This month we have guest blogger Trina sharing some healthy lifestyle and weight loss tips. Trina has been an active member of the Organize Yourself Community for a while now and I’m thrilled to have her here. She is a Canadian millennial that is passionate about writing, helping others and community building. She provides advice and reads in her spare time. She is a leader and optimist who believes in everyone’s ability to change. You can learn more about Trina on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.
It’s a hot summer day. You’re at the park with the kids and they’re laughing, screaming, having a good time. Soon, it’s time to start heading home and you hear the ice cream truck. Time for a treat.
When I think about treats, a lot of sugary confections float around in my thoughts. These were the things that I was taught were treats as a child: cake, ice cream, freezies, popsicles. I was rewarded with them as a kid. Heck, I eat them now.
As a society, we seem to have this line between food and treats, as if treats are a different category of food. Food is a large and heavy topic for a lot of people. We don’t like to talk about what we eat but there is a perception that if you eat the good foods, you’re a good person and if you eat the bad foods, you should feel shame. We all know what this sounds like:
“I can’t eat that donut, I’m quitting sugar.”
“I’m not allowed to eat mini eggs, I’ll devour the whole bag.”
“Loading up on fruits and veggies? Is someone on a diet?”
“Why aren’t you eating more? Aren’t you hungry?”
“Come on, you can have one. It’s not going to hurt you.”
Judgement and Negative Thoughts
Even writing that felt like I was feeling judged. The voice in my head was snarky and nasally, kind of like a mean version of The Nanny. Some of us go through this many times throughout our weight loss journey. My favorite is this: “Have some anyway. It isn’t going to ruin your whole plan”.
Uhm, it could if that person isn’t emotionally prepared to eat that food. Comments like this can trigger an emotional response and that emotion can be very hard to deal with. While I was in weight loss mode, I would laugh and share something embarrassing about my eating habits when it came to treats – I can eat a whole pie in one sitting or, my personal favorite, “Sorry, I’m capable of eating a package of Oreos in one go so no thanks.” But, inside, I would feel deprived of the opportunity to eat the treat and would think about overeating the rest of the day.
Carrying The Thoughts
I survived on the Oreo strategy for a year. I would zig and zag through social situations by making someone feel like a jerk for trying to sabotage my efforts, which would make me feel like a jerk and I would be thinking about the food the rest of the day – literally stressing out battling those thoughts. There were no winners.
Then I read a life changing book, Emotional Overeating by Marcia Sirota, M.D., which helps the reader to understand how the mind works in order to change the body. It taught me that treats are another food and that I eat stacks of Oreos because of my thought process, not because my body needs it or is craving it. (Does anyone’s body actually need over processed flavors and cookies? Nah.) After realizing that I needed to do some work with my inner child, inner warrior and my negative thoughts, I was able to work through my food issues.
Here’s a few questions I use to figure out my relationship with food, especially in those difficult moments:
- When you want to eat, do you feel hungry in your mind, mouth or stomach?
- Are you eating because you’re bored?
- Are you eating because you’re not productive?
- You have 15 minutes to accomplish something, what do you do?
What I discovered
I was eating because I was bored. I was the queen of Netflix. Internally, I was in turmoil because I was getting little to no value from watching television. Hours and hours were spent in front of the TV. I was treating myself to food and TV after having accomplished going through my day. I hadn’t really done anything for myself to have “earned” that treat.
So, I tried to earn the treat. I asked myself what I would do if I had 15 minutes (which I did have, because episodes of Riverdale are 45 minutes), I came up with a list. It was a long list. That freaked me right out. Overwhelming is an accurate word. My brain thought I could do ALL THAT? Not happening.
However, as the Netflix counter to the next episode counted down, I took a leap. I decided to complete one item on the list before watching the next episode. In 15 minutes, I had accomplished the task and was treating myself to TV. Now, this is where thinking of “treats” as rewards is a slippery slope. I wasn’t rewarding my good behavior with positive reinforcement. I was rewarding it with something that I didn’t even want to do.
Looking for Other Treats
Once I realized that I was treating myself with the digital equivalent of Oreos, I decided to start looking for other types of treats. Part of looking for other versions of treats meant I had to define them. My definition of treats is:
“An experience that is beneficial to my well-being.”
For me, an experience will provide more value to my life and, in the long term, I will value the experiences I have. These experiences make me feel happy and accomplished.
I consider experiences to be deposits into my Bank of Well-Being. When I do that, I am saving for a “rainy day”. The day that my cat has to be rushed to the vet, the moment that I learn something has happened to a dear family member, the day I’m fired. Yes, I’ll experience typical emotional duress due to the event but I will return to a normal state quickly due to my deposits. This ability to bounce back is called resiliency and when you indulge in the good times, it helps the bad times pass.
What are treats then?
When I think about treats, I think about experiences when I am gaining and giving physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Some of my treats are:
- Enjoying birthday cake at a party.
- Floating in a sensory deprivation chamber.
- Having tea with a friend and actively listening to them share.
- Reading, especially in nature.
- Stopping in to see family or friends.
- Trying to solve an issue that is complex.
- Learning about others.
- Practicing yoga in the morning.
- Being honest (vulnerable) in conversations where I need to express my feelings.
- Taking holidays with family.
Dealing with (Insert Your Thing Here)
I purposely put the birthday cake first on that list. Everyone has their own “birthday cake”. Maybe it’s Cola or potato salad or fried chicken. I can hear you saying “I’m like you, I will eat the whole cake.” I feel for you, deeply. That is a tough thought to have, knowing the social and emotional consequences of eating or not. It’s difficult to work through that. Here are some questions I’ve asked myself to get through the social situations:
- Do I eat this item outside of these social situations?
- With birthday cake, the answer is no. That makes it easier to enjoy.
- Am I able to confide in another attendee who will help me stay on track?
- If you aren’t able to do it yourself, ask for help.
- How often do I experience this situation?
- Once a week? Once a year?
- Will eating this make me feel better or worse, mentally and physically?
- If it’s not going to make you feel good, don’t put it in your mouth.
Reframing treats to align with my values has helped me to grow in areas that nourish my well-being. On a day to day basis, I take time to build resiliency in different ways that I consider treats. My favorites are: yoga first thing in the morning, tea as soon as I get to work and my nightly after dinner walk. By having three treats a day in this form, I don’t feel any guilt when I go to a birthday party and enjoy cake because I know that my efforts otherwise will make up for the event.
I can hear the question percolating: What about your weight? What happened there? I’ve been in maintenance since early June 2017. I have a weight range that I have been in for two months and am working on maintaining that weight range through day-to-day actions that compound as I indulge in them as treats.
Give This a Try
Take some time to think about: What are your food treats? How do you feel about them? What are your non-food treats? What do you do that makes you feel amazing?
Implement one of your own treats and see how it goes.