Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why Using Food As Reward Can Foil Weight Loss Success

In yesterday's post I encourage you to create a list of ways you can reward yourself that do not revolve around food. Today I'll share why this is so important.

It is incredibly easy to set ourselves up for weight loss failure...the best way to prevent that is to set yourself up for weight loss success! That means we have to be aware of what we are doing...and hopefully why...so we can change the pattern.

I know that I have issues with food...pretty much anyone who is significantly overweight does, whether or not they realize it. Are you using food for anything other than nourishing your body? Do you eat when you are stressed? Or sad? Or happy?

Let's not create MORE emotional bonds with food...we already have plenty!

You probably already tend to reward yourself with food. Maybe it is relaxing in the evening with a drink or having a sweet treat. It is a common thing! It is frequently a way for parents to reward kids, so if you treat yourself this way it is probably because you learned it from your parents...who learned it from their parents!

Rewards are a way to feel good, right? Maybe they are part of a celebration. Perhaps it is because we feel we "deserve it"...that is all well and good, but let's break the pattern of using food for this purpose. If we don't, then every time we want to celebrate or pick ourselves up we will eat!

At first this change can be hard. You have to be aware that food has been a reward in the past and consciously choose something else. That means you can't run in "autopilot" mode...you actually have to THINK. But being in autopilot is what has gotten you to be overweight in the first place, so know what you are doing isn't working for your goals. Now decide that you deserve health and that being aware and making new choices are a part of reaching that goal!

It isn't about the size of the reward or the number of calories...it is about the habit and mindset. Choosing a smaller portion or a low-cal version of a food as a reward does not change the habit. In fact, you might feel like you aren't getting the full celebration and therefore want more later...rather than feeling like a reward it might feel like limitation or like you are on "a diet" which will backfire.

Even if it doesn't create a desire for full-flavored foods immediately, it still doesn't change the mental pattern of eating as a reward. It sets you up to always have the will power to choose a healthier food.

Instead of relying on will power or "diet versions", select a reward that has nothing to do with food and completely break the pattern. Change your mindset...how you think about food and what you associate with feeling good.

Again, you have to consciously choose a reward, and as you do this you will begin to rewire your brain. Over time you will reach for these non-food rewards more naturally.

That is why you want to have a written list that you can refer to. In the beginning, use your list constantly. You might even post it on the frig or in the cupboard or at your desk...as a gentle reminder. This little pause can be all it takes...to give your conscious brain time to kick in and say, wait a minute there is another way to feel good and treat myself!

Soon you'll be able to easily select a healthy zero-calorie reward without your list!

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