Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | September 7, 2010

Trigger Food Victory

Written by: ViR

I don’t often talk about my past eating disorder food triggers, mainly because I worry about triggering others with unnecessary details of experiences many have had, and weighing the pros and cons of such discussion. We all know it really isn’t about the food, but we also know how much the focus is on the food, especially in recovery. In recovery, I eat a variety of foods, and have tried new foods as well, always trying to see what I like, and understanding that food is nutrition, culture, and overall a very social experience. I feel blessed to be able to go to restaurants, order whatever I want, eat comfortably in front of others, and not feel anxious, overwhelmed, and watched.

Today we went to Albuquerque, New Mexico and went to Old Town to walk around, take some pictures, get a sense of the community, and find our token shot glass (we have collected one in every stop on this road-trip and the one we did two years ago; yes I find it hilarious being sober that I love to collect them). We decided to eat dinner at our third Mexican food restaurant on the road-trip, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I love mexican food, love chips and salsa, and love the vibrant and dynamic flavors. I ordered a combination plate, that way I could try a bit of everything, including a tamale, enchilada, taco, rice and beans. The food arrived, smelled delish, and I decided to eat the taco first, mainly because I don’t overall enjoy tacos too much, but wanted to try it.

It took only one bite to realize it was hamburger. Without going into extreme details on behaviors, hamburger has been on my “no eat / trigger” list since I entered recovery three years ago. I choose not to eat hamburger because it was a food I loved in my disorder. I knew I was not safe eating it, especially in early recovery. Also, as I started to eating healthy, and mindfully, I overall changed my eating habits, and red meat was something I only started to eat two years ago in steak form every once in a while. I have read several of Michael Pollan books, and overall I am concerned about our meat culture. However, I am NOT one for restriction, I eat everything I want in moderation. Restriction was never something that would work for me, out of fear it would potentially trigger restrictive habits, and in general I LOVE food!!! I love love love food. I am not afraid to say that. I enjoy it. I eat mindfully, taste it all, the textures, the flavors, and the amazing diversity in foods from culture to culture.

After this first bite, I took a second bite. YES a SECOND bite. I knew it was hamburger but I wanted to give it another try because I had this glimmer of how much I loved hamburgers flavor, and also conflicting thoughts of past in disorder behaviors. It was this weird present reality and past colliding. I took a moment and stopped. I immediately told my guy is was hamburger, and he knew of my past, so he asked me if I wanted him to take the taco and move it to his plate, or away from me. He also asked if I was OK. I took a moment, and thanked the Universe for having this man who was so supportive, asking me if I was OK, and being able to discuss this with him at the table. I said “No, I can do this. I do not have to let this affect me, I will eat everything else, and then decide what to do.”

My guy then said, maybe you could reach out to your Tweeple (Twitter friends), and share, and get some support. I went on Twitter and sent these Tweets:

  • Taco I ordered had hamburger. Haven’t eaten in 3 years since I entered recovery. Didn’t know until ate a bite. I’m ok. Stopped eating
  • To clarify: I did eat the rest of my meal. Just knew my limits with hamburger and put it aside. Huge victory even so for not freaking out!
  • I finished an enchilada and tamale. And had a sopatilla? (sp?) rest of food was great. My guy was so loving. Had a second of ick but phew!
  • I feel a blog post coming!! 🙂 it’s possible to be in recovery & still face challenges & be OK!

I want to say, I am very grateful for the people I know on Twitter. They are extremely supportive, and I did have a moment of “Should I share this, will this make me look like I am not strong in recovery?” I had that moment and then kicked that voice to the curb. I am me, I am real, I will have challenges, and this one was my largest yet.

I wish you could have seen me at the table, I had this huge stare-down with the taco and hamburger. You should have heard my inner monologue too, as I find it hilarious in reflection. I basically said, you tried hamburger, you had two bites, you do not have to freak out, you do not have to eat any more. I then went on to leave the taco on my plate, as if this was a sign that the hamburger did not conquer me, and that I conquered it. I then after all this monologue laughed and told my guy “dammit its just fucking food!” I had to laugh because isn’t this something we have heard, said to ourselves at some point in recovery? But I knew it wasn’t about the hamburger, it was about allowing the past, the memories, the behaviors, enter my consciousness for a brief moment, and knowing I had a choice in how to respond to the situation. I could have had my guy move the taco, I could had the waiter take it away, I could have stopped eating, I could have freaked out, frozen and panicked. But I didn’t do any of those things.

