You Aren’t a Dog, Food is Not A Reward


I have often talked about food as a stress relief, or eating as something to do when you are bored – but what about using food for a positive moment?

This can be just as detrimental to your overall goals.

Now, enjoying a Thanksgiving feast with friends and or family is one thing in itself. People have been celebrating holidays and big events with feasts since the dawn of time – it’s in our DNA.

However, celebrating finishing your latest work project on time by downing a pizza and some ice cream is different. You were supposed to finish that project, it wasn’t a major event – you might be fired if you didn’t – just be thankful for that.

Celebrating every little “win” with junk food is like giving yourself a participation trophy for getting out of bed in the morning and thinking about going to the gym – but not going because bed was more comfy.Image result for food rewards

Unfortunately, using food as a reward could have been something that was built into your brain as a child – “finish your veggies and you get a cookie, do your chores and we can get ice cream, etc.” – so this could be a hard one to break.

Also, some cases of food as a reward may be a “bandage” for a bigger problem that you want fixed in your life.

Maybe it is a feeling, or experience that you really desire – like being rebellious, or being good to yourself because someone else isn’t, or having what YOU want for once.

Paraphrased from the book “Lean Habits” by Georgie Fear

Another super common mistake I see, hear, and maybe have committed once or twice – is the idea of “earning” junk food, a big meal, or a whole buffet of cupcakes after a big workout, race, or physical event.

The big problem here is 99% of people will over-estimate their calorie burn BIG TIME. Say you run a hard 10K. You MAYBE burned 600 calories. This would be like eating 1.5 gourmet cupcakes – that’s it. I’ve seen people eat much much more than this after a 5k, because the “earned” it.

How to Break this Habit:

First and foremost – you will need to determine if this is something that is more recent, or deeply rooted from your childhood.

The longer you have been practicing it (maybe without even knowing), the longer it might take to break.

When the feelings for reward start to come to mind – you must remember that food carries no morals. It is not good, nor bad. It is food.

Especially when it comes to rewarding yourself with junk food – is that really rewarding yourself? (Especially if you have a specific fat loss goal)

Remind yourself that you don’t deserve junk food, but deserve to feel good about your choices that you make the next day. Most junk food binges are quickly regrettable.

If you choose to eat a junk food – don’t label it as earned or a reward – just own your choice, and own the possible consequences if things get out of control.

“I am going to enjoy this cookie” vs. “I deserve this cookie” can have a much different psychological effect over time.

Remember, you don’t get participation trophies for thinking about going to workout, hell, you don’t even get trophies for going to workout – it’s just what you should do. So why treat food any different?

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Stay healthy my friends,


Published by Mike Gorski

Registered Dietitian and Fitness Coach OWNER OF MG FIT LIFE LLC