and savoring the process of eating ends impulsiveness and empowers you to identify and heal other triggers.
#5: Feeding Emotions (Ps)
“Food as glue” is the term I use to describe emotional eating.
Food often gives us a feeling of control and the sense that we can use it to glue our lives back together when things get tough.
We feed ourselves when we’re stressed, sad, or depressed. We feed ourselves when our needs are left unmet. We feed ourselves to distract from the pain of the past.
But food can never really glue anything together. It’s all an illusion. The distraction, the dopamine hit, the comfort—it’s all temporary.
Takeaway: Healing this trigger returns true control to us and allows us to feed our physical-self instead of our emotional-self. Feeding Emotions is one of the largest and most complex triggers and is one we focus on a lot in Total Body Reboot.
#6: Pattern Paralysis (Ph + Ps)
Many unhealthy eating triggers are simply patterns that we’ve been following our entire lives.
These habits are hard to break (especially if you believe the 21 day myth and the willpower myth) — I know because most of my unhealthy eating triggers were patterns that were causing paralysis in my own journey.
For example, when I was a child we would always do two things: eat dessert after dinner and eat dessert in front of the television.
I lived in that paradigm for 17 years, so it’s no wonder that I carried it with me into adulthood. Whenever I ate dinner or sat down in front of a television, I was triggered to eat something sweet.
It’s nothing more than a pattern, but it’s a HUGE trigger. It also has the potential to exacerbate other triggers or make them more difficult to deal with.
Takeaway: One of the first steps to working on your triggers should be identifying patterns of behavior.
#7: Suspect Sleep (Ph)
When it comes to physical triggers, there probably isn’t a more powerful one than low quantity and/or low quality sleep.
Let’s take a quick look at some crazy facts: Leptin (satiety hormone) is suppressed by 19%; Ghrelin (hunger hormone) is increased by 28%. Blood sugar regulation can take up to 40% longer than normal after a high-carbohydrate meal, making you metabolically similar to a type II diabetic; cravings for carbohydrate based foods increase by 45%; general stress is enhanced, willpower is drained, and emotional eating is much more likely.
How can you possibly succeed when that’s the case? You can’t, and that’s why poor sleep is one of the most powerful triggers and why Evan Brand and I created one of the most forward-thinking sleep guides available called REM Rehab: Reboot Your Sleep, Feel Amazing & Light Your Productivity on Fire.
Takeaway: Having a health relationship with food is mission impossible if you don’t get your sleep dialed in.
#8: Ego Depletion (Ps)
Ego Depletion is a fancy science name for willpower, which is a highly misunderstood aspect of human psychology.
Willpower is a horrible long-term tool. For one, it’s unreliable. But beyond that, a constant and sustained use of willpower almost always triggers a collapse of will, followed by a binge as your body tries to get its hands on as much of what it wasn’t allowed to have as possible.
Beating this trigger means learning how to refill your willpower cup day in and day out and requires having authentic tools and strategies that offer more stability and reliability.
Of course, working to develop a healthy relationship with food is critical as well. When you have a healthy relationship with food, willpower is unnecessary.
Takeaway: I’m not saying willpower is a bad thing—it’s just a horrible long-term strategy. I’m not sure why so many coaches and trainers and Diets expect you to use so much of it and fail to provide you with the legitimate long term tools and strategies that you need to be successful.
#9 Gut Health (Ph + Ps)
Gut health? Gut health!
There’s 100 trillion microbes in the human gut with over 1000 different species represented. In terms of complexity of function, the gut is second only to the human brain.
Gut health has an impact on key areas that make it a possible trigger for unhealthy eating:
- Poor gut health can cause nutrient malabsorption (remember, Nutritional Poverty is a trigger).
- Poor gut health can possibly lead to both insulin and leptin resistance (fascinating research on TLR5).
- Poor gut health can lead to altered mood via signaling through the vagus nerve and serotonin manipulation (most serotonin is created in the gut).
Some people seem to be much more sensitive to changes in gut flora—and gut health in general—than others, but it’s important to be aware of the connection and in tune with your body.
Takeaway: Gut health is critical and it’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time. It’s a key aspect of helping clients heal their bodies, cut down inflammation, boost metabolism, and improve immune function. Pay attention to it!
#10: Subconscious Sabotage (Ps)
Have you ever made wonderful progress on something and then totally sabotaged yourself? I have. And many of my clients have reported the same thing.
There are a lot of reasons why you might end up sabotaging your progress and almost all of them have to do with toxic beliefs, negative self-talk, and adverse childhood experiences.
If you sabotage yourself pretty quickly after starting to make progress, there’s a good chance The Resistance is involved.
If you sabotage yourself much later in the process, I’d take a hard look at the other things I mentioned previously.
Takeaway: Sometimes, a part of your personality will lead you toward self-sabotaging behavior because that behavior is perceived to help you in some way. It’s important to sort this out so the sabotaging behavior can be stopped.
Conquering the Triggers
I will reiterate: success is impossible without overcoming these triggers.
And when it comes to the psychological triggers, it doesn’t matter how much information you have, how good the information is, or how determined you are. They have to be healed.
You can succeed in the short term without addressing them, but they rob you of too much control to win in the long run.
Question for you: Which of these triggers do you identify with? Were you previously aware of them? You can let me know in the comments!
Founder of Rebooted Body and host of The Rebooted Body Podcast. Kevin helps men and women finally get a body and life they love with his unique blend of real food, functional movement, and psychology. To work with him personally, choose a program.