I want those of you reading to understand, if you ARE at that stage in recovery, that is ABSOLUTELY OK! We all have our journey, our place on our path, and there is no wrong place to be. I didn’t think I would ever have to face eating hamburger, because it was a fear food I would not have chosen to eat. Tonight was a challenge that came up, and was unexpected. But isn’t that life???? We face struggles, and situations we may not be expecting, and are put in a place to choose how we will respond. I chose to take a second bite, leave it on my plate, and self talk to myself that it was just hamburger, I would be ok. I felt a little anxiety come up, but I talked to my guy, reached out to Twitter, and kept eating. I would not let it ruin my meal. I ate the tamale, the enchilada, and enjoyed them. Towards the end of the meal, I did get a bit more anxious, and told my guy I just needed to get up and leave. Fortunately this was at the end of the meal, and once outside I realized how proud of myself I was.

Facing my ultimate fear and trigger food was hard, but not paralyzing. I was able to approach it as I do other struggles, with self talk, breathing, telling my guy how I was feeling and talking it out, and reaching out to my support system online. This is a healthy response! I may not have felt super comfortable in the situation, but I was ok. I know now, I am still not ready to eat hamburger, and I don’t know if I ever will, and I am OK with that as well. This was a success in my recovery.

I felt it important to share this experience with others, because even though I have a few years in strong recovery, I am a ViR (Voice in Recovery) and I want to be real, honest, authentic, and share all sides of recovery. In recovery, you may struggle, and take five steps forward and three steps back, but with every step, one day you will be able to approach a struggle in any area of life, and be able to incorporate the skills, tools, and support system you have been working on. Never give up hope. Never compare your recovery to others, you are on the path that is yours, and yours only.

How about you? Have you experienced a huge struggle and/or triggering situation and been able to incorporate your tools and skills learned in therapy, life, and/or treatment? What works?


  1. Congratulations! What an awesome victory! It’s wonderful that you were able to reach out to others for support, and to believe in yourself enough to get through a difficult situation.

  2. Thank you so much!!! I think its like mini epiphanies when you realize that all your learning, challenges, and tools you gain in life can come together without too much effort. It is possible to change behaviors and learn new ways of approaching lifes struggles 🙂

  3. This is awesome! Congratulations! I’ve recently had an experience with a past “trigger” food of mine that didn’t turn out nearly so well. It’s good to read this. I want to be able to get past it, and I’m glad to see that maybe it is possible.

    • It is possible! Kudos for you for trying!! Trying itself is a huge accomplishment. It can appear hard, but hopefully you will continue to learn on your journey and what would work better in the future. Take the lessons 🙂

  4. Bravo!
    Food doesn’t trigger me as much as exercise does. But, in any triggering moment I’ve learned to take a step back and STOP. Stop and listen to the avalanche of thoughts that are coming. I think many of us in recovery tend to have (or had) black and white thinking. When I get triggered my immediate thought it, “SHIT! Here I go, back down. Who did I think I was thinking I was better? I’m destined to listen to my ED head.”
    So instead I say, “I’ve been triggered. So what?” Feel the feelings, notice the voices and move on. Learn, learn, learn…

  5. Kendra, you’re truly such an inspiration! This is such a wonderful post. You really inspire me to be authentic and genuine with myself and in my writing, too.

    And a huge congrats on your victory! I’m so glad that you’re able to acknowledge how far you’ve come.

    Like Andrea said, the key is to learn from your triggers and experiences. We all experience setbacks, relapses, whatever, whether it’s about food or your body image. And that’s when it’s important to reflect on what’s going on, see what you need and learn from it.

  6. Three cheers for conquering your fears! (Wow, I wrote that not intending at all to be corny, but I’m not going to delete it now =) What an inspiration you are for seeking support when you need it most and pushing through your discomfort. Despite your hesitation, I’m so glad that you shared your struggle on twitter and on VIR – not only does it garner you support, but you have such power to move others in their recovery. Thanks for being so open, and I’m really enjoying reading about how this trip is helping you grow and develop.

  7. Seriously… HUGE congrats on this amazing achievement! I recently accomplished one of mine as well this week. And I live in Albuquerque, how funny! Maybe there’s something in the air here lately that’s like courage in vapor form.

    Again, congrats! You should be so proud!

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