I commonly joke on my blog that I'm a recovering M&M addict. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's true that M&M's are one of my trigger foods. They're one of those things, along with granola, that once I start eating I can't stop. Something about the little bite-sized pieces of sugar-coated chocolate keep my handful going back for more...until I have a stomach ache.
Lots of people have a food like this. For many people it's cereal or a jar of peanut butter, but the common factor is that you tend to lose control with it. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is something everyone should strive for, so learning how to manage our trigger foods is important.
There are two common theories when it comes to dealing with trigger foods:
1. Out of sight, out of mind. If it's not there you can't eat it, so just don't keep those foods in the house.
2. Learning self-control. Keep those foods around on purpose so that you can practice moderation. Recognizing that "it will always be there if you want more" can allow you to eat just a reasonable portion.
My solution is actually a hybrid of the two. I don't keep M&M's around, but it's because I recognized WHY I was craving M&M's and eating so many at once. With any sort of emotional eating or lack of control, it's not necessarily about that particular food. Often it's about the other foods you are or are not eating.
Why was I craving sugar? Was it a lack of calories during the day? Was I eating too much sugar in other foods that was making me want more? Was it just a nighttime habit that needed to be replaced with a new, healthier one?
All of the above, likely. Instead of just deciding I couldn't eat M&M's anymore I chose to conquer the factors leading me to binges. I made sure to have an afternoon snack so that I wasn't ravenous at night and I included fruit with my dinner so that I could end with something sweet.
Sugar is addictive, so another thing that has drastically helped is simply eating less sugar and grains. When we eat sugar or carbohydrates (which are converted to sugar in the body), our insulin levels rise in order to maintain blood sugar levels. By eating fewer grains and less sugary foods, my blood sugar remains more stable and my cravings decrease. An apple is often enough for me now or a piece of bittersweet chocolate when I really want some. M&M's have become a treat that I buy at the movie theater instead of something I have every day.
So while not having the food around is an effective way to avoid losing control, I highly suggest looking at the factors surrounding your trigger foods. Tackling the root of the problem is better than feeling deprived!
Clare Brady is a Healthy Living Blogger currently living in Dallas, Texas but originally from St. Louis, Missouri. On her blog, Fitting It All In, Clare shares her experiences with living a healthy lifestyle while balancing a busy schedule. Currently she is working full-time as advertising account executive, seeing clients as a Certified Holistic Health Coach, exercising often, cooking as much as possible, and making sure to spend time with friends. You can find Clare on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.