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Calorie Count Blog

Letting Go of Food as a Reward


By +Carolyn Richardson on Mar 10, 2012 10:00 AM in Dieting & You

When you hear ‘treat yourself’ does food come to mind? For too many, food is a reward. Our culture of birthday cakes, lollipops at doctors’ visits, and eating out, all shore up this notion that food is a prize to be won. Multiple studies have shown however, that this tendency toward food as a reward is more intense in obese and overweight individuals. In fact, even in the absence of hunger, the leaning toward food has been shown to be higher when compared to normal weight individuals. So, how do you turn off your impulse to use food to reward yourself? Do you keep eating even after you're full for enjoyment?

Practice Makes Perfect: Restraint vs. Control

Despite the reality of appetite, multiple studies have proven the battle of overeating can only be won by practicing self-control. Those using the just-say-no approach are more prone to overeating than those who allow themselves to indulge a little. Training yourself to control overeating because of reward means not avoiding certain foods, but facing your temptation head on, and finding ways to limit the amount of the food you eat. One study employed a stop signal to a high calorie food. So you know, counting calories, setting a specific serving size, and limiting how often you eat certain foods are ways to practice control.

New Habits

In addition to practicing self-control, for your new ways to stick, creating healthy habits is another way to stave off the urge to use food as a reward. A study by researchers in the Netherlands found habit strength to be the most important predictor of unhealthy snacking behavior. A new habit that will throw off your usual routine can be setting timed snack reminders. Another way is to set a trigger before snacking, such as walking, logging the previous meal, or looking at a goal picture. Create a new habit that consistently reminds you how overeating affects your health. As the new habit gains strength, you'll build up that muscle to make better choices. By the way, walking isn't just about burning calories, exercise has been proven to reduce brain responses to food reward.

New Rewards


Because old habits die hard, and healthier habits are weaker rewards, you must also find ways to reward yourself so that food slowly becomes less powerful or satisfying. This doesn't mean starving yourself for a pair of Christian Louboutins, it means eating a balanced meal, and when you feel full, setting rewards in place so that the urge to continue eating for enjoyment is hampered. Your rewards should not be impulsive or in reaction to not doing something bad, instead they should play up something good in your life. Have you promised to contact a friend more regularly, or have your eye on accomplishing a life-long goal? Create a post-meal ritual that includes interacting with a non-food related endeavor. Eventually, you may find yourself looking past the plate for fulfillment.

Your thoughts...

Have you been able to change your food-as-reward attitude with specific habits or rituals? What has and has not worked for you?



Comments


I reward myself by purchasing a $3 lottery scratch ticket. It's about the same price as any junk food you can name and if I win something even enough to purchase another ticket I don't have that guilty feeling.



The way I feel now, eating junk food is a punishment, not a reward. I do reward myself with food! Why not!? I love food! Delicious healthy food that rewards as it goes in my mouth, again as it provides my body with wonderful energy and good health, and a third time, as it makes me look slim and glowing too!



I do the only thing a woman can do to reward her accomplishments. I buy a new pair of high heel shoes.


The reason food is a reward or a special treat is that you don't have it very often.  Birthday cake is, I believe, a once per year thing and hardly the road to diet perdition even if I start including spouse, children and grandchildren birthday cakes.  I'm not required to eat the whole thing.  Many celebrations and holidays have food as a main attraction.  For my family, lobster is a special treat, because we don't have it very often.  Eating out is infrequent and usually foods we don't prepare at home.  Even an occasional dive into a fast food burger and fries can be a treat because we don't fry much of anything at home.

The only punishment foods I've found are badly prepared (usually from institutional kitchens) foods, C rations, MRE's and sweet potatoes.  I really hate yams.Smile

Any food is fine and food as a treat for special occasions is a part of millennia of human history.  Just in moderation.  Else we become some gray, food desert version of 1984.

 



Evidentely some of these posters don't have portion or emotional eating issues.  lol  .  I understand the article completely.  When eating as a reward, we set ourselves and children up to eat when not always hungry, and for comfort eating.

I don't want to do the same to my kids.  I also don't stress over eating birthday cakes and occasional junk food.  I just have to limit it and do it for the heck of it not because it has to be a reward/celebration food.  I want my kids to grow up knowing that if they win an award that a awesome you did a great job with salmon dinner or regular meal  is appropriate not a cake or McDonalds treat is necessary like my family taught me.  I have struggled with comfort and reward eating in my adult life.  My family eats out once every 2-3 months but it isn't given as an award.

I'd rather teach my daughter to that she can buy fingernail polish for a big reward or something that doesn't revolve around food everytime.

 

 



"Many celebrations and holidays have food as a main attraction."

The main attraction should be family, friends, and/or honoring the holiday.

My daughter, who has successfully moved to maintenance, spent the Christmas holiday gathering taking time to talk to every single family member.  She says this kept her away from grazing the food table and as a reward she got to learn a little more about her loved ones.

Her big reward for meeting her weight goal was to have laser eye surgery and ditch the glasses/contacts she's been wearing for many years.  She had smaller, yet similar rewards along her journey.

My daughter is my inspiration.

Check out her blog at www.lifesimages.com/fit-ographer/

or www.facebook.com/fitographer



When I started this journey, I found that I had to look at reasons I was overeating or eating the wrong types of foods.

