Skinny Daily Post


Triggers are interesting things. You donít always know that you have them until youíre knee deep in something you shouldnít be doing. And even if you recognize a trigger, you may not realize that youíve started walking down that path.

Hereís what Iíve been noticing. Iíll be sitting in traffic, and my thoughts will turn to food. Iíll start noticing those fast food places, or the ice cream stands, or delis, or convenience stores, and some of the items in there will run through my head. When I do the Ďbody hunger check,í which includes figuring out when I last ate, itís obvious that Iím not hungry.

But I eat my appropriate, planned snack anyway [in the car Ė you can all slap my wrist if youíd like!], and continue to think about food. And when I get home, I go about my business Ė the dog, the Alzheimerís mom, coping with the family visits [which is why I havenít been posting much], etc. The worst thing is, however, that by the time the house is quiet and Iím all settled, I decide that I need a reward of some sort. Oh dear.

It took awhile to see what was happening and now Iím trying to figure out how to cope. Itís a combination of boredom and stress, combined with my finely honed ability to delay gratification! Who among us really ENJOYS sitting in commuter traffic, knowing that thereís a huge long list of STUFF to do? Add in those visual cues of FOOD everywhere, and Iím looking for comfort and distraction in a big way.

The key for me seems to be recognizing and managing the stress right then and there. Any delay in admitting Iím stressed seems to translate into reward eating later. Itís almost as if I know I want to zone out, to escape, and I simply tell myself Ďnot now, later.í See what I mean about setting off down a path without realizing it?

I can choose to ignore the cues. I can choose to manage my stress. But the real bugaboo is getting out of that Ďfood as rewardí mentality. And frankly, I havenít found anything that works as well, is so portable, requires little effort, and doesnít attract attention.

Except maybe knitting.

Keeping the weight off is a matter of paying attention and making many many tiny little decisions every single day. So, Iíll make some tea, and drive home. Maybe I should just stay out of the car?

10 thoughts on “Triggers and delayed rewards

  1. Jude says:

    I think it’s related to the “ahhh”–the need for the ahhh moment. After it’s all done–the duties, the grind, the stressors–I need to just sit quietly, stare blankly into space, not make note of anything, and have some deep satisfaction. I tried just breathing deeply today as I sat out on the patio. Several deep breaths. And a little stretch. And then I acted like I had just received deep satisfaction–I put on the attitude of feeling peaceful, relaxed, calm, and not having to attend to anything for a few minutes. I tuned into my inner smile. It worked! Perhaps not as well as my favorite “reward” food, but with much better consequences. And maybe I can learn to derive even more satisfaction in that way over time.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Hi Jane,
    I have similar problems in the car – well, just about everywhere, to tell the truth! That immediate, learned or conditioned habit of reaching for a snack as a treat or when I’m stressed (or happy, sad, etc.) is such a tough one to deal with, when that quick fix is always so readily available in this new flavor or that new size.

    But maybe the answer’s in the tea – you mention “I’ll make some tea, and drive home.” Do you carry the tea with you in a travel mug? That’s pretty portable too – sometimes it’s just an enjoyable taste that does the job, whether it’s hot or cold tea, diet soda, flavored water, light Stonyfield Farm smoothies…

    Chewing some gum so you have that feeling of biting down into something can be helpful in a couple of ways too – the chewing “grinding through stress” part, and the “fries don’t taste good in a minty-fresh mouth” way.

    The risk with gum, though, is that it seems to make your friends wonder exactly who you are. I have had the experience recently of having gum in my mouth (not popping or cracking it or blowing bubbles with it, just lightly chewing it) and having a friend say, “Since when were you a gum chewer?” in the same tone as one would ask, “So, when did you start kicking puppies for entertainment?” I was so annoyed! I said that it helps me keep food out of my mouth, and gives me a clean feeling in my mouth when I can’t brush after I eat. This seemed to partially satisfy her, though I was still annoyed. But I didn’t reach for a brownie, even though mint brownies sound pretty good! ūüôā

    Oh yeah, one more tip. Whenever a thought of food pops into your head and you KNOW you’re not hungry, switch that thought as quickly as you can with a mental picture of yourself at your goal state of fitness, doing something you love. Then think, which one makes you drool more??

