After every big accomplishment, family celebration, or even a hard day, it can be easy to tell yourself, ‘When I get home I’m going to eat pizza, ice cream, wine or any other indulgent food because I deserve it.’ Perhaps you find yourself thinking about the reward most of the day as something to look forward to and help you unwind when you get home.
Rewarding yourself with food is very common, can be so easy to do and feels innocent in the moment, which it very well could be. The times it isn’t innocent however is when there are mental gymnastics that accompany it like overanalyzing your choice beforehand, beating yourself up afterwards and not being able to move on from the choice. Maybe you tell yourself that you’ve blown it for the day so you might as well eat what you want for the rest of the day (or week) and you’ll get started again tomorrow. It can be an exhausting pattern!
Most likely when you experience that type of mental gymnastics around food the reward you’re craving is about something other than the food. The food tends to feel like the safe and easy go-to since it’s always been reliable.
Often when people talk about non-food rewards, they think of incorporating some sort of self-care, such as a massage, facial or a bath. However, that doesn’t always work for everyone. So, how do you know what you’re really craving?
A client recently shared that she typically rewards herself with food and she wasn’t quite sure why or how she could change that. She explained that a way to celebrate is going to a restaurant with her husband and she enjoys food so she doesn’t want to eliminate it completely. However, as we explored what it is that she loves about going out to the restaurant we were able to get clear on what is most fulfilling for her so we could determine what would be equally as appealing in the future.
After digging deeper, we identified what she loves most about going out to eat to celebrate was really about the experience. To break it down further, she’s really looking for adventure, connection, breaking out of her routine and trying something new. It turns out that the food just happened to be a part of the experience. Now she can find other rewards that don’t revolve around food but include those other values that are even more important to her.
So before the next time you find yourself craving a reward, it will be helpful to determine what it is you typically need in those types of situations. To get you started, ask yourself:
- Looking back at one of the most recent times you used food as a reward, what was most fulfilling or satisfying about it? Really look at the circumstance beyond just the food and taste of it.
- Based on what came up in the first question, what types of activities or non-food rewards would be able to provide that satisfaction?
Once you uncover this deeper feeling you can become more in touch with your needs and find new and exciting ways to reward yourself.
Laura B. Folkes is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. She supports busy adults who know what they should be eating but have a hard time sticking to it by helping them identify the familiar patterns keeping them stuck so they can radically transform their relationship with food. She ensures her clients don’t feel deprived by guiding them to make small, incremental changes so the journey is more enjoyable. After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura recognizes there are many factors keeping individuals from sticking to what they know works but it’s her mission to help others overcome these factors to become healthier and happier.
Laura can be contacted at email@example.com.