Don’t reward yourself with food…

… you are not a dog.

I was having lunch with a girlfriend and her one-year old daughter last week. Her daughter wasn’t having a good day. They’d had a busy morning, and she’d had enough. We made faces at her, tickled her, spoke in silly voices, tried distracting her with car keys and spoons… all the regular stuff. Eventually we got her a baby-chino and some hot chips. It kept her happy long enough for us to have lunch and a gossip, and then they went home so she could have a sleep.

My friend commented at one point that she was probably setting her daughter up a dysfunctional relationship with food. I responded that I thought it would take more than one lunch. And I’m pretty sure I’m right. Plenty of kids have been feed a bowl of chips to keep them quiet without developing eating disorders.

My own certainly developed and was reinforced through a mix of circumstances and over a period of time. It is something I am still unraveling, and I still struggle with. I manage to be in control most of the time now, but I wouldn’t say I’ve conquered it. I’ve struggled the last week because I haven’t been able to workout – doctor’s orders! – so that has made me even more conscious of what I’m putting in my mouth. I wonder if I will ever be able to relax with how I eat, or whether I will always have to be uber-aware of what I consume, and how it fits with the plan.

The behaviours are so practiced that they’re almost hard-wired in. This reward one has got me thinking today. A couple of weeks ago I hit a goal and I bought a cake – a very good flourless chocolate cake – to share with my team at work to celebrate. Today I got some good news from the doctor – I’m allowed to workout again – and I was walking home, wondering what I could grab for dessert to celebrate. My automatic response to celebration is to eat something… something off-plan, with sugar, salt or fat, or all three – salted caramel and white chocolate gelato anyone?!?

Sad? Eat. Happy? Eat. Stressed? Eat. There really isn’t an emotion I haven’t stuffed down my throat, and I’ve been doing it for years.

So much of this journey is about learning new responses and behaviours. I’ve learnt to get out of bed in the mornings to workout – I now miss it when I’m not allowed! I’ve learnt to plan my meals at the beginning of the week – and I now feel disorganised if I don’t. As I walked home today, arguing with myself about rewarding myself with food – and remembering this little meme above – I realised this was just another behaviour I needed to change. So I started thinking of other ways to celebrate or reward myself. Rewards that don’t make me a dog. And that brought up some far more interesting options!

So – I’ve had my dinner, written my blog, and I’m about to have some strawberries (on special at Harris Farms this week!) and yoghurt for dessert. It fits with the plan, it isn’t a reward, it’s just part of my nutrition for the day – it’s the new normal.

And what did I do to celebrate? I put the celebration off til tomorrow… I’m off running with the Ladies Running Club in the morning – and really, that’s celebration enough.

I’m also on twitter.

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… you’d be done by now.

I decided last night that even though the Ladies Running Club (more about them later) had cancelled on me, I was still going to get my Tuesday morning run in. I had a busy day ahead, so I wanted to be out the door by 5.50am, on the treadmill by 6.00am and off the treadmill by 6.45am.  That was the plan.

You don’t know me well, so I’ll just put this out there. I am not a morning person. Never have been. I find mornings hard. I find cold, dark mornings really hard. So this morning when the (first) alarm went off at 5.24am, I hit snooze and did just that. The second alarm went off at 5.28am. The third at 5.33am. You get the picture.

I finally dragged myself out of my warm, cozy bed at about 5.37am. My feet hit the floor and I shuffled off to the bathroom, thinking dark thoughts.

And then I heard the rain.

It almost enough to send me back to bed. I really considered climbing back under the doona. I bullied myself into getting dressed, and heading out into the cold, dark, rainy morning. I made it to the gym. Of course I was late. Of course all the treadmills were busy. Of course I was now grumpier than ever, and of course I was cursing the snooze button and my lack of resolve.

My tale of woe ends there though. I mean, like they say, the only workout you regret is the one you didn’t do. I got a treadmill in the end. I did my run. I got the smug feeling I get when I’ve done it. My day went on, and was better for the run.

But why do I do this to myself?!?

I have learnt many things since I started this fitness thing. One is that my day is better when I work out in the morning. I get the smug feeling. I eat better. I feel better. I’m happier.  So why do I fight myself ? If I didn’t insist on “snoozing”, I could have had an extra 13 minutes sleep this morning! Quality sleep. Not “snoozes” with regular interruption!

I don’t think I will ever become a morning person. But in the “new normal”, I think I’d like to stop being the person who makes the morning harder by being grumpy, mostly out of habit.

So I resolve to try getting up on the first alarm tomorrow morning. That resolve is likely to be tested, because I can still hear the rain outside. And it is cold. But I’ll give it a go.

Let me know if you’ve got any tips!

I’m also on twitter – @SportyMaenad01