When my children were little I wanted to create special holiday memories by baking Christmas cookies like my grandmother used to. I ended up making four kinds of cookies. I felt obligated to sample one of each after every meal all through the holidays.  I still remember looking in the mirror one January after eating who knows how many cookies, I looked and felt terrible.  For me past traditions and the lure of creating new ones were triggers which caused me to overindulge.

What is a trigger?  A trigger is an event or situation that initiates an urge to partake in an unhealthy behavior, i.e., eat even if you may not be physically hungry, smoke, or have a drink.  The holidays are loaded with triggers.  Some common holiday triggers include, parties, eating out, stress, seeing the candy tray in the break room, going home, seeing old friends and family traditions to name just a few.

How to deal with triggers? Aware, Adapt and Avoid1.  The first step is to become aware of what your triggers are.  Pay attention as you go about your day and note what events cause you to indulge in the unhealthy behavior.  Once triggers are identified you need to develop a strategy for overcoming each trigger. If you can, avoid the situation. For example, take an alternate route to work that doesn’t go past Krispy Crème.  If you can’t avoid the situation, adapt. If you notice you eat when you watch TV, start doing your nails or lifting weights while watching TV instead.

Sometimes a combination of the two can work.  I still make four different kinds of cookies, but most go directly into pretty tins to give to the neighbors.  The rest go in the freezer until Christmas Eve. 

The examples I have used here involve eating.  The same strategies can work for other behaviors.

By creating an awareness, adapting and avoiding you can face January with much less regret.

1Healthey Eating Everyday by Ruth Ann Carpenter and Carrie E. Finley