Triggering Chow Time


September 19, 1990|By ROB KASPER

I have been thinking about my "food triggers."

I didn't know I had them until I read an article in Cooking Light magazine. This is one of those magazines aimed at people pursuing a "healthier lifestyle." That is another way of saying "people who don't put enough walnuts, butter or sugar in their carrot cake."

This is not a group I identify with. But I believe in knowing what your enemy is doing, so I occasionally read these magazines.

And, according to an article in the September-October issue, food triggers are the people, places or things that signal you that it is time to eat. The article was filled with examples of food triggers and tips on how to get them to misfire, so you will eat less.

My favorite food trigger was "your mama."

This trigger worked like this: You go home to visit mama and she starts you on a food binge by baking your favorite childhood treats.

The advice the magazine gave was to tell mama to cut this out. You are supposed to tell mama to stop cooking days before you arrive in her kitchen.

I disagree. Visiting Mom triggers my appetite. But it is a trigger I want to pull more often, not less.

Mom bakes special things for me when I visit her, like banana and whipped cream cake. Any time I see it I eat several big pieces. But, sadly, there is no chance that this cake-eating behavior can become a regular part of my life.

That is because Mom lives far away. And nowadays nobody bakes. Cakes are either store bought, or worse than that, filled with yogurt. And I have my standards. If a cake doesn't measure up to Mom's, it is not worth eating.

Another way to fool a food trigger, the magazine says, is to take a shower.

If, for example, every night at 9 you feel you have to have a bedtime snack, then the article suggested you stall by taking a shower.

When I was a teen-ager I remember being told that taking a cold shower would suppress certain stirrings. But this was the first time I had ever heard a shower described as an appetite suppressant.

The shower-diet might work for some people. I find it hard to eat in a shower, especially popcorn. However, if I took a shower every time I was hungry, the water level of the city reservoir would drop 3 feet a day.

A food trigger that seemed familiar to me was the "the-cookies-with-the-come-hither-look" example. This happens when you open the kitchen cabinets, and the cookies stored there start winking at you.

The suggested treatment for this trigger was to detain the provocative sweets, or as the article called them "high-calorie, high-fat food," in an "opaque container" and keep the container in a hard-to-reach place.

After a trip to the dictionary to look up "opaque," I figured out a simpler way to say the same thing: Hide the cookies.

We do this at our house, as a cookie-preservation measure, with mixed results. When the kids aren't looking my wife or I smuggle the cookies into the house. Then we stash them.

Inevitably word leaks out that cookies are on the premises. The kids begin a cabinet-by-cabinet search. They don't find the cookies, but they don't have to. Their searching drives us crazy. In the end wegive up and announce, "Just get down off the top of the refrigerator, and we'll give you anything you want."

And if we hide them too well, then we can't find them.

The more I read about food triggers, the more I became convinced that instead of an old-fashioned breech-loading musket, my appetite was more like an Uzi submachine gun. It was easy to set off and, once triggered, there were rapid-fire consequences.

When driving to work, for instance, I noticed white, puffy clouds in the sky. The clouds reminded me of whipped cream, the kind they plop in your coffee in Seattle. The clouds made me hungry.

So did the seats of my car, which were leather. Leather comes from cattle. So do steaks. And as I drove to work I remembered that I had a thick steak waiting for me in the fridge at home.

Even the color of the car reminded me of food. The color was candyapple red.

I did change my behavior after reading the article on food triggers. One suggested way to avoid eating was to bypass the tempting aromas of bakeries by walking on the other side of the street.

This offended me. I believe bakeries should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, in their work of making the air we breathe more aromatic.

So from now on I promise to walk on the smelly side of street.

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