Triggers. They’re all around us.

It’s easy to say that if they didn’t exist, we’d achieve our health goals in a snap. But deep down we know that’s not the way the world works. Life happens, and really living isn’t about avoiding triggers, it’s about learning how to cope with them.

We outline 5 unhealthy eating triggers we all face at some point in our lives, and gave you a few pointers on how to stay focused during the testy times.

It’s the day of love.

Also known as the day of chocolate. A lot. Of. Chocolate. How in the world are you supposed to avoid chocolate on Valentine’s day when you can get super size, giant size, even life-size chocolate bars?!
Let’s be honest, it’s tough. That’s why we have days set aside to give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room when temptation is just too hard to deny. When it comes to chocolate, choose quantity over quantity. Really treat yourself on this No Rules day by picking high quality dark chocolate, perhaps with nuts or dried fruit. Sure, it’s a treat, but dark chocolate has more antioxidants and a lot less sugar, fat, and additives than milk chocolate does. Not the sweets type? Treat yourself to a delicious, well-prepared and inventive meal that allows you mindfully savor and observe each bite.

Ah, the office.

It’s where you spend most of your time and it’s brimming with temptation. From the cupcakes in the breakroom to the processed snacks in the vending machine, it seems like there isn’t a safe place to turn. But wait — there’s hope.

Avoiding temptation means avoiding getting too hungry. When your stomach is growling, it’s nearly impossible to say no to those sugar-frosted donuts. Don’t beat yourself up, or hate on your will power. The body gets what it wants when it’s really hungry, and high-sugar, fatty foods are first on that list. Set a reminder for yourself to bring in fresh fruits, easy-to eat veggies, and raw nuts to ensure you have healthy snack options.

To avoid intense late day cravings, make sure your lunch includes hearty fiber, plant-based protein, healthy fats, and veggies. A nutritious and filling lunch will keep you satisfied longer and keep your cravings at bay. Make sure you’re having enough calories for lunch, even when you’re trying to lose weight. A 150 calorie salad is going to leave you famished later, and any reduction you made in your daily calorie goal will be wiped away when you dive into that chocolate cake your coworker brought in.

There’s nowhere to hide.

At every turn, a cocktail teases you with temptation. You said no to the pigs in a blankets hovering around in that silver tray, but before you know it, the cocktail waiter is back for more with a tantalizing fried snack. Your willpower begins to wane. What’s worse, you haven’t eaten for the past few hours and by now that adorable little crab cake sounds like just the thing to silence your growling stomach.

Before you know it, your “I’ll just take one” attitude spirals into an “Oh, screw it!” appetite, and you’re officially the hors d’oeuvre master. But this cycle can be stopped more easily than you can imagine. Eat before the cocktail party when you have full control of your options. It seems simple enough, but a light, healthy meal (think a bowl of raw veggies or even one of our bottled soups!) can help keep you in check.

Before the party, set an intention for yourself. Don’t prepare to deprive yourself, just prepare to enjoy yourself on your own terms. So, dessert is your weakness and chocolate is your favorite? Allow yourself a piece of chocolate dessert. This way, you’ve prepared to allow yourself to indulge, and thereby prevent a downward spiral of overeating and regret.

It’s not easy being a healthy jet setter.

Traveling is all about preparation. These days airports, train stations, or gas stations may have some healthy options, but why take the risk? By hitting the road unprepared, you’re more than likely setting yourself up for a lotta greasy regrets.

Put in a little prep work before you travel and you won’t have to worry about perusing the sad, overpriced “Healthy” selection at the gas station or rest stop. Pack a meal (in reusable or recyclable containers of course) and enough snacks to get you through the trip. If you find that you’re a bored eater while traveling — you eat just to pass the time — then pack yourself low-calorie, high-water dense vegetables or fruit (try jicama!). Try mindfulness to talk yourself out of this mindless eating habit first, then, if you really, really need to munch on something, you have a healthy plan B.

A tip for plane travelers: make sure that your snacks can hold up through security. Say bye to yogurts, creamy dressings, and yes, sadly your beloved soup. You can bring plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, salad, and sandwiches made with whole grains — so pack those without abandon! (okay, maybe with some abandon). If you’re flying internationally, you can select special meal options in advance, making it easy to eat plant-based even up in the clouds.

Be sure to stay hydrated at 10,000 ft by bringing your reusable, empty water bottle with you. Go through security with your empty bottle and simply fill it up at a water fountain later. Be green and save green!

You want to stay healthy, but you also don’t want to offend Aunt Lisa’s cooking.

Sometimes it’s not saying no to the food that’s difficult, but the person who made it. In situations like these, you can come prepared with a healthy side dish of sauteed greens or roasted vegetables. You can also simply come prepared to say, “No.” We mean it. Be up front and honest instead of piling on excuses. They may respond with a “c’mon, one won’t kill you,” but be honest about your health goals and how much you love the way you feel. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire them to make some positive changes, too!

Worried that you’re going to come off as ungrateful? There are other ways to show thanks besides munching on unhealthy foods that a friend or loved one cooked. Practice your “swaps” by replacing that bite of homemade sweets with a compliment on how nice their home looks or how lovely it is to see them. See how nourishing your visit can be without all of the cake and ccokies — you bring the sweetness!

Regardless of your surroundings and triggers, it’s important to remind yourself that sometimes indulgence is okay. Life is all about finding balance. Setting intentions about when to say no and when to say yes, and following through on them, is the key to forming healthy habits that last, wherever you may be.

How do you manage in a world full of triggers? Let us know, we’d love to hear your spoonful!