It started when I was a child; it continued into my teen years and never stopped until I reached over 400 pounds. What was it you ask? It was food as the answer for everything.
If I fell down and got a “boo boo” it was here, have a cookie it will get all better.
If I went potty in the bathroom instead of my diaper it was here, have a cookie, what a good girl.
If I got a good report card it was let’s go get ice-cream and cookies to celebrate.
A’s on particularly difficult tests, and it was what do you want for dessert, even though the day before it might have been a “don’t eat that it’s too fattening, and you don’t need it.”
Confusing, contradictory, you bet.
I was raised that you celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, births, deaths, graduations, engagements, weddings, divorces, new houses, and holidays with food. Lots, and lots, and lots of food. We never ran out of reasons to celebrate with high calorie food and drink.
Is it any wonder we’re a nation of obese people? I don’t think it is only the USA that celebrates this way either. Is it our heritage of being hunter/gatherers, needing to make sure it was feast time when abundant food and drink was available — so we could get through the famine time? If it was, it is not serving us well any longer.
I’ve had 11 years to change my behavior and certainly have done so significantly, however when my “guard is down” old behaviors can show up seemingly out of nowhere. I have listened to myself say, “It’s been a rough week, I have earned a skinny margarita, a glass of wine, a cookie, some tortilla chips, whatever. Mind you, the cocktails, the cookie and the chips are not the issue here. In 11 years you can bet I have had more than 1 of each of them on numerous occasions. It is my talk, it is the concept of “earning them” that is worrisome.
What if my relationship with food was such that I could say I am going to have 1 cocktail tonight, or 1 cookie, or 10 tortilla chips, and 2 tablespoons of guacamole? What if there was no need to rationalize or justify, or feel guilty afterward or feel shame while I was enjoying these infrequent treats? What if I didn’t use them as a reward for stress, anger, loneliness, happiness, or whatever the emotion of the moment was? Do you think I might be able to just enjoy the variety of the moment, and NOT eat or drink to excess? I do, I have, and that is how I have turned around my previous 54 years of living in feast or famine mode. Since I was a fat child and certainly a fat adult (at 424 pounds), heard mixed messages daily – Don’t have that – you don’t need it, and then have some, you deserve it. Do you think that might have influenced my choices to not only have 1, or a few, but to eat or drink as many as I could since tomorrow the message would change? YOU BET!
Intellectually I know that the wine, the cocktail, the chips, the cookies, or whatever will be there tomorrow – I even know that if I leave food on my plate I will not starve in 2 hours if I get physically hungry again. My DNA may have feast/famine embedded in it, but my conscious awareness says differently. Most of the time I have control these days, and all of the high calorie items that I “crave” as rewards are slider foods that my surgery doesn’t really help limit for me.
I am not a dog – I do not need to reward myself with food. I have learned (ok, let’s take the dog metaphor one step further- yes this old dog has learned new tricks) to reward myself for goals achieved with non food items, and not feed my anger, stress, loneliness, or any other emotion. I am not physically hungry at those times. It is an emotional response, taking me back to the days of being 424 pounds – days I will NEVER again see. I have found that the best defense for me against emotional eating is to just change what I am doing. If sitting and watching TV, get up and do something. If working at the computer, stand up, stretch, and take a walk (but not into the kitchen). Call a friend, read a book, drink some water, or some flavored tea. There are many alternatives to eating my emotions. It’s up to me to choose what I will do.
Back to how to reward goals achieved without a slice of mile high chocolate cake. There are so many ways I have found satisfying. Here are a few:
- Buy some flowers
- Take a bath
- Get a massage
- Go shopping for something new that will fit better than all your loose clothes
- Go to the movies
- Take a walk in the countryside
- Take a drive to somewhere new
- Plan my next vacation
These are just a few ways I reward myself for mini goals achieved. How do you reward yourself?