Common Trigger Foods

I have yet to meet someone who struggles with sugar that hasn’t got a trigger food. A trigger food is something that “triggers” your desire to eat uncontrollably. It’s a sweet that makes you want to binge. When you have a little, you want to eat nothing but that food until you can’t possibly consume another bite. Often people will eat so much of their trigger food that they’ll become sick and wonder why they ate so much.

Chocolate

Chocolate Of the sugar-addicted people I’ve spoken with, the most common and universal trigger food is chocolate. Chocolate can be found everywhere and there’s a reason for it. Eating chocolate has been said to make you feel happy and experience the same feeling as being in love. People who love chocolate jokingly label themselves “chocoholics.” Are you a chocoholic? It is common that chocolate trigger foods come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For me it was chocolate chips, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate candy bars, chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, etc.

Soda (diet)

Soda Some people’s trigger food is soda pop. On the Internet I found statistics saying that the average American drinks more than 53 gallons of carbonated soft drinks annually. Imagine having 53 gallons of soda in your house and it’s all you can drink for the next year. For some people that’s heaven. For some people it’s reality. I say it’s gross! Diet soda is even worse. People drink it thinking they are avoiding the sugar. Well that may be true, you’re not drinking sugar but instead you are drinking chemical sweeteners that have been linked to health problems.

Coffee

Coffee Coffee is most certainly a trigger food. It’s often had with added sugar to sweeten the taste. Some people buy and drink several cups of coffee daily. If you purchase coffee from a specialty shop, you’re getting the caffeine high plus the sugar high. Flavored coffees have all kinds of sweet additives and chances are you’re getting some High Fructose Corn Syrup in there. It’s not called an “adult drink” for nothing. Who would give their kids a cup of coffee every morning? Nobody I know. But people will pour it into their own bodies at alarming rates.

Cigerettes

Cigarettes

Some smokers say that a meal isn’t complete without a cigarette afterwards. I knew someone who would have a cup of coffee and a cigarette for breakfast every morning—no food! Is that you? Did you know that sugar is a key ingredient in cigarettes? Who would think smoking was so sweet? Funny thing—when you get off sugar for some time, sweets look and taste gross. It’s very similar to when smokers quit smoking and they get grossed out by the smell of smoke. 

Energy Drinks and Energy Bars

Energy Drinks Marketed as healthy alternatives to other forms of candy, these products are readily available in gyms, fitness centers, bike stores, department stores, convenience stores, and are often given out for free when you participate in a community race or bike ride. What you’re getting is a form of sweetened candy disguised at something healthy. With all that sugar, of course you get a burst of “aliveness” but it fades fast leaving you grabbing for more. Energy Bars

What Are Your Trigger Foods?

It’s rare that you will have just one trigger food. So how do you know if your favorite treat is a trigger food? If you are honest with yourself you probably already know. But if for some reason you’re not sure, try going without it for a month. If the very thought of doing that makes you cringe, you’ve probably already identified one of your sweet trigger foods!


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Comments

Autumn April 06, 2009

Definately chocolate for me, since I discovered it as a trigger food four nights ago I gave it up and have no desire to binge on anything at all.  I have had sugar in the form of a sugar cookie but I was able to eat just 1 and not want to binge.  Acutally my appetite is more normal now and all I did was take out chocolate and chocolate flavored things as well.  No urge to binge at all and this is amazing since I have been binging every night after work in the ED for a long time.  But now that chocolate is out then I tell my self I can have vanilla ice cream but guess what it sits in my freezer because it is not tempting to me, tonight after work I came home and had a small bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins.  The ice cream is in the fridge and I chose oatmeal.  It was a very easy choice, I just did not want it because there is no chocolate so in comparison to my oatmeal it tied and I chose oatmeal.  But if I were comparing oatmeal to chocolate then I would not even blink an eye and definately choose chocolate.  Now my chocolate days will be once per year because I love this feeling of never wanting to stuff myself, it is heaven.

