Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rewarding Yourself Without Food

Me hiking at the Grand Canyon. An amazing reward after graduating college!
Growing up was filled with lots of good times. It seems that most holidays, and special events somehow revolved around food (BBQs, picnics). Food definitely brings family and friends together. A huge buffet spread with casseroles, meats, vegetables, and desserts just seems normal, even though it is far from "normal eating".  Holidays or special events in my house always ended sweet...with a dessert of some kind. Even after band or chorus concerts, my brother, sister, and I expected to receive a token of appreciation for our hard work...a pint of our favorite Ben and Jerrys ice cream. (Mine was always Health Bar Crunch!).

As I look back, I wonder why our "rewards" in life always seem to revolve around food. Sure, good food brings pleasure, but for some people it encourages opportunities to overeat, or to eat when not physically hungry. We have almost been conditioned to feel this way, and start always associating happy times with food. I may have traded my pint of ice cream for a dinner and wine at a nice restaurant, but the theory is just the same. It makes it easier to turn to food for pleasure.

I hope that everyone can think of an activity that brings them happiness. The next time you deserve a reward (end of a hard semester, scored an A on an exam, fit into your "skinny jeans", made a bonus at work) think about other activities beyond food that would bring a smile to your face. This could be spending time with a certain friend, going to a fitness class, walk on the beach, engaging in a hobby, going for a hike, treating yourself to a manicure, or shoe shopping instead of going out for ice cream. Remember that it has to be something that you actually enjoy, or you may end up turning to food anyway!

Of course there will be times when food is the main attraction of an event (Thanksgiving feast, cake at a wedding) and you should allow yourself to indulge mindfully. That being said, I encourage you to reward yourself on a more regular basis with other activities beyond eating that bring you similar feelings of joy.

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