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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Drop the Sweets!

dropthesweets

Put down the pieces of candy picked up from your coworker’s desk.

The Reese’s cups from the vending machine.

The 3rd cup of coffee for today.

It may be 3pm and the post-lunch energy lull can cause us to reach for the drugs that pep us up. Yes, drugs. Sugar and caffeine – legal though they way be, beware of how they can be robbing you of your natural energy and more.

In an exercise during our recent Sugar Busters class, we explored the history of sugar, the estimated consumption, and then what the average ‘healthy’ American’s intake is. The result was rather shocking. After the coffee and hazelnut creamer, granola and Greek fruit yogurt for breakfast as well as a turkey sandwich and side salad with dressing for lunch, the total is 64 grams of added sugar. That’s before stopping by the coworker’s desk for two fun-size Twix bars (they’re really tiny, we know, but you’ll need to add another 16 grams). So now we’re at 80 grams of added sugar for the day and before dinner! In a game of Sugar Monopoly, you’re about to land in blood-sugar-dysregulation ‘jail’, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Are you aware of the World Health Organization’s recommendation limiting our added sugar intake to 5% or less of our daily calorie needs? Or to have less than 25 grams of added sugar per day?

The truth is, for most of us trying to follow a healthy meal pattern, there’s generally a layer of ‘frosting’ on top of our nutritious choices. Whether the client is vegan, following Weight Watchers, or some other diet program, the sugar seems to seep in.

Added sugar in the diet has been the cause of many of our ills, as a people. Our poor pancreases haven’t been able to keep up with the onslaught of added sugar in the diet since the time the first sugar refinery opened in the United States. The fact that sugar is a negative-nutrient should cause alarm. This is not the food equivalent of Sweden. It is not a ‘neutral’ agent in your body, only supplying a few extra calories. In order to break it down, the body’s reserves of vitamins and minerals are used – in effect, sugar ‘steals’ these nutrients from you! Let this sink in. This important concept should help us realize and treat items with this added sugar with a sense of suspicion, disdain, and then complete eradication. If that seems too strong for you at this point, try to focus on reduction of added sugars in your diet. You’ll still be heading in a better direction and help yourself possibly side-step diabetes and other chronic disease.

Here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it: track the added sugars in your diet. Use labels to see how much added sugar is in your bread, salad dressing, instant oatmeal, or barbecue sauce. Or use an app such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to track it. Then, if you know you need to make some changes, head on over to join the rest of us in the upcoming Sugar Detox Challenge! The journey starts this Sunday, January 26th.

Change your toxic relationship with added sugars and change your LIFE.

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.