Anlina April 06, 2009

My worst trigger food is cookies/cake. The combination of sugar and white flour just overwhelms my resistance. Icing, chocolate chips and other extras don’t help. Just seeing or thinking about cookies and cake makes me want to binge. I often try to fool myself into thinking I can have just one bite or piece, but I almost invariably go back for more and more and more, until I feel ill or it’s all gone. I find when I have a really strong urge to binge on sugar, cookies and cake are the only things that “satisfy” the urge at all. Sugar alone, without the flour, just doesn’t seem to take the edge off.

Chocolate is a bad one for me but not as bad - I find that being rich makes it lose its appeal faster. I can only eat a little bit before I’ve had enough, though I often eat more than I planned and I do crave it. Chocolate bars with fillings are harder to deal with.

Fruit and white bread also trigger the urge to binge, though no where as bad as things which are loaded with refined sugar.

Bevel April 11, 2009

My trigger food is the little snack cakes that come 8-10 in the box, the ones that have a red-fruit colored/flavored filling and white icing, the little roll ups. Oh, gosh. I will eat the entire box of them one little cake right after the other till they are gone.
Them or the frozen toaster pastries with cherry or strawberry filling that are flaky and you can ice them with powdered sugar frosting.
One? No way. The whole container.
I can’t have just one.
And then the next day I have a huge migraine. Does that stop me from doing it again? No.

Janet April 14, 2009

You know, I think that my trigger food is white flour.  I recently embarked on a series of binges and after reading this blog entry I thought back to see what I had eaten prior to the binges, and in every case it was something containing white flour, for example an english muffin, and, most recently, pretzels.  I always thought that anything with sugar would trigger a binge but I’m starting to think that it really is the white flour. 

I’m going to cut out white flour for a week and see what happens.  This is very interesting to me and if I find that white flour is indeed the culprit, I could see a dramatic drop in episodes of binge eating.

Jen May 04, 2009

My trigger foods are popcorn, nuts, dairy and nut butters.  I can’t really put my finger on why but I can try…  Nuts have such high fat content and when I start to eat them, though I know some nuts are super healthy, I have no control over my portions.  Popcorn is different.  I can eat an entire box of three bags of popcorn in one sitting (this is new, only in the latest spree of binges has my quantity been upped like this).  I limit my dairy (cheese, butter) and have it only on occassion, otherwise I’d eat it with everything.  And nut butters are much like nuts in that I could eat gobs of it and still be left craving more.

Oh yeah, and sweets.  But I avoid them so they’re not triggers for me—just what I binge on if I give in to a different trigger (food or emotional).

Julie January 03, 2010

DEFINITELY soft sweets like divinity, turron, marzapan, frosting, and anything sugary and creamy. Chocolate isn’t really a trigger because I personally don’t like the texture/taste that much…unless of course, it’s white chocolate. I recently gave up sweets (only eating them sparingly at Thanksgiving and Christmas), but I just went to Europe, where I was fed enormous portions of food.

Another HUGE trigger for me isn’t always sweets, but FULLNESS levels…once I get too full, I tend to get weak around sweets, and once I’ve started on the sweets, it’s all over. I’ve been on a three day binge of sugary/bready/dairy yuckiness, and am going to start fresh tomorrow (that’s what they all say). But at least I KNOW how it feels to NOT eat sweets and how GREAT it feels to be clean of it! Right now I feel SOOOOO gross. Sigh!

Julie February 23, 2010

Ice cream. Breyers Half Gallon. And yes, I can eat it all in one night - and unless I put it down the garbage disposal, I will wake up in the middle of the night and eat it. I find this is completely related to depression- ie. I want it when I’m depressed.

The problem with ice cream is that it works when you’re depressed- no, it’s doesn’t last, but it has to be replaced with something positive, because it defintely makes you feel better. julie

Julie Fast February 23, 2010

One more thing- I agree with the post above- I defintely eat more sugar when I feel full and disgusted with myself. . Odd. julie

Vanadia February 23, 2010

Julie, I think the sugar and the depression are directly related, one feeding into the other in a downward spiral. If I ate something with white flour in it, my mood would drop nearly immediately. Have you ever tried logging your food intake and your moods to see if there’s a correlation?

