I always cringe when I see a well-meaning grandma, or anyone for that matter, say to a little child: “What a good girl you are! Here’s a cookie!” Most of us, early on, learned to see sweet foods like cookies, or ice cream, or candy, as a “treat”, a reward for good behavior or hard work, or perhaps something to make us feel better whenever we have an “owie”.
Little do we know that these “rewards” often set us up for problems later in life. Do you “reward” yourself with sweet rich treats? Or, maybe, you treat yourself by going on a buying binge at the mall with your credit card. Perhaps you prefer to celebrate by going out for an all-night martini marathon? If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to read on…
These behaviors (rewarding ourselves with sweets, spending, or alcohol) are so deeply bred into our culture, that few of us actually stop to think about their true effect on our lives.
If your beloved child got an A on his report card, would you say, or do, any of these things to him:
“Here, have this sugar and fat-filled disc of empty calories – if I do this enough times, you’ll eventually so associate its taste and texture with comfort, that you’ll be unable to control your consumption of it as an adult and struggle with being overweight for the rest of your life.”
“Here, take this artificially flavoured and coloured Apple-tini, you’ll feel kind of loose and free for a couple of hours, and if you drink enough of it you’ll get really nauseous and sick. Tomorrow, you’ll feel even worse, and it’ll probably wreck your whole day. But who cares, drink it now, you’ll feel great for a little while, anyway.”
“Here, take my credit card and buy yourself whatever you want, you deserve it. We can’t really afford it, but it’ll make you feel good for a little while, even if you eventually forget what you bought, and don’t even use it or wear it.”
I know, I’ve expressed my feelings on sweet treats, excess alcohol, and impulse spending in a pretty extreme way – but I’m trying to make a point:
Are any of these things, or behaviors, truly rewards that benefit you? Or are they celebratory treats that you’ll regret, once the brief moment of indulgence and enjoyment has passed?
I encourage you develop an awareness before you “reward” yourself, or “celebrate”.
Is what you’re about to do really consistent with what you want for yourself and your life? Will you feel happy afterwards, or guilty?
What are some ways you can reward yourself, that you can still really look forward to, without feeling bad about it, after?
If I want to celebrate with food, I’ll go for all-you-can-eat sushi (my favourite!) or Thai food. Yummy, but still healthy.
If I want to go out with friends to celebrate something, I’d rather go out for a nice meal, and have one or two glasses of wine, rather than hit the bar and drink ourselves silly (and sick).
I know myself well enough now that I don’t let myself reward myself by going to the mall (that’s a recipe for disaster), but perhaps instead I’ll order a book that I’d really like to read (or better yet, treat myself with a trip to the library), or put some money aside towards an upcoming vacation.
There’s room in life for everything – a cookie here, a martini there – but develop an awareness about how it is that you use these “treats” in your life.
You deserve rewards that really reward you!