It happens all the time, all over the world. Food is used as a reward, as a soother of hurt feelings, and hurt knees. In school, my teacher would give us candy as a reward for good behavior or good grades. At home, my family offered food as a reward for a good job completing a chore. Even at work, people brought in various desserts and yummy savory snacks when we needed help getting through a difficult time. Using food as a reward is a time honored tradition, but one we need to break.
When I was 300 pounds, I did it too. I used food to reward myself for all sorts of things – for completing a project at work and even baking a pan of brownies because I got all the laundry finished. I rewarded myself with a fast food super-sized hamburger (or 2) after grocery shopping. I even rewarded myself with chocolate when I didn't eat too many rolls at dinner. Even when I was on an “official” diet, I'd reward myself for the perceived deprivation of the week by swinging through the closest drive-thru restaurant for 3 hash browns, 2 sausage biscuits, a coffee and an orange juice.
Breaking this habit was not as hard as I would have imagined. Changing the rewards I gave myself from food to something healthier was relatively easy. Here are some rewards I used along my weight loss journey:
- Haircut at a good salon - before, I hated looking in those big mirrors (yuck!)
- New glasses - and if you've seen my before pictures, you know I needed them!
- Contact lenses - I wore these more and more as I lost weight, and saved the glasses for bedtime reading.
- A new pair of jeans for each size lost - I started out at above a 28, so I needed a lot of new sizes!
- Frequent dates with John - definitely fun
- At 100 pounds lost, bought a bathing suit - I hadn't had one in about 8 years
- Bought new cookbooks frequently
- Scheduled alone time - good for me, good for my family
If you think about it, it’s easy to find things that you will enjoy having or doing that aren't food. Learning to put that behavior aside was good for my health and my emotions. Taking food out of the equation when feelings are hurt forced me to examine the feelings without food getting in the way. I've learned to deal with my emotions in a healthy, productive way and it feels good.
As you lose weight, decide in advance what kinds of rewards you will give yourself when you reach certain goals. And remember, the goals aren't always on the scale. They can be a size of clothing, energy level, exercise minutes completed, or healthy choices made. By rewarding yourself along the way, you will feel that sense of accomplishment acknowledged and celebrated, but without adding unnecessary calories to your hips. Take time today to jot down a few ideas for non-food rewards.