Why is it, when we’re dieting, we tend to reward ourselves with food for reaching a milestone? Doesn’t that seem a bit… counter-productive? And, now that I think about it, we have a tendency to do this even when we’re not dieting. Food is the go-to prize for just about everything we do. Have you ever noticed that?

Got straight A’s this semester?

Let’s celebrate with some frozen yogurt!

Oh, it’s your birthday?

Let’s go out for a fancy dinner! And you have to order dessert – it’s your birthday!

You woke up today without hitting the snooze button?

Have french toast for breakfast!

I’m exaggerating, of course, but not by much. I think about the patterns of my family and my in-laws and 90% [or more] of what we do revolves around food. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the dinner table often promotes great conversation, but does food have to be involved to bring us together? Is food the foundation upon which we have to build our happiness?

I’ve decided I want to try to break the habit of rewarding myself with food, so I’m compiling a list of other “compensations” I can give myself for my little successes.

  • A manicure/pedicure.
  • An hour-long massage. [Using a groupon, of course, because I’m on a college-student’s budget.]
  • A shampoo and blow-out, just for fun!
  • A new book, fresh from Barnes and Noble.
  • A bottle of my favorite wine. [Does that count as food?]

And, you know what? I think a few rewards should give back. I’m a blessed person and there is only so much I need in my life. If I’m not going to reward myself with food, then maybe it’s time to reward myself with some good feelings.

  • Volunteer at The Coalition for the Homeless soup kitchen.
  • Get more involved with the Special Olympics. [my sister-in-law is an athlete, so I’m already active; but I could always do more!]
  • Donate to the ASPCA. Whatever amount of money I’d spend on a celebratory meal, I’ll donate it instead.

While I do not know the psychology behind edible rewards, I’m sure it’s Pavlovian in some way. As a child, someone gave me a chicken nugget for successfully walking ten feet or a lollipop for not crying when I got my childhood vaccinations. Somehow, somewhere, it was ingrained in me – and likely millions of others – to celebrate success by eating. I’ve decided I’m going to reprogram myself, starting today.

If I get an A in my current class, I’m running a 5k and getting a pedicure.

Bon appetit!

~ Tori


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