“After the day I’ve had, I deserve this treat.”
How often have you said that to yourself?
How often have you rationalized a not-so-great food choice by saying “I deserve it”?
I know ALL about this because it’s something I used to do all the time.
For years, I fell into this exact same trap. And I’m not talking every once in awhile. Pretty much every night I would get to the end of my exhausting day (commute, work, kids, dinner, laundry, etc.), hit the couch, turn on the TV and then that familiar little voice would pipe up in the back of my mind saying, “After the day you’ve had, you deserve a treat!”
And not surprisingly, it’s something that I see again and again in my students, my clients and my online community. (If you aren’t already a member of my free Facebook group Conquer the Food Fight, click here to come join us!)
One big reason why this trap is so wide-spread is the story that so many of are running that says that a healthy choice is something we should make and the not-so-healthy choice is a treat or something that we get to make.
This story is problematic because your brain is literally designed to avoid pain and seek out pleasure. It’s simply the way we’re all wired and there’s no changing that.
When you position the healthy choice as pain and the not-so-healthy choice as pleasure, guess which one’s going to win?
You’re basically ensuring that you always end up making the not-so-healthy choice.
You have to change this if you want to get to a place where you’re making healthy choices consistently so it starts to feel normal, like autopilot or your natural default. The healthy choice needs to become the reward.
Sounds great right? But how do you get there?
Well, what’s required here is a “reframe.”
You have to start making the healthy choice into the pleasure and the not-so-healthy choice into the pain.
Here’s one way you can reframe when you’re getting into the “I deserve it” trap:
First, start to think about what that unhealthy food is actually doing to you.
Here’s just a small snapshot of what foods like these do once inside your body:
- Spike your blood sugar, forcing your pancreas to quickly pump out buckets of insulin in a desperate attempt to stabilize it before you fall into a coma;
- Beat up your adrenal glands (which are likely already exhausted from stress and poor sleep) by forcing them to kick in and work to balance the influx of sugar;
- Set off a massive inflammatory response from your immune system that spreads through the tissue and joints of your entire body;
- Exhaust your liver by forcing it to break down huge amounts of fructose;
- Spike your stress hormones and cause a massive stress response through your brain and entire body.
Start painting a picture in your mind of what that food is actually doing to your body. It’s a pretty brutal attack. Eating these things is much more an act of abuse than love.
By doing this you’ll clearly see that it is NOT a treat. It is actually a poison. These foods are actually a threat to all of the things you want for yourself (energy, vitality, a youthful glow, a clear mind, freedom from sickness, etc.)
The more you can think about it that way, the more you can position it in your mind not as a treat to be desired (which is what your brain will always want) but instead as a punishment. Something that will hurt your body.
While this might sound a little harsh, it’s actually a great way to start working with your brain’s natural wiring. I allow you to take advantage of the fact that your brain is always going to be wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure.
So that’s step one of this reframe exercise: Sit down and write out a list of all of the ways that junky food is actually affecting your body.
For step two, I want you to start thinking about what you actually deserve.
Instead of “I deserve this junky treat” (that is poison in your body), what does your body truly deserve?
If you’re exhausted after a long day, if you’re overwhelmed by all the things on your plate, if you’re feeling lonely or sad or bored or maybe hurt or resentful, think about what it is that your body really needs right now.
If you’re tired, maybe it deserves a nap or going to bed early.
If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed and/or stressed out, maybe what it deserves is some deep breathing, some stretching, some yoga, a bubble bath, a good talk with a friend, some journaling, maybe cuddling with your partner or pet on the couch, watching a good movie, or having a good laugh.
These are the things that your body, your incredible, beautiful body, really deserves, right?
Your body works so hard for you. And when it’s tired or not feeling very good, what it deserves is your love, your attention and your time. So take the time for the behaviors and routines that are actually going to make it feel better.
You deserve no less.
So, when you feel yourself falling into the “I deserve it” trap and you hear that little voice in the back of your head telling you that, “After the day you’ve had, you deserve this treat!” think about this reframe. Think about how you can start to change the ideas you have about what your body deserves.
Think about how that “treat” is actually affecting your body. And then think about what it is that your body actually deserves.
Change what a “treat” means and see if that has an impact on getting you out of the “I deserve it” habit that is so often sabotaging you when you’re trying to make better choices.
I hope this was helpful and I would love to hear how it works for you. If you give it a try, let me know, and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments below! I’d love to chat!