Session 11:

Cope with Triggers

What is a Trigger?

Coping with triggers can help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

This session we will talk about:

  • Some unhealthy food shopping triggers and ways to cope with them
  • Some unhealthy eating triggers and ways to cope with them
  • Some triggers of sitting still and ways to cope with them


You will also make a new action plan!

  • Instead of buying treats for your loved ones, show your love in a healthy way.
  • If you snack when you watch TV, avoid eating out of large containers and bags. Get yourself a single serving – and that’s all.
  • If you always lie on the couch and watch TV after dinner, be active during the ads.

Marta's Story

Marta just learned that she’s at risk for type 2 diabetes. So she needs to change her eating and fitness habits.

On a typical workday, Marta gets up at 5:30 in the morning. As soon as she enters the kitchen, she starts making coffee. Just the smell helps her wake up. Then she warms up a pastry to dunk in her coffee.

By 3 in the afternoon, she’s getting drowsy again. So she stops off at the coffee machine in the staff lounge. At the vending machine, she buys herself another pastry to dunk in her coffee.

Later that evening, Marta needs to unwind after a stressful day. So she curls up on the couch and watches TV. During one of the commercial breaks, she grabs a bag of chips and a beer.

What are some of the things in Marta’s life that trigger her to act in unhealthy ways?

Marta decides to cope with her triggers. These days, she gets more sleep, so she doesn’t get as drowsy during the day. She still has her morning and afternoon coffee. But instead of having a pastry for breakfast, she has some plain nonfat yogurt with berries.

Marta still watches TV to unwind after a stressful day. But she rides a stationary bike or lifts weights while she watches it. And now she has cut-up veggies for her evening snack instead of chips and beer.

How to Cope with Unhealthy Shopping Triggers

It can be challenging to cope with triggers. Here are some common triggers and ways to cope with them.

I'm hungry

Have a healthy snack before you go shopping.
I feel sad, anxious, stressed, or mad
Put off the shopping trip until you feel better.

Cope with your feelings in a healthy way. For instance, take some deep breaths.
It's on sale, or I have a coupon for that
Find ways to save money on healthy items instead.

Don't clip coupons for unhealthy items.
It looks tempting
Don't go down the aisles with candy, chip, and ice cream, etc.

Buy a very small amount, like a single ice cream bar instead of a whole container of ice cream.

Keep in mind that the store's goal is to get you to buy things.
I always buy this
Shop with a list, and stick to it.

Remind yourself that you are making better choices now.

Try a different store, such as a farm stand.
It's for my spouse, kids, or grandkids
Show your love in healthier ways. It will be better for you - and for them.

How to Cope with Unhealthy Eating Triggers

I'm hungry

Eat something healthy.

Stop when you feel full.

Use a small plate.
I like to nibble on this while I watch TV
Avoid eating out of large containers and bags. Get yourself a single serving - and that's all.

Knit, ride a stationary bike, use resistance bands, or lift weights instead.

Chew sugar-free gum instead. Or nibble on non-starchy veggies, like celery.

Watch less TV.

Eat only at the kitchen/dining room table.
I feel sad, anxious, stressed, or mad
Ease your feelings in healthy ways. For instance, talk with a friend.
I feel bored
Do something healthy: go for a walk, mow the lawn, or try a new healthy recipe.
I feel lonely
Contact your friends or family.

Meet people: take a class, join a team or club, or volunteer.

Think about adopting a pet.
This is easy to get or make
Stock up on healthy items that are easy to get or make, like baby carrots.
This looks or smells tempting (at home)
Keep a supply of healthy items that you like. Make sure they are visible and ready to eat. For instance, keep cut-up veggies in your fridge and a bowl of fruit on your table.

Don't keep unhealthy items at home.

Keep unhealthy items out of sight, or make them hard to reach.
This looks or smells tempting (at work)
Avoid walking by vending machines and "free" food.

Keep healthy snacks on hand.
I have happy memories of eating this
Change it to make it healthier.

Have a very small serving.

Share it with someone else.

Make new memories of eating healthy dishes.
I don't want to waste food
Cook smaller amounts.

Store the leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

Give it away.

Remind yourself that your health is more important than a few bites of food.
I always get this at the drive-thru after work
Take another route so you don't pass the drive-thru.

Don't eat in your car.

Order something healthy instead.

I see photos or videos of unhealthy food
Try not to look at them.

Look for photos and videos of healthy food.

Unfollow from social media pages that post tempting foods or recipes.

How to Cope with Triggers of Sitting Still

I'm tired
Get more sleep at night.

Take a short nap.
I feel sad, stressed, anxious, or mad
Ease your feelings in healthy ways. For instance, take a brisk walk.
My joints/feet hurt
Find ways to be active that are easy on your body, such as swimming or yoga.
I always lie on the couch and watch TV after dinner
Ride a stationary bike, use resistance bands, or lift weights while you watch TV.

Be active during ads.

Go for a walk after dinner instead.

Plan for Success

Your triggers are things in your life that you tend to react to in a certain way – without even thinking about it. They can be sights, smells, sounds, or feelings. They can also be people, places, activities, or situation.

Take out a sheet of paper and write these down:

What are your unhealthy shopping triggers?
What are your unhealthy eating triggers?
What triggers you to sit still, instead of being active?

Once you identify these triggers, write down how you will cope with them. By making plan ahead of time, rather than in the moment when faced with the trigger, you are more likely to stay on your healthy path. 

Common Triggers


Common unhealthy shopping triggers:

  • “When we go out to the movies, we always get a big tub of popcorn to share, plus some soda.”
  • “My family gets a pizza every Friday night.”
  • “I always stop off at the taco truck during my lunch break.”
  • “I keep cookies on hand for when my grandkids visit.”
  • “When I feel down, I pick up a container of ice cream.”


Common unhealthy eating triggers:

  • “I always have something sweet after dinner.”
  • “My friends and I always have chicken wings, beer, and chips while we watch the big game.”
  • “After church, my women’s group has coffee and donuts.”


Common triggers of sitting still:

  • “My friends and I sit together in the cafeteria every day during lunch.”
  • “My family gets a pizza every Friday night.”
  • “My family plays board games all day on Saturdays.”
  • “When dinner is over, it’s time for TV.”
A picture of Health Coach Emily smiling for the camera
Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN​

on July 28, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.