Why You Shouldn’t Use Food As a Reward

The idea of using food as a type of reward is ingrained in us from an early age. Maybe your parents allowed you dessert only after finishing your dinner, or your doctors gave you lollipops after administering a round of shots. You probably celebrated nearly every big event in your life, including birthdays and graduations, by enjoying cake and ice cream.

Unfortunately, carrying “food-as-a-reward” behavior into adulthood can be harmful, especially if you undergo weight loss surgery. Regarding food as a reward can interfere with your weight loss goals and hinder your ability to live a healthier life. Although difficult, dismantling the belief that food is a reward is a core part of forming better eating habits.

The Problem With Using Food As a Reward
Food rewards are often junk food like cookies, cake and candy, but these are the last things you should eat if you are trying to lose weight after bariatric surgery. Rewarding yourself by eating these foods perpetuates the association between the treats and positive feelings.

Believing food is a reward is also counterproductive. A reward should make you feel good, but when was the last time you enjoyed a cookie or piece of cake without feeling guilty afterward? Rewards should be guilt-free!

Reframing the Idea of a Reward
You don’t have to forgo the idea of rewards altogether. There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself for a job well done. However, there are many other forms of rewards that don’t involve food or eating. Our team encourages you to reframe the idea of what constitutes a reward.

Spend some time brainstorming new rewards for hitting your goals. What are the things or experiences that excite you or bring you joy? Maybe it is pampering yourself with a manicure, or planning a new adventure like a hike or beach trip.
You can also brainstorm items that will support you on your weight loss journey and help you hit new goals. For example, try rewarding yourself with the purchase of a new pair of running shoes, a new cookbook with healthy recipes or a new kitchen gadget.
Continue to think outside the box by coming up with rewards that recognize how far you have come on your weight loss journey. When you hit a new goal, tell yourself you will sign up for a personal styling service like Stitch Fix to find new styles to complement your shape. Or, promise to treat yourself to updated professional headshots that reveal the new you.

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If you want a more personalized experience and you have Instagram, follow me (Dr. Alvarez) to see my day both in my daily routine and in the operating room, add me! We will have a great time! My username is: gmoalvarez.

“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.