Julie February 23, 2010

David and the Other Julie,

I have been recording my food intake for a month, as well as monitoring alcohol. I have been 90-95% sugar and flour free since my “three-day-binge” I referred to on my January 2nd post. It has been WONDERFUL! It really does lead me to believe that so much of this is not just psychological, but heavily physiological. When I don’t eat sugar, and make sure I eat a balanced diet of complex carbs, fructose (from fruit), and protein, I really don’t crave the other stuff. I might think I want it, but when I have some, it’s not that great. But I’m wise enough now to know that if I have too much, then it WILL start tasting great again, and I will revert back to the old ways of overeating and feeling sluggish, moody, and guilty.

The food recording has been very beneficial in terms of portion control and awareness of what I’m putting into my body. It’s also been kind of fun! I record not only food and alcohol consumption, but also exercise,relevant notes, supplements, and I rate my overall fullness level that day between 1-10.

If possible, I highly recommend everyone to follow David’s month-long challenges. I truly believe that some people just can’t eat sweets in a moderate and balanced way.

Thanks so much!  Julie

Jackie March 29, 2010

Okay, I have a question, is it common that “anything containing refined sugar” is a trigger food?  I am starting to think that any sugary item causes me to binge (just finished malted milk balls, an entire bag).  It scares me to death as I am now just seeing this.  I have known for a while that any baked goods such as cookies and cakes and brownies, are a trigger food for me.  But I am now seeing that candy and ice cream do it as well.  I guess I just have to say no to it all.

Vanadia March 29, 2010

Hi Jackie. Anything containing refined sugar could certainly count as a trigger food. However, your trigger foods are usually your preferred sweets, the ones you go to first if you have a choice. The foods you listed would be on your trigger foods list so you’d want to cut them out. You might try doing so one-at-a-time.

Julie March 29, 2010

Jackie,  I have found that pretty much anything (including refined breads/pastas/alcohol) that converts quickly to sugar sends me into binge mode. I am hypoglycemic, so my body reacts in such a way that the more sugar I eat, the more sugar I “need.” Everybody is different, and you may not be hypoglycemic, but definitely take note if there actually are any sweet foods that you can eat without triggering you. Becoming clear on this is the first step!
Julie

Margie June 03, 2010

My triggers are oreos and caramel.

I am also realizing that I can’t have coffee anymore because I always want a doughnut or cookies with it.
I just started my sugar detox and I’m nervous…  Thanks for this site, David!

Connie August 29, 2010

I bought two different kinds of Kashi’s TLC cookies:  Oatmeal raison flax and Oatmeal dark chocolate.  I had no trouble eating one of the oatmeal raison cookies but as soon as I was two bites into the oatmeal dark chocolate I felt the need to binge on them.  One of my triggers IS chocolate.  I was able to stop but it was strange having that sensation again.  I didn’t like it!
I’m finding these cookies acceptable on my eating plan but I would appreciate your opinion David. 
Thanks, Connie

Vanadia August 29, 2010

Hi Connie. Keep experimenting. If the oatmeal raisin ones don’t make you binge, then great! Creating your own parameters is what it’s all about. If you find that, three weeks from now, all you’re eating is oatmeal raisin cookies then you know what to do. smile

Lori January 18, 2011

I think a trigger food is also a substance that coaxes one to eat other foods; not necessarily the trigger. For example: coffee is my trigger because even though I put artificial sweetener in it along with cream; the sweet taste and creamy warm goodness comfort me to the point that I desire to eat more food particularly sweets with sugar and not necessarily right away. It’s like the alcoholic that can drink one or two once or twice, but the flood gates will open sooner than later.

Vanadia January 19, 2011

Interesting idea, Lori!

