“I went on a 50 mile bike ride, I deserve this cake”.
“I worked out twice today, I deserve these beers”.
“This Chinese won’t hurt, I’m going on a BIG run tomorrow”.
Don’t worry, you are not alone, in fact I would say each and every person has said something along these lines to themselves over the past year.
After a perfect week of ‘clean’ eating and regular exercise, out comes the wine and biscuits on a satisfied and justified Friday night for all the weeks’ hard work. Of course, this doesn’t stop at Friday night, it continues all the way through to Sunday night, leaving you feeling fat, bloated and ashamed.
Here comes the punishment – EXERCISE!
This is a continuous cycle for a lot of us but it’s something that we must break!
Food should not be a reward.
I know it’s tempting to use food and drink in this manner, and in some purely emotional ways, it makes sense—there’s a very palpable sense of comfort there.
On the surface, it feels good to “earn” a box of cookies and a bottle of wine. But while this behaviour might seem otherwise benign, what it actually does is place food in a position of power—and if we give food the power to reward us for good behaviour, we can find ourselves completely and painfully at its mercy.
When we continuously use food as a reward system, rather than indulging mindfully and practicing moderation, we begin to associate it with whether or not we’re worthy of success, gifts, and indulgences. Instead of using food and drink to add value to our life experiences, we use them to determine whether we’re good or bad.
We associate junk food with “good behaviour” if it’s a reward, but that association is only temporary. After feelings of guilt and failure arise, we shift that association to “bad behaviour.” But the truth is, this association between food and our behaviour doesn’t really exist, and by creating it we put ourselves in an unhealthy position.
Punishment - FITNESS
I can imagine that some of you will relate to this… Monday morning, dreaded Monday morning. Not only does it suck because it’s the start of a 5 day chore (or 6-7 for some of you) but you need to work extra hard in the gym to burn off 2 days of binging. These workouts never seem to be easy or enjoyable. You are counting down the minutes from the word go. That clock is moving slower than Sunday church.
The trouble is this cycle is continuous. It’s repeated week in, week out. Exercise doesn’t become fun, progressions are slow (if at all)
Exercising is rewarding when you get that sense of achievement - you’ve run 1 mile faster than last week, added 5kg onto a big lift - that’s when it’s fun, continuously wanting to better yourself week in week out. However this never happens because you’re continuously rewarding yourself for a good week (which in reality is a very distinctly average week) with food and two days later punishing yourself with exercise.
How do we break this cycle?
You’ve had a good, solid week. FOOD? NO! Reward yourself with some value.
Go get a new gym outfit, new trainers, have a massage for beasting your body for the last five days.
These rewards have a positive impact on breaking the cycle. Fitness starts to become enjoyable, personal bests are smashed week in week out. More importantly Monday feels like a Friday (Ok, maybe not quite but you certainly feel better!)
At the end of the day, remember that should you relate to this struggle, you aren’t alone—far from it. You are a human being with complex emotions, and you are not alone in your struggles.
Using food as a reward, or fitness as a punishment, is nothing to be ashamed of but just remind yourself of why you are doing it.
If you are not bothered about achievement or getting the figure you’ve always wanted and purely use fitness as a punishment for the weekend lifestyle, then ok, continue living that life.
However, if you can relate to this and you DO want change then seek new rewards rather than bingeing.
There’s nothing worse than watching people exhaust themselves in the gym, desperate for results, only to end up spinning their wheels and not making the progress they want to make.
If you are looking for any advice, please don’t hesitate to ask. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Be positive. You’ve got this.