Food as reward or comfort is ingrained in many of us from birth. From offering the breast or bottle to soothe and comfort the fussy infant, giving the boisterous toddler a cookie to sit still, candy at school for good grades, chocolate as reward for a teenager; birthday cakes, lollipops at the doctor’s rooms, and eating out as a treat; food as a reward or comfort is a pervasive part of modern culture. For us, food has lost is meaning as an element of survival and has become a source of pleasure. This results in unhealthy attitudes and habits.
Because this habit is ingrained from young, eating healthy and reducing excessive eating is often seen as a punishment, deprivation, and also a short-term intervention instead of a change in lifestyle.
To achieve long term health goals and maintain a healthy weight, these habits have to change. Improved health and wellbeing , reduced risk of dread disease, improved self-esteem, more energy… these are just some of the long term ‘rewards’ that should be focussed on.
Some guidelines to overcoming the habit of Food as Reward and Comfort:
First understand why: Look at where your idea of Food as reward comes from; habit, family tradition? If you are using food to soothe, or to deal with emotional turmoil; identify what your pattern is and the work on changing it.
Realise when: Identify all the instances where you reward yourself with food or treats; the coffee and muffin when shopping, the chocolate when you are feeling down, the cupcake after gym. Once you know when you are tempted, you can take steps to avoid the situation or find alternative ‘rewards’ for those occasions.
Change these habits:
Exercise Restraint- practise self-control: you really CAN say no to that delicious looking chocolate cake
Avoid situations where food is the centre of celebration; if you cannot avoid the event, reward yourself with interacting with the people around you and enjoying the music instead of the food served
Learn New Habits- if you know a visit to the Supermarket triggers a snack binge, fill up on water before you go
Set new Rewards- do not make food a reward for achievement, or a comfort for a failure. Seek other rewards that celebrate each step in improved health
Look for rewards that are long lasting. Realise that with rewarding yourself with food, the good feelings will stop as soon as you finish the treat. If you reward yourself with something like a visit to a fun place or event, the reward (and memories) are long term.
Examples of positive rewards:
- A new pair of jeans (in a smaller size)
- A new haircut at a professional salon with all the money saved from NOT buying treats
- A new bathing suit
- Book a Spa for a back massage or facial
- Sneak out to a movie matinee
- Buy yourself a great music CD
- Play mini golf
- See a play
- Take a walk with a friend
Finally, see food as nutrition, not reward. A Lifetime habit may not be broken overnight, but every time you do not succumb to the temptation, is a step in the right direction.
Article written by:
by S E More (BA Comm. Psych Hons); for TLC-for Weightloss-Wellbeing
For more information or a FREE ASSESSMENT please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our website: www.tlcforwellbeing.com