Do You Use Food as a Reward?

I do. A while ago I examined the reasons I overeat. At this stage of my life, I rarely overeat but there have been times in my life where I have felt compelled to eat too much. I am sure that many people can identify with this. Sometimes I feel that food controls me; I feel like I must eat something, despite the fact that I am not hungry.

When I examined my emotional state when I felt the urge to overeat – I found that it was variable.

I would overeat:

  • When I wanted to celebrate something
  • When I was nervous or stressed
  • When I was bored
  • When I was procrastinating
  • When I already felt bad about eating something else
  • When I was frustrated

So, the issue seemed to be that there were MANY emotional states that caused me to overeat, so it was very hard to learn when I was genuinely feeling hungry, and not just expressing these internal feelings by using food to not feel my emotions. Food is a tricky substance to control, as we absolutely need to learn to consume it in appropriate amounts, we cannot abstain altogether. Learning how to organically control your eating is essential to good health.

“Eating crappy food isn’t a reward — it’s a punishment.” Drew Carey.

Having made that sensible statement, I should point out that Drew Carey learnt that lesson the hard way. In 2010, he lost a significant amount of weight – about 75 pounds or 34 kilos. Feeling great, he decided to run a 10 kilometre race. He had been incredibly disciplined and diligent with his diet in the lead up to the race, monitoring everything he put in his mouth.

After the race, he indulged: “With an ice cream cone, an entire pepperoni pizza and a cupcake.” Then to make things worse, “He ate another pizza the following day.”

That’s how addiction works. You have a bit of what you want, then you feel compelled to have more. That’s why there are programs out there that advocate abstinence of a substance as a method of controlling it. A person cannot abstain from food (at least not permanently) so programs such as OA (Overeaters Anonymous) require members to abstain from certain foods or behaviours, such as not eating sugar or flour, or never snacking between meals. To read a thorough analysis of the history of OA, check out this site. You can see that next to no one in the fellowship could bloody well agree on how to deal with the issue of overeating. It’s totally cracked.

One person’s poison is another person’s elixir

Anyway. I do believe that there is a solution to the problem of using food as a reward. One book I have found recently deals with the issue of emotional eating and advocates taking a little bit of what you crave when you are feeling like eating. Please note, this is in regards to food only, not for other things you may be addicted to.

Therapeutic Hunger

Here is a tip for dealing with unwanted food cravings:

“To gain control of your mind, and subsequently your cravings for food, like with other suggestions, your goal should be to take small baby steps. A good way to start would be to conduct a simple exercise on yourself, simply eat half of what you wish to eat to satisfy your craving (whether it’s salt, sugar or fat) and simply choose to be aware of the effects. By learning to tune in and listen to our bodies, we learn to understand the simple cues our bodies are giving us to let us know information about our health, our satiety and our energy levels.”

Please check out the site of one of our fellow bloggers, and to get a copy of the Therapeutic Hunger book, go to Amazon.

Do you ever use food as a reward? Do you think this is EVER a good idea, or should you always reward yourself with something other than food?


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