Leah January 21, 2011

I find that all processed foods are addicting.  The more I eat them the more I crave junk.  I eat a mostly natural, wheat free, and alcohol free diet and succumb to pressure when we spend holidays with family and friends, mostly out of not wanting to be an inconvenience.  So now that it’s the end of January I am finally coming out of my latest binge rut by (seemingly) continuously snacking on fruit and frozen fruit.  Will my cravings ever end? I’m starting to think it may be that my portions have gotten out of control, which is something I’ve not experienced before.

L February 10, 2011

Nutella, Nutella, Nutella….that stuff is ridiculous. You can eat it on crackers, bread, by the spoonful, on fruit.

Barbara March 25, 2011

I just found this site. im trying to go on a diet to lose some weight and also to stop eating sugar.
i dont have the slightest idea what my trigger food is cos im not a snack person. im allergic to too much chocolate so dont eat it much, iv gone without diet sodas for a whole year before, i dont eat a lot of snacks and candies. i just cant think of anything. can anyone help?

Connie March 25, 2011

Barbara, I would look for anything processed in your diet.  Those artificial chemicals can do awful things to our bodies.  Aim for whole foods!  Good luck to you.

Barbara March 25, 2011

thanks Connie. im already dong that now. i am mainly on a fibre and protein diet now. the only carbs in it are whole wheat cereals and wheat bread. im still trying to convince my self that pasta is safe.

Can anyone please advise on a healthy and natural sugar substitute? sometimes, when im drinking cereals or tea (coffee gives me headache) i like to put a sweetener in it.
Sweetex has Saccharine which im told is not healthy and Splenda is also said to have a terrible long term effect. Is Canderel, which has Aspartame a safe subsitute?

Vanadia March 25, 2011

I avoid Aspartame. Have you tried Stevia?

Barbara March 25, 2011

no i havent. heard of it though. i hope i can find it here in Nigeria. il check it out and let u all know how it goes. thanks

Vanadia March 25, 2011

Let us know!

L March 25, 2011

I’ve heard people have similar concerns with Stevia as they do with Splenda. Not sure if that is true.
Has anyone tried Agave nectar yet? It is very pricey but all natural…akin to honey/maple syrup, but I was wondering about the taste.

Connie March 25, 2011

I enjoy the taste of agave but I’ve heard some bad things about it too (unfortunately).  Some say it is more processed than the manufacture claims.  It doesn’t give me any problem with sugar cravings though and I have baked whole grain muffins with it with great success.

Vanadia March 25, 2011

The brand of Stevia makes all the difference. Some use sugar alcohols while others don’t. I tried Truvia but didn’t like how it made me feel. Agave is processed. I can’t eat it, it makes me jittery.

L March 26, 2011

Thanks, good to know! Yeah it is the sugar alcohols I’ve been reading about.  Sometimes I wish someone would drop me off in the middle of the woods for 3 months with only fruit, veg, beans, and grains smile

Dasi April 01, 2011

Hi there!

wow, I just came across your site, its really good and so helpful. so many people don’t understand that sugar addiction is real and this is such a support, lots of great ideas and info, thankyou! my trigger foods are anything dairy, breads, pasta, crackers, chips/potatoes, anything processed or even tinned foods.. Even if I plan to ration these foods out as part of a weekly balanced meals plan, they bring on binge eating and don’t last long if they are in the house! Sadly, even fruit is a trigger food at this time. I have known for a long time I have a problem with sugar, and am really ready to give it up. I just had two weeks (mostly) sugar free and I was starting to feel really good -more productive, clear headed and calm, but have had a relapse! :-( and trying to get motivated again!  I used to be a smoker and I’m trying to look at it in the same way - slip ups will probably happen, but just get back on with it. I look forward to keeping up with your site, thanks!

Vanadia April 01, 2011

Hi Dasi, thank you and welcome!

Lori April 03, 2011

To L and Dasi: as you may have already figured sugar is akin to alcohol in that if you are truely addicted you will have to give it(sugar) up entirely. Is it fair? No. But it sure feels good once you do.