I found, fairly quickly, that I was using food as entertainment, and I had a best buddy that was more than willing to be my partner in crime.  Two years ago in february, she went in the hospital for hemroid surgery, and died that night.  I went through some time regretting our choices  of entertainment as they viewed the cause of her death as complications due to obesity.  I realized I would have spent a much more productive time with her had we spent our time doing something else.  It took a while for me to go out to eat and feel that I had learned my lesson, I now can do it, making wise choices and still able to enjoy the company of whoever I go out with.  I love one of the previous posters saying that her daughter makes sure she chats with each guest at a gathering so she doesn't spend time grazing at the buffet, great strategy!!



Eating food at parties and celebrations is not a cultural practice, it's a human practice. There's no changing that. I don't agree with the mindset that EVERYONE should stop grazing or stop social eating, if you can control yourself it shouldn't be a problem. Also, keep in mind that some people are uncomfortable being around that one friend who refuses to eat at parties or even watches other people eat.



Every Saturday hubby and I walk 1.6 miles each way to split a cheesesteak - and it TASTES GREAT!



I reward myself with shopping trips to the mall! :) The great feeling when I buy a  fantastic new pairs of jeans lasts a lot longer than any feeling 'pleasure' from eating gross junk food.



eating wine gums is not a good reward

 



Original Post by: merrycam

Eating food at parties and celebrations is not a cultural practice, it's a human practice. There's no changing that. I don't agree with the mindset that EVERYONE should stop grazing or stop social eating, if you can control yourself it shouldn't be a problem. Also, keep in mind that some people are uncomfortable being around that one friend who refuses to eat at parties or even watches other people eat.


Parties and celebrations ARE cultural.

 



Good read



Does anyone have an idea about eating carbs to ease physical pain?  I can't take NSAIDs, so basically I find myself not eating a lot, but eating sugar to ease any discomfort I have.  My son was given sugar water post surgery, so I know it's common knowledge that this is in fact a pain reducer, albeit destructive.



I certainly was one who used food as reward before my journey.  It is a hard habit to break or control.  It takes time to see the benefits of using food as fuel not as a reward, but once you start seeing and feeling the effects it is certainly worth it.  My recommendation is to start slow by doing today what you can continue tomorrow.  Over time it would continue to grow into a life style change!



Original Post by: jennyct

Does anyone have an idea about eating carbs to ease physical pain?  I can't take NSAIDs, so basically I find myself not eating a lot, but eating sugar to ease any discomfort I have.  My son was given sugar water post surgery, so I know it's common knowledge that this is in fact a pain reducer, albeit destructive.


Although commonly used in infants and toddlers, recent studies show that sugar is not a pain reliever.  It is a comfort food and distracts you from pain.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol and non-aspirin Excedrin) is not an NSAID.  Take no more than 4000 mgs a day.

Best wishes



My problem is that I can turn ANYTHING into an eating experience. I know we're in the age where we celebrate with food, whether it be a celebration of birth, of death, a holiday, whatever. It's what we do, we feast. But even running a simple errand, I want to stop at this cafe for a "treat" or even a tea. It's always some kind of consumable. I suppose if I can make it a coffee, tea or even a latte (I'm nursing so even full fat is o.k and I don't take sugar in either) would be better than a doughnut or a muffin, but it's that habit that EVERYTHING revolves around food. I eat pretty well and used to weight about 60 lbs more than I do now but I am tired of it ALWAYS being an issue. I can't even blame the fact that I have kids. I was fat before I even got pregnant. In ways I actually look better now, but it's changing the thinking. Apart from therapy or hypnosis I don't really know how to address this. I've read articles like this on this issue, but never got a good answer on how to address it.



Original Post by: ster516357597

My problem is that I can turn ANYTHING into an eating experience. I know we're in the age where we celebrate with food, whether it be a celebration of birth, of death, a holiday, whatever. It's what we do, we feast. But even running a simple errand, I want to stop at this cafe for a "treat" or even a tea. It's always some kind of consumable. I suppose if I can make it a coffee, tea or even a latte (I'm nursing so even full fat is o.k and I don't take sugar in either) would be better than a doughnut or a muffin, but it's that habit that EVERYTHING revolves around food. I eat pretty well and used to weight about 60 lbs more than I do now but I am tired of it ALWAYS being an issue. I can't even blame the fact that I have kids. I was fat before I even got pregnant. In ways I actually look better now, but it's changing the thinking. Apart from therapy or hypnosis I don't really know how to address this. I've read articles like this on this issue, but never got a good answer on how to address it.


It shouldn't hurt to stop for a tea or coffee.  or even for an apple or banana.  Perhaps changing the TYPES of food to revolve around would help.

Also changing the portion sizes.

Train yourself to eat healthier so you can train your child(ren).

In celebration, choose to spend more time socializing than eating.  Healthify your recipes that you bring to gatherings.  Bring a bowl of fruit and cut up veggies, so you have a 'safe place' to go to fill your plate.

At buffets, fill half your plate with veggies, green salad, fruit.  Each time you go back, fill it again half with veggies.

 



I still do not know what we will do to celebrate cold weather holidays like Christmas.  I hate that it is all food, food, food.  Neither of us has family near.  The roads could be too freaky for me to drive.  Guess we'll just make smaller treats and call it done.  We do enjoy reading to each other and sometimes there are decent holiday dramas- we also do not watch TV or have cable.  Even in the warmer weather, the holiday times do not feel like any other day.  (Mostly I celebrate by not doing as much work on the property that particular day.) 



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