A traffic light is one of the most recognizable signals.  Red light, don’t go. Yellow light, better be cautious and slow down.  Green light, you’re in the clear.  

These signals can be associated with everything, including developing healthy habits.  If you’re able to understand what type of ‘traffic light’ situation you’re in, you’ll likely make a healthy choice.

When talking about weight loss:

RED LIGHT: Stop, don’t go.  This is a situation that never ends well.
YELLOW LIGHT: Be cautious.  In a yellow light situation a trigger can either lead to a red or green light.
GREEN LIGHT: Good to go.  You’re in tune with what you’re eating mentally and physically.


Use this rationale in different types of situations where your environment may be changed and when you’re feeling your 5 senses.  


When dealing with a red light situation…

These situations happen when something puts you in a funk and ultimately in a bad place.  During a red light situation, everything that you would do mindfully LINK IT and with good intentions goes out the window.  Often times red light situations end with trigger foods and binges.  The saying, “one is too many, 100 isn’t enough,” applies directly to red light situations.  


When dealing with yellow light situations…

Some of the time it turns reaaal bad, and other times it’s fine.  Theses situations vary based upon the individual.  A stressful day at work may lead you to binge on late night ice cream but for me if the Bruins lose I tend to face a pizza in disgust.  But, the beauty of understanding when you’re in these situations, you can always take a step back and turn it into a green light.  


When dealing with green light situations…

Everything is all good.  These situations will never yield to poor behavior, binging, or something you would not do mindfully.  With a green light, emotions are fully intact and content, which actually allow individuals to make better decisions with food.  


So, how does one understand when each situation comes about?  Unlike driving, there’s not automated light that tells you which situation you’re in.  You have to mindfully understand what triggers a tense, red light situation or easy street green light.


Breaking down behaviors


Our brain is lazy.  Imagine if we had to think everything through: Reach for the remote, make sure you’re holding it the right way and that it’s not your VCR remote, and nope not your car keys.  We’re conditioned to make quick reference points, find the shortest route to the outcome, and cut corners to get things done.  


A behavior sequence can be broken down into a simple formula: trigger + automatic response= behavior sequence.  The brain loves routines, and if you could function on autopilot all day the brain would be happy.  This is why knowing your triggers is so so so important; it’s the only variable you can alter and learning what triggers you can lead to changing your behavior.


Learn your triggers


A trigger is something that brings about a behavior, thought, or emotion.  Sights, sounds, smells, or memories can ‘trigger’ and illicit any sort of action that can unconsciously lead you to act a certain way.   


Making a list of your triggers is key to decoding what situation you’re in.  This brings awareness to each and every situation involving food or simply a social setting that creates unhealthy lash out.  You can’t change what you don’t know; make situations less mysterious and ID each and every one of your cues.  Establishing your cues will also help you understand patterns in your behaviors and therefore easily identify which situation you’re in.  This allows you to ‘break the chain.’  


Ever try and quit something while you’re in the middle of it?  Impossible.  But, if you ‘break the chain’ and identify the trigger and stop it from happening you don’t fall into the preverbale hole snowballing downhill.  But, one of the main keys to learning your triggers is that it allows you to create an action plan.  If you’re a go getter, tackle your biggest trigger first and get to it!  Don’t feel like that is always the case.  You can shoot for your ‘easiest’ trigger and make that your action plan.  Remember, no trigger is easy, it’s a trigger for a reason.  Feel good about any progress!  


Put it into practice


When dealing with your traffic light signals, it’s key to remember that behavior = triggers + automatic routine.  It’s extremely hard to alter your automatic routine, and in this case red or yellow light situation, so if you can understand the trigger to this situation you can create a more positive outcome.  


Red light situations are the most sensitive.  The tricky part about red light situations is that the situation doesn’t necessarily have to involve food.  Say you’re out to eat with your friends on a Friday night; a red light situation for most people.  Turn this into a yellow light situation by letting your friends know you’re tuning things down a bit and are going to eat healthy and skip drinks (okay, alternate drinks.)  This is a yellow light situation because it’s high stress even with the closest of friends.  Avoid the yellow light turning back into the red by staying firm and surrounding yourself with supportive people.  The yellow light will slowly evolve into a green light by doing this each and every time you go out.  Healthier decisions will become easy, you’ll stress less, and most of the time friends will jump on board with healthier options.     


Every situation can ultimately be yellow light.  In the social setting, there are tons of variables that can affect your mindset.  Depending upon the people you surround yourself with, your mental strength, and ability to simply say no a social setting is usually a yellow light situation.  Turn it into a green by being confident in your choices, surrounding yourself with good people, and being able to balance healthy and unhealthy habits.  

This is a coaching tactic I learned from Precision Nutrition, and how I handle everyday coaching.  Want to learn more? Lets do it! Shoot me an email at jeremy@dupontwellness.com