Vanessa April 24, 2011

I have been trying to quit sugar for 2 weeks now unsuccessfully. I think the very opposite is happening. It’s making me think more about it and I am becoming obsessed with sweets. I found myself eating sweets that I didn’t even like that much before like chocolate. I am very confused. I read almost everywhere that the less sugar you eat, the less the cravings. Well, it’s not happening to me. I will try it again this week. I will do something different this time. I will eat a lot of fruit. Since I am not only trying to eliminate white sugar, but also artificial sweeteners like Sucralose, Aspartame, etc. and natural sweeteners like Stevia, sugar alcohols, etc. I will “need” sugar from some other source. This is the reason I chose to eat lots of fruits. I hope this doesn’t backfire and the fruits I eat bring more cravings for sweets! Jeez. What do you think?
Great website!
God bless you,
Vanessa

Vanadia April 24, 2011

Hi Vanessa! You have to go at least a month before your cravings start to wane. You are correct in that you must eat something to replace the sweets you’re body is used to having. Eating fruit can be a good way to go. When you cut out sweets you will find yourself eating all kinds of weird things to try to feel satisfied! This is all part of an ongoing practice that doesn’t end. Think of it like learning a new language. Even after you become fluent there is still much to discover. The time you’ve put in all counts towards your experience. Keep going!

Lori April 24, 2011

It seems everyone’s experience is slightly different. I have slipped and had sugar most recently; after being “on the wagon” since 5 Jan. Stress has been the factor. Thankfully I haven’t gone full throttle-yet. I hope I do not. I am drinking some hot tea and going to bed early. This helps;-) Peace to all on this sugar free journey. I like that DV likened it to a “journey”.

Raquel May 02, 2011

What about sucralose?
And sugar-free cocoa powder?
My trigger food is chocolate and I wanna try to replace it with cocoa powder on the smoothies, yogurts, etc.
David, thanks a lot for this website!!!! It is really helpful and inspiring.
God bless you always smile

Vanadia May 02, 2011

Hi Raquel, I avoid artificial sweeteners. Sugar free cocoa powder is good, but bitter. It sounds like you’re trying to get the same sweetness as a sugary drink out of something that’s not got added sugars. Have you tried just using the fruit or fruit juice as a sweetener? There’s a lot of sugar in your smoothie already.

Raquel May 02, 2011

Hi David
Thank you for your answer.
I just made a smoothie with soy milk, banana and sugar free cocoa powder and it tasted really good, the sugar from the banana was enough!!!
It’s just the beginning of my “journey”, thanks again for your support smile

Chrissy June 16, 2011

My trigger food is Frozen Yogurt! whenever I eat it, it makes me want to binge on anything sweet. I have tried over and over again to give it up but I always let my cravings talk me out of being sugar-free. I want to win the battle bc I eat healthy and exercise everyday… sugar is my only problem. Whenever I don’t eat frozen yogurt, It is much easier for me to resist temptation. I have realized that “This too will pass” and “cravings only last around 20 min.” help me when times get tough. Does anyone else have any more advice for going sugar free? also, David do you recommend giving up Fruit when you first start being sugar-free or do you believe it is a good clutch?
Thanks for all the knowledge, it truly is inspiring.
Wish me luck!
6/16/11
-Chrissy

(ps. david, did you over-eat on anything else when you first gave up sugar?)

Vanadia June 17, 2011

Hi Chrissy!

Fruit: Some say it’s bad. Some can’t eat it without bingeing on it. I eat fruit to this day as it doesn’t make me go off the deep end. It’s up to you really, depending on how it makes you feel.

I totally over ate other foods when I first went off sugar. In fact, my whole eating went whack for a while and my diet was definitely carb-loaded because I was hungry for sugar and my body wasn’t satisfied by much else. Removing your trigger foods is the first step. Then you start to balance out and manage.

For more information, check out the archive page. For a step-by-step, check out the ebook. Good luck!

Amy November 07, 2011

I gave up sugar a month ago and have been fine but then I noticed in the past week I’ve been binging like mad on pasta and breads. Is that normal?

