Why It Is Detrimental To Use Food As a Reward
For 19 years now I have dealt with men and women of all backgrounds, fitness levels, ages, strengths and weaknesses. If there is one thing I know VERY well it's the psychology behind overall health and wellness.
Our society revolves around food and alcohol. Every single occasion is celebrated with food and/or alcohol....All events, good and bad... Whether a high school graduation or a funeral... food is always the go to for everything. It is ingrained within the minds of children from a young age... "food food food". You feel happy? EAT!!! You feel sad?? EAT!!!
SO. Last night when I was scrolling through my face book news feed and saw a picture of two girls who had just completed a "a 12 week fitness challenge", "rewarding" themselves for "all of their hard work" by eating a pizza, I LOST IT!!! I can say, literally, my blood pressure sky rocketed. First of all, part of our job as personal trainers is to teach our clients WHY they are overweight, WHY they are unhealthy.... It isn't about how fast and how much weight they can lose, it's about how they can effectively lose it while learning the intricacies of how to be healthy from a MENTAL standpoint!! EDUCATION comes before All.
Is it bad to eat pizza from time to time? NO. Is it bad to use pizza as a reward? ABSOLUTELY! Food becomes an addiction and there are steps that must be taken to break that habit, but it is a process.
Suppose you are an alcoholic. You join AA. You go through the process of learning to recondition your mind AND body to not NEED alcohol. Is it always a struggle?? Yes. Is it in the back of your mind from time to time? Yes. But when you go through a terrible time in your life and become depressed, is it okay to have just one drink? No. Is it okay to go to the bar to celebrate your SOBRIETY by having a drink?? NO!!
Suppose you are a smoker. You decide you are going to quit. You go through the steps to recondition your mind AND body, clean out your system, and give up cigarettes and nicotine in order to live a longer, healthier life. So, as a celebration for not smoking for 3 months, do you go out and smoke a cigarette? NO!!
FOOD consumption is also an addiction. It is full of additives, preservatives, chemicals that MAKE you want MORE!! One of the reasons our society is so obese and out of shape (skinny fat AND fat) is because we are addicted to unhealthy food. People will go all day without eating, then eat three days worth of calories for dinner. Or they will sit on the couch out of boredom and eat for no reason. WHY? Because that is how they are conditioned. So, when you go through the process of reconditioning your mind AND body, cleaning out your system, and proving to yourself that you don't need unhealthy food or WANT unhealthy food for that matter, why on earth, mess it up by rewarding yourself with UNHEALTHY FOOD??
Sure. That one or two pieces of pizza isn't going to make you gain your 18 lbs back, but the PSYCHOLOGICAL effects are highly detrimental to the entire process you just went through to recondition yourself.
When I put together food plans for clients I don't do "cheat meals". I do "treat meals". Having a big frozen yogurt or a piece of pizza or a cheeseburger isn't a cheat... it's a treat. It's all about the timing. It's not "if I make it through this week and eat perfectly, I'm getting a big ol cheeseburger because I did it!!". It's the occasional "I'm going to have a cheeseburger today because I want a cheeseburger, but the rest of my routine isn't changing". That is how we need to look at these foods. It's something we do not as a reward but as an occasional, "I'm going to treat myself"....
Now, going back to addiction and the analogy of alcoholics and smokers VS food addicts. The difference between the first two and the latter, is that once a person is strong enough not to fall back into the habit of overeating or eating unhealthy foods, it isn't going to harm the body, and in some instances, can actually "refead" the body, to have a "treat" here and there. The key is not USING unhealthy food as a crutch, as a temporary fix, OR as a reward. Let it be what it is... A treat.
Eat Healthy. Train Hard.