Unrewarding Rewards: True Reward vs. Pre-Packaged Wrap-Around Guilt Trip
I’ve said this: “I’ve done so well, I DESERVE this.”
That may be upon reaching a goal or progress marker, but on a more frequent basis, it probably means I’ve completed a challenging task of some sort – stuck to my best nutrition habits for a time, finished a work project, cleaned house, or (just insert something I don’t want to do but will be pleased with having it done), and now I want some kind of reward.
Know the feeling?
How often does that “reward” mean food or a drink? Perhaps something we’ve denied ourselves?
Logically, we recognize that’s a bit odd. Why would we reward ourselves with the very thing that has created the situation for which we must deny ourselves what we want? It makes no sense as that reward comes with baggage – it may ignite a binge or sending us off our nutrition plan, and that leads to remorse or feeling guilty. How is that a reward? It’s not logical, not rational.
No, that’s an emotional response. That reward is something we associate with comfort or pleasure. Perhaps it’s what we’ve always chosen, so it feels right until the wrap-around guilt hits us. Then what felt like a reward may feel like the booby prize.
Yes, I know, it’s how we’re trained. Food is a quick fix. It’s easy and available – just the thing for a harried parent to put into the hand of a child, and it’s often an inexpensive reward as well. Great, but how does that help us? Who said rewards had to be food or drink? There are other things that might work for you and be more rewarding in the long term.
What else might we associate with comfort or pleasure? Make a list of other options that would be just as soothing and rewarding for you. Some may be as easy and available as food, and some may be rewards to work up to. The options are endless, and tailor them to your preferences. Give yourself five minutes to do nothing – or something specific like a walk around your workplace. Maybe it’s a particular bottle of water, still or sparkling. What about a guilt-free half hour to spend however you wish? Perhaps it’s buying something you’ve wanted for a long time – be it a $5 item or much more expensive. Maybe give yourself five minutes to watch a YouTube video or do some fun research. Maybe a good long chat with a friend or an hour to simply potter about—or get a manicure or wander a store or park you love. Brainstorm options that fit you, then keep the list where you can find it. This change of your “go-to” won’t happen overnight, so keep that list as a reference until you cultivate this new habit.
You may find that those go-to foods you’ve always chosen don’t even make the list.
Renée Jones is a counselor and coach specializing in overcoming emotional eating. After 40 years on the Diet Yo-Yo, she struggled to find what worked for her while emotional eating sabotaged every attempt. When she finally overcame that emotional eating to lose her weight, maintenance on a low-fat diet left her tired, hungry, and cranky. In April of 2015, she found the ketogenic lifestyle and later Carrie Brown’s recipes, which freed her from the Diet Yo-Yo and dark mood swings.
Now she helps others get free of their emotional eating and other baggage so their hearts can heal along with their bodies. She has a Master’s degree in Counseling with certifications in both traditional and contemporary models as well as Horse-Assisted and relaxation methods. She has an international counseling and coaching practice.
Connect with Renée!