How to Stop Thinking of Food as a Reward

Article posted in: Lifestyle HealthyHowTo
woman holding cupcake

Like many habits that are hard to break, using food as a reward typically starts in childhood. We get candy for good behavior in the doctor’s office, cookies for cleaning up, or ice cream for high marks on a report card. While these practices may seem harmless at the time, a study published in the scientific journal, Eating Behaviors, found that adults whose parents rewarded them with food were more likely to binge eat and to try extreme diets to control their weight.

As adults, many of us reward ourselves with unhealthy foods after a stressful day at work or an extra hard workout, or in lots of other everyday circumstances. It’s a habit that can be difficult to break. But there are so many other ways to give yourself positive reinforcement. We put together this quick list of rewards you deserve that leave you feeling better when you’re done–and keep you on track to your weight loss goal!

1. Schedule a Massage

A professional massage can feel like an indulgence, but it’s a healthful way to reduce stress, relieve minor aches and pains, and restore your vitality. Treat yourself to one massage and you might be tempted to set up a session after you reach every milestone on your journey to better health.

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2. Draw a Hot Bath

Long, exhausting days can be the most trying times to stick to your healthy eating plan. You’re hungry and tired, and you’re glad to just make it through the day. Instead of reaching for a glass of wine or a plateful of sweets, pamper yourself with a soak in warm water. For extra relaxation, light a candle or two and add a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender, which soothes your senses naturally.

3. Take a Nap

About 30 percent of Americans are chronically sleep deprived, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but almost all of us would like a little more time in bed. Any time you’ve accomplished one of your healthy living goals, award yourself a guilt-free hour of snoozing–no interruptions allowed!

4. Get a Salon Treatment

One of the most important benefits of eating healthy is that you feel better about how you look. When you’ve earned a reward, show yourself and the rest of the world how great you feel by getting a fresh hair style or just a blowout.

5. Buy a New Outfit

Sticking to a healthy eating plan is a step-by-step process to the new you. Along the way, you deserve (and probably need) new clothes that accentuate the exciting changes you’re making. Earned just a small treat? How about a new pair of shoes or an accessory that will brighten up an old outfit?

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6. Dance for Joy

Whether you like bumping to the latest beats, two-stepping to country tunes, or swaying to swing, you can’t help but feel happy when you dance. Ignore the urge to treat yourself with food for your accomplishments and instead strap on your dancing shoes. Yes, you’ll burn calories along the way, but the real reward is the joy of surrender to the moment. If you can’t go out to dance, just crank up the tunes at home and let yourself go with the flow.

7. Talk to a Friend

If you’re tempted to reach for unhealthy foods when you’re feeling low, reach out to a friend instead. Call or, better yet, meet someone who listens and encourages you and you’ll make two people happier. That’s a reward everyone deserves.