Food is Not a Reward

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I am currently trying to lose my pregnancy weight from my most recent pregnancy. My youngest daughter is 2.5 months old now and I'm just now getting back into exercising regularly. Seriously....why won't these pounds just FLY off?! The struggle is SO real. I have been eating pretty clean on my own but am not restricting myself from anything since I will be doing The Change Up later this month and just want to focus on making healthy choices.

Everything I cook at home is clean. I workout 4-5 days a week (varying from in the gym to workout DVDs at home because 'tis the season for kids to get sick every other day). I am making healthy choices. So every so often I get a craving to eat a ginormous burger, or a brownie the size of Texas and say to myself "I have worked hard this week. I have EARNED this." I caught myself saying this 2 days ago and was just like...wait. WHAT?!

That's when my mentality COMPLETELY changed.

Food is not a reward; it is a basic necessity for survival. Yes, there are things that are not good for us at all but taste amazing and I am not saying avoid those foods like the plague. I will never forsake a cinnamon roll. or a cookie. or a brownie. That is my trifecta of sweets. I am NOT saying don't eat these naughty (but so nice) things from time to time. What I AM saying is we don't need to reward ourselves with food. Food is not a reward. It is a right of passage for survival. We are not dogs. We don't learn a behavior and get rewarded with a treat. At least that's not how it should be.

This realization got me thinking. It made me start to wonder where viewing food as a reward began for us. FOR me. And then a real life situation happened...

I am currently in the trenches of potty training my 2.5 year old daughter (LORD, HELP ME!).

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Every time Jovie uses the potty she is given a treat. m&m's, dark chocolate covered acai berries (hellooooo, delicious!), a chocolate chip, whatever I have in the house. She gets excited about it and it motivates her to do it again. 2 days ago I caught myself saying to her "If you want a treat then you need to go pee pee on the potty". And then I said to myself, "Why am I saying this to my child?! Why do I want her to see food as a reward?"

I give her treats for doing a trick.

LIKE SHE'S A DOG.

As soon as I realized this, I abandoned food as her reward and implemented stickers.

And as soon as i did that, my mindset toward the not-good-for me food shifted.

This is America. We are surrounded by incredible food and most of us have the means to eat whatever we desire to eat. We don't need to justify eating something bad with "I've earned this" or "this is my reward". In Heather Sutton's words, "we aren't 5." We can make our own decisions and eating something unhealthy doesn't need justification. Eat it if you want to. Don't tell yourself you've earned it. It's JUST food. That's it.

We are always so quick to celebrate big (and not so big) moments with food. If someone gets a promotion it's "LET'S GO OUT TO EAT!" If someone has completed a Boot Camp it's "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO EAT TO CELEBRATE?" If you are getting married, having a baby, graduating, celebrating an anniversary, or a birthday--your celebrations are more than likely centered around food. Sometimes that's just the way celebrations go, but it doesn't always have to be that way.

If you have worked hard toward something and want to reward yourself and want to celebrate, DO IT--but it doesn't need to be with food. Reward yourself with things that give you LASTING joy. If you have seen some great results in the gym, buy yourself a new pair of workout shoes. If you are celebrating a birthday or an anniversary, head out of town with the ones you love and go on an adventure or spend some time relaxing. Get a manicure/pedicure or a spa treatment, get a new hairstyle, go see a movie, TAKE A NAP (my most favorite reward EVER). The list goes on and on. There are several ways to reward yourself that don't involve food. Check out this list of ideas for rewards from Propel Wellness

Our lives are built on memories, not meals.

Food is a temporary reward. Memories are rewards that last a lifetime.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________by Carisah Lee

Marketing Director at Get Fit Modesto

and cookie enthusiast