  3. stretchy says:


    You managed to cope until you were all settled and had quiet time and then felt the need for a treat. Wish I had been there to give you a big hug, serve you a class of mineral water with a slice of lime,

    and then:

    introduce you to the hottie hunk that hasjust shown up with his massage table to give you a nice massage. He is very spiritual, and has really good vibe.(he brought your favorite relaxation music and essential oil mix with him)

    Now is the time to re-think treat. Maybe it’s just a foot spa bath in a darkened room, or a candlelight meditation thanking yourself for all you achieved today.

  4. raynib says:

    How about changing your travel mug every so often so that it’s new & fresh? Or keeping a stash of hard candy, not sugar-free, in your purse or car.

    Yesterday I was shopping, it was busy & the stress level was building. I stopped, fished in my purse & brought out a peppermint. I popped that in my mouth & took off again. I’ve tried it w/sugar-free & just didn’t get the shakes to stop or the stress level to drop. Gum chewing makes my tmj flair up & then I’ve got a headache on top of everything else. My 79-yo mom taught me this habit after I moved home 10 years ago. She also keeps a stash of individually wrapped crackers, gum & candy in a pretty little tin under the car seat. A stash of bottled water in the door pockets (I’m afraid mine roll around on the floor of the back seat) helps too.

  5. Lisa says:

    Jane –

    How well I relate. Have you considered making your car your relaxation space? Maybe treating yourself to a gripping novel by tape (or Cd, whatever) – or a relaxation CD to reduce stress?

    How about keeping an energizing mixed-tape CD to orkc-out to on the way when you need a pick-me-up? Aromatherapy essential oils can be rubbed on your hands or neck (just one drop or two) – or go for revitalizing citrus scented air freshners.

    A long hot shower is one of my favorite night-time ‘good’ rewards. And since I brush my teeth right after, there is no pre-bed cookie.


  6. tszuj says:

    knitting is good. keeps the hands nice and busy. echoing the previous commenter – tooth brushing helps (me) keep my hands out of the goodies.

  7. Ellen says:

    I hear you, Jane. There is something not only in the ritual of eating that makes it an “ahh reward”, but also the preparation for the reward. After a stressful day I “reward” myself with a cup of hot tea (lately green tea with Chai spices) and 15 minutes of jazz by myself – room dark, big comfy chair, and eyes closed. If it has been especially bad, just add a hot bath to the mix. There is something magically soothing that touches me from the combination of the heat from the tea, the heat from the bath, the aroma of the spices and the soothing music. You need to find your own mind, spirit and body release. This is mine, and I am glad to share.

  8. Greta says:

    I also consider the car to be a problem area. When I quit smoking that was the hardest place to stay clean. Diet soft friks or iced tea or hot coffee is a big help to me. I also occasionally chew gum but I, too get jaw pain and headaches so can’t do that much. Playing music and singing is fun in the car, and I like PBS radio. I sometimes floss my teeth at traffic lights or trafic jams or trim my finger nails. There’s always floss, nail clippers, and skin lotion in the car for those long traffic delays.

  9. maureen says:

    Reading what Jude said about the “aaah” moment brought tears to my eyes. I really miss it. I can’t fathom never feeling it again. That’s how I have been feeling since deciding it was “time” to quit eating to make myself not feel. I’m just now realizing that I’ve been walking around lately with gritted teeth’ trying to hold everything at bay. Here’s a concept–feel it! give myself permission to sit and howl or giggle or whatever. endure the feelings. get used to the sensation of being emotionally awake. I can’t believe that one little sentence about the aaah moment triggered a whole new awareness for me. Thanks. I just found this site yesterday and am reading through it today.
    It is very intelligent and well written and I look forward to visiting often and learning from your experience

  10. Pony says:

    Not sure I understand the car problem… it seems simple…just don’t have any food in the car or in your bag or whatever. Would you then be tempted to go through a drive-thru to get food? If that’s the case, then have only healthy food in the car, 0 points foods, in my case, that you can eat to your heart’s content! Now at home…that’s another matter…but the car seems like a fairly controlled environment.

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