Is It Celebrating or Emotional Eating?

by | Feb 19, 2014

Photo by King….

Johann Helf has a passion for healthy living and its benefits. He has spent many years of his life making positive changes and likes to share tips with others to help them be successful. As owner of Lotus Blooming Herbs, he sources and enjoys sharing shilajit directly from the Himalayas as well as other high-quality Ayurvedic products.

Is It Celebrating or Emotional Eating?

by Johann Helf

Most people think of emotional eating as a response to stress, depression, or other unpleasant life experiences. But have you ever noticed how much unhealthy eating is related to celebrations?

Birthday cake. Anniversary dinner. Office milestones. Cocktail parties. Even when celebrating personal goals such as exercising regularly, losing weight, eating smarter, or breaking “bad” habits, we often celebrate with food.

It’s easy to forget that happiness and pride are still emotions that can invoke emotional eating.

Don’t get me wrong. Rewarding one’s self is a great way to stay motivated. And the occasional food reward can be good for your future resolve. But too often reaching for high-calorie, low-nutrient gratification can be self-defeating.

Is it really rewarding yourself to sabotage what you worked so hard for?

Try these ideas as alternatives to food rewards. Calorie-free motivation not only keeps you on the right path, but can actually generate more fun and memories:

1. Plan some TLC.

Spoil yourself with a relaxing mani/pedi or facial. Spa treatments reduce fatigue and stress, making it easier for you to get back to working hard.

2. Buy yourself a present.

Maybe it’s time for that new Michael Kors bag you’ve been eyeing, a new watch, or some fabulous new shoes. Each time you wear the item, you will remember how hard you worked and that you hit your goal. A meaningful reward can keep you focused and working hard.

3. Book a photo shoot for yourself or your family.

It’s easy to forget how valuable professional portraits can be to your future self. Preparing to look your best for the photo session will also keep you motivated.

4. Reward yourself with a new tool or materials for one of your hobbies.

Hobbies are great ways to keep busy to prevent bad habits from creeping back in. And new toys can make them that much more fun.

5. Plan an activity for friends or family.

Bowling, karaoke, hikes, and other outings can be some of the most fun times of the year. You will get exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise and will be making time for those special in your life. Protip: eat a healthy meal before you go so you will feel in control to enjoy a couple drinks and and some snacks without over-indulging.

6. Try something you have always wanted to, but wouldn’t normally spare the time or cash.

Expanding the mind and taking time for yourself relieves stress that may sabotage your future goals:

  • See a play at the theater.
  • Go to a concert.
  • Take in a museum or art gallery.
  • Take a really, really long bubble bath. A really long one!
  • Take dance lessons.

Still prefer celebrations that involve food? Try these ideas:

  • Join a cooking class that focuses on healthy food preparation. You will learn to prepare new healthful meals that can keep your new regimen from being boring. Plus, you will discover new tastes and learn secrets to making nutritious foods like veggies taste even better.
  • Buy a new food that you know is healthy, but is pricier than your normal grocery budget allows. It will give you something to work towards to get to enjoy it again the next time you make it to your goal.

Even on a budget, you can find healthy choices for rewards. Just get creative. For example, instead of dropping a ton of cash on a spa manicure, pick up a new polish or two and have your friends over for a nail party. Museums and art galleries often have free nights you can take advantage of.

Celebrate you milestones however you like. Just remember to keep the special food occasions truly special.

How do you celebrate your achievements?

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12 Responses to “Is It Celebrating or Emotional Eating?”

  1. Casey says:

    You need to see what is happening in our schools when it comes to using food as a reward: http://kyhealthykids.com/2013/04/15/food-as-reward-infographic/

    • Thanks for the information, Casey. So many of us were “trained” to celebrate with food by many influencers…including schools. It is good to see that the discussion is motivating educators to reconsider using food as a reward.

  2. Courtney says:

    I recently became a consultant for Thirty-One. I haven’t had a chance to put this into practice yet, but I think I might reward myself with a new bag or storage system instead of food. It’s so hard to think of rewards and celebrations that don’t involve eating!

  3. Julia says:

    Thank you for the good ideas! I have been trying to come up with small inexpensive rewards, the art gallery on free days and the karaoke totally spoke to me!

  4. Dee says:

    Yeah – not everything is about food or should lead to food…..
    Get a life , live your life… You were doing that before ‘dieting’ – bringing food and weight into your consciousness
    I’m still trying to pefect ways to celebrate or unwind without food

  5. mjb says:

    I don’t see how you can put rewarding yourself for weight loss in the same boat as an anniversary dinner. One is a reward, and one is a celebration. When you go out to an anniversary dinner, are you really “rewarding” yourself with food? For what, exactly? Grinning and bearing it through another year with your significant other? You are conflating way too many psychological principles in this article, and it’s hard to figure out what you’re actually arguing for. Of course, eating cake to celebrate weight loss makes no sense. But incorporating food into a celebration has nothing to do with emotional eating. It is a cultural tradition that has been part of the human experience for thousands of years (if not longer).

    • Darya Rose says:

      You make a great point and I somewhat agree. I think it could have been much clearer, but Johann’s post did resonate with many readers. I think this is because while celebrating with food is totally fine (I do it weekly), it isn’t hard to slip into the excuse mode to justify overeating or “celebrating” things that aren’t really that special.

      • Lora says:

        Hello
        Great article I have been following your blog for some time now and truly appreciate your research based approach to unraveling the bombardment of information and opinions.
        I had to comment on this because I too believe we have become a little out of control with what we call celebrations. Commercialization of all holidays or observations I think plays a role. We have usually barely finished seeing red heart boxes of chocolate when St Patricks day cupcakes are out.
        I am not personally buying these items all the time but they are readily available at every drug and grocery store.
        I would be lying if I said the sight of all of these products does not trigger a response in me that I have to “participate” in the spirit of the holiday and if we are tired or feeling less creative, a knee jerk response could be to make the truly less than appealing or healthy “rainbow” themed treat we saw on pinterest.
        I appreciate the article pushing us to be aware that this is the reality of what we are exposed to in our world. I think we can equally enjoy these celebrations or holidays by including food but make the highlight or focus something other than food.
        I realize I lumped celebrations and rewards together but I believe we use both as justification to make unwise food choices. Thank you

    • mjb,

      Grinning and bearing it through another year with your significant other?

      I love it! That, in and of itself, is enough to drive me to the nearest chocolate chip cookie.

      I get the point of the blog post and appreciate the fact that Johann points out that negative emotions aren’t the only reason we eat and eat and eat.

      Celebrations are rewards either for making it through another year of life (ice cream and cake) or another year of being together either playing house or working for the man (big, high calorie meals and alcohol) or any number of other things.

      Just getting together with friends is cause for eating.

      I’m a guy so some of the rewards in this post don’t really speak to me but I get the idea. I’m one for sabotaging my efforts at weight loss but thinking, “Great. I lost 10 pounds. Now, it’s time for cake!”

  6. shapna says:

    Celebrating and Emotional eating is entirely different from each other. Having food more than the normal is called emotional eating and it can be cured with the help of eliminating stress and other negative emotions.

  7. Amanda says:

    Once upon a time I was on a popular weight loss program. I was successful on it and since the weight was coming off, I knew I was going to need new clothes along the way. I started setting monetary goals that reflected my weight loss so that I could indulge in rewarding myself. For instance, for every 1 lb lost, I contributed $1 to my “New Wardrobe Fund.” Finances are tight for me, so I had to make it a priority to put money in my wardrobe fund. That way, when the time came, at least I had money stashed away specifically for the occasion. This would work for saving up for those mani/pedi treatments, massages, outings etc.

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