Reward ≠ Food

rewardnotfood

Patient and client conversations can be a rich source of writing inspiration to address common concerns. As we discuss new changes, cravings, accomplishments and challenges, ideas start to percolate as we work together to find the best solution for the individual. If the same issue is mentioned by different individuals more than three times in relatively short succession, we can almost *feel* the universe tapping on our shoulder.

The latest recurrent theme among us all seems to be regarding emotional eating, over-eating, and reward-eating.

Let’s break this last one down. Why would we associate certain foods with a reward?

    • With thousands of years of evolution working for (or against) us, humans naturally crave sweet flavor. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would get a little *ping* of dopamine by eating berries and other naturally sweet substances. The brain would reward eating this food, which some argue helped our ancestors survive by promoting fat storage to see them through the leaner times. This survival mechanism is all but unnecessary during the times in which we live, with plentiful food stores and sedentary lifestyles (when was the last time we burnt 2000+ calories a day hunting down buffalo?).
    • An ostensible lack of other options or ideas for rewarding ourselves. We’ve leaned on food to give ourselves a pat on the back after a hard day in the office, for finishing a big project, or to relax after a full day with the kids finally in bed. After many years of this, we may have forgotten how to celebrate our accomplishments without cake, doughnuts, french fries, or chips.

After the sleeve of cookies is finished, there can be a poignant anxiety that settles in. Guilt and shame follow soon after and we feel terrible about ourselves. Then we say “what the Hades, I’m probably never going to lose the weight anyway” and keep going or we decide with firmness and determination, “starting tomorrow, no cookies ever again!” However, we all know how this plays out; the deprivation leads to cravings and the whole cycle begins anew.

When you eat, try eating to nourish your body and experience pleasure. Tying food to your reward-system will unravel advances in your health goals and, here’s the kicker, it doesn’t even work. By the time we are done with the chocolate chip cookie party, we only temporarily feel sated before we either look for more sugar (during the ‘down’ of our blood sugar rollercoaster) or we feel guilty…..which drowns out what ephemeral feeling of pleasure we got from the food in the first place.

By having some non-food rewards instead, or at least sprinkling them into your current routine, you can start to challenge the ‘need’ for something sweet and, instead, ‘treat’ yourself ‘sweetly’ (double puns, couldn’t resist :D). Here are a few ideas to get your started on non-food rewards:

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In the Client Spotlight!

client spotlight of recognition

“Fall 2018: While eating my second to last of an entire package of cookies (chocolate macadamia nut I believe they were) and calling it lunch, the thought that I love sugar a little too much once again crossed my mind. Those tasty treats also reminded me of my life-long turbulent love affair with sugar… remember when my dear love sugar gave me diabetes for an anniversary present about 10 years ago! While eating that last cookie, I pulled up an article that listed the characteristics of a sugar addict and I think I nailed 5 out of 6! Maybe… maybe now is the time I can do something to gain control over what looks more and more like a real addiction. Oh yeah, also around this time seemingly in the midst of a complicated (aren’t they all) personal low period, just to bring more fun to the party…

Research led me to One Bite Wellness and Adrienne. Conversed with her about the hypnotic hold cookies (my drug of choice!) have had upon me since birth! Bragged that I am a certified master cookie enthusiast, and that with a small taste I can tell where the ingredients of a finely-baked cookie were grown. I learned from Adrienne how to collect data (this appealed to my scientific mindset) to help more clearly identify patterns, issues and barriers. She helped me see in a deep and meaningful way… It’s ALL about the connections and it goes waaaay beyond food! As part of my work with Adrienne, I now see my life as many pieces of a puzzle (about 10,000 I’m thinking), with the Diet/Nutrition puzzle piece being far larger, more central and more complex than I’d ever imagined, and… it connects with damn near ALL the other puzzle pieces!

Spring 2019: So there I was… standing on a digital scale in my closet looking down at a weight I haven’t seen since the 10th grade (that’s 37 years ago if you’re curious)! A fun moment for sure, made all the sweeter by feeling that this has been accomplished in-part through knowledge based healthier eating and not a short-term diet. Working with Adrienne, I had the benefit of not having to go it alone while working through this difficult process. Adrienne is a trusted resource on call… a provider of both intellectual and emotional support.

stevenhscaleimage

Had to get photographic evidence of that moment in case no one believed me!”

– Steven H., Columbus, OH


Note: Steven has gone on to lose an extra 4 pounds, as of our last meeting…but weight isn’t the whole story! He’s feeling better in many areas of his life that nutrition alone couldn’t touch.

As we’ve said before, it is a great honor to guide our clients from a place where they feel stuck, addicted, and in pain, or feeling like something is ‘off’ to where they feel light, whole, confident, and vibrant! Our long-standing mission in life is to help others heal and reach their potential. Thank you, Steven, for trusting us to guide you on this path of total transformation.