Vanadia November 07, 2011

Hi Amy. It’s to be expected. If you’re not diabetic then you can handle eating like that for a period of time. Then you can start to wean yourself off those carb-heavy foods.

Chrissy November 09, 2011

David, Could Alcohol be a trigger? Also I was curious if you knew which type has the least amount of sugar. And if you drink

Vanadia November 09, 2011

Hi Chrissy, yes alcohol can be a trigger. I don’t drink so I don’t know which has the least amount of sugar. Anyone else know?

Kay February 01, 2012

From MedicineNet, “Alcohol is considered a poison by your body, and all efforts are made to excrete it, including the cessation of maintaining healthy blood glucose levels… Alcohol can negatively impact blood sugar levels each time that it is consumed, regardless of the frequency of consumption. Research has shown that acute consumption increases insulin secretion, causing low blood sugar.” So I guess a drop in blood sugar that would result in a craving for more sugar.

Vodka, whiskey and rum have the least amount of sugar, while creamy liquers, fruity cocktails or anything mixed with pop would have the most.

Vanadia February 01, 2012

Thanks Kay!

Izzy February 24, 2012

anything can trigger my sugar addiction these past couple days. I’d gone for about 5 months without sugar, honey, agave, etc. no sweets at all. even the breads I eat do not contain sugar or any sweeteners. I do not even eat fruits and just stay with raw vegetables and lean protein. My dairy is limited to low fat cheese and plain reduced fat milk. But this week, I just got crazy for sweets. I ate 3 klondike bars today, 2 kitkats, a whole lindtt bar the one with caramel too, the whole bag of Kraft jetpuffed marshmallow, and half the jar of nutella and a hand full of jolly ranchers but I am still craving for more. I do not know what to do. Right now I’m even thinking of driving down the store to get peanut butter caramel spread and some smucker’s jam.

I weigh 98 lbs and I’m 61 inches tall, but that won’t be for long if I continue this. I know I should put on some weight, but I think weight from sugar would be bad. please help me.

Vanadia February 24, 2012

Do you love sweets, Izzy? Are you feeling like you’re depriving yourself from eating something you enjoy while you’re instead eating super healthy foods? Are you always concerned with your weight and feeling guilty about how your body should be?

Izzy February 27, 2012

yeah I love sweets, if I could I’d have a muffin everyday. My sweet binge lasted for about 2 and a half days, then I just got sick of it and now I’m in my normal diet of going cold turkey on sugar. I didn’t put on weight probably because I got hyper and am just a teenager, but I don’t want to live like this. It’s so hard to not have a bit of chocolate each day. I do not like the dark chocolate suff. I stick to milk chocolate which I know is worst so I just cut all the sweets from my life and threw everything in the trash bin. I just wished there are other ways for me not to get these crazy sugar binging days.

Vanadia February 27, 2012

Izzy, join us for the Mid-Winter No Sugar Challenge this week. We’re abstaining from sweets for six days and since you’re already doing it you’ll have no troubles!

Michelle May 10, 2012

I Just recently started attending OA meetings I lost 27 lbs on my own but constantly struggle since that weight loss. I cannot budge another LB…. I keep binging, I don’t know what my triggers are. Like today. I had turkey bacon and eggwhites, then for lunch my husband made me sauteed fish with onion garlic salt and pepper over a bed of kale. I dont understand why that gave me an overwhelming urge to binge.

Vanadia May 11, 2012

Michelle, what happens just before you binge? When you eat, are you hungry? Try only eating when you’re sure you’re hungry and write down the times when you want to eat out of habit. Write down what you’re feeling during those times.

alan September 27, 2012

nutella, then creamy sweets like icecream with whipped cream,and in third place: fruit. i have to restrain fruit. i must be very sensitive to sugar, fructose in this case


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About David

After a weekend-long sugar binge in 2003, I realized my problem was very real. It took some time but I finally figured out a way to stay off sweet junk food for good! Read more.

Quit Sugar?

Don’t quit sugar. Stop Being Sweet instead! Questions? Please ask.