Do Not Reward Yourself With Food… You Are Not A Dog.

The title of this blog post, “Do Not Reward Yourself With Food… You Are Not A Dog” is a quote I read many months ago. This quote slapped me upside the head like a two-ton brick because rewarding myself with food is exactly what I’ve always done. And I’m here to tell you, it’s a hard habit to break. Even as a clean eater. But it’s not impossible…

Do Not Reward Yourself With Food... You Are Not A Dog.

I noticed a while back that I was beginning to become more aware of my inclination to turn to food for comfort. And this was a turning point for me. Because if you can take notice of what you are doing, it suddenly breaks a pattern that has become automatic.

I’d be willing to bet that for most of you comfort eaters (and you know who you are), comfort eating is mindless eating. You turn to food without a second thought. There is an automatic assumption that you will feel better if you eat ___________ (fill in the blank). And guess what? For a short amount of time (usually the amount of time it takes to eat whatever you’re eating), you DO feel better! It’s absolute, instant gratification! What’s not to love?

But we also know what happens right after that instant relief hits. Just about the time we finish eating whatever it is we’re eating. The guilt sets in. The self-deprecation and even disgust kick in, and we suddenly find ourselves in a place we never intended to end up in. A place that leaves us feeling worse than we felt before we ate what we ate.

I know this cycle WAY too well. I know it by heart. I can play it out in my mind every time I think about rewarding myself with food. I can think ahead and already feel the disgust with myself that I will feel if I eat for comfort. It’s a simple and easy response to a stressful situation, but it doesn’t solve anything.  Eating does not deliver comfort or stress relief. While it may provide a few instantaneous chemical changes in the body that do indeed make us think we feel better, the truth is, it’s the long-lasting “feel-better” we are after. And we never get that when we eat for comfort.

So with that in mind, I asked you guys how you treat yourselves without food. Below is a list of 30 things you can do instead. But remember, the first step is to recognize it every time you begin the cycle. If you don’t recognize it, you can’t fix it.

Note: I realize many of these are things you can buy. Some people were not happy with that. But I will say this… You absolutely do not have to buy yourself something to reward yourself. This is simply a list I compiled from my readers. Ideas that they shared with me. If you have any “non-purchase” ideas, please feel free to share them in a comment. I’d love to hear them!

Do Not Reward Yourself With Food

You are human. Reward yourself with one of these instead.

  1. Go for a walk on a beautiful day (truthfully, this is my favorite. Time to think and time to feel better!)
  2. Get a manicure and/or pedicure
  3. Have a massage (okay, maybe this one is my favorite….)
  4. Go to a movie
  5. Buy a new shirt/skirt/outfit/shoes
  6. Buy a new workout DVD
  7. Buy a new book
  8. Read a magazine
  9. Window shop
  10. Rent a movie
  11. Give yourself a facial
  12. Have a girl’s/boy’s night out with friends
  13. Take the dog to a dog park
  14. Buy new workout clothes or shoes
  15. Take a drive
  16. Go fishing
  17. Go for a hike
  18. Go rock climbing
  19. Do something you’ve been a little afraid to do
  20. Hang out with a kid who could use a friend
  21. Volunteer
  22. Visit a friend you haven’t seen in ages
  23. Buy yourself some flowers ( I do this a lot)
  24. Go berry/apple/fruit picking
  25. Walk through a farmer’s market and just enjoy the people
  26. Buy craft supplies
  27. Buy some new makeup
  28. Get a new haircut or color
  29. Journal
  30. Meditation/Yoga (Pick a free yoga video or guided meditation video on Youtube!)
  31. Have a cup of tea – While this is technically consuming something, enjoying a good cup of tea is a well known relaxation technique.
  32. If you are creative, paint a new painting.
  33. Clean – If you are somebody who feels relaxed while cleaning, this is always a great option and you have the benefit of a clean house.

Check out more Clean Eating 101 articles here.

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This article is an original work and is © Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author.

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  1. A Lechliter says:

    Excellent! Thank you! I was just walking with friends and saying we needed to reward ourselves with pedicures, a new purse, shoes, etc.

    1. graciouspantry says:

      A Lechliter – Excellent!

  2. Carolyn Pierson says:

    I was struck by that quote too, because I too eat for comfort. But I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It simply depends on your definition of “comfort food.” I may be the odd one out there, but my comfort food is a bowl of plain yogurt with honey, frozen berries, and some homemade granola. I eat it almost every night before bed and it really does make me happy and relaxed – my little celebration for completing the day. Sure, it isn’t the best thing to do, but it isn’t the worst, and I don’t feel an ounce of guilt. I agree it’s important to reward yourself with things other than food, but food CAN be rewarding and comforting and GOOD for you, all at once. Cheerios and milk is another fall-back of mine, because it reminds me of summer evenings visiting my grandparents when we always had a bowl of cereal before bed. : )
    Thanks for all of your recipes and thoughtful posts!

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Carolyn – If you can stick to yogurt, that’s wonderful. But the majority of comfort eaters do not turn to healthy foods. I was one of those sadly. It’s tough when all you want is pizza or ice cream.

  3. Soapieschoice says:

    I was raised with food = love. Food was used equally for celebration and consolation. It’s the hardest habit to break, to comfort oneself with food. I’m proud that I broke that cycle with my sons who both grew into healthy men. It was particularly annoying to me when they were involved in a reading program in grade school that rewarded prolific readers with a free personal pizza from a national chain. I let those stupid gift certificates sit until they were almost ready to expire, but I didn’t want my kids to feel left out, so I eventually got them their nasty chain store pizzas. I’m sure it was a bigger deal to me than to them

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Soapie – I remember those!! I got them in school too! Not sure I ever got the pizza though. But you’re right, schools often encourage this behavior with all kinds of food incentives.

  4. graciouspantry says:

    PR – I’ve been there. I used to do massage therapy, and you’re right. At the end of the day, you want somebody to give back to you.

  5. graciouspantry says:

    Catherine – Haha!! I love that! Might have to try it. My closet needs it!

  6. graciouspantry says:

    Bonnie – Haha!!! Enjoy!

  7. graciouspantry says:

    Kim – My pleasure!

  8. graciouspantry says:

    Abigail – Yes! Journaling is VERY eye opening!

  9. Terrific list.
    My favorite way to distract myself from that urge to stand in front of the open fridge door / open pantry door looking for that comfort food item is a long walk with my kids (usually they ride their bikes).
    I have found it helps when they are doing the same thing…( standing in front of the open fridge/pantry door ) out of boredom. A good time to break that cycle …while they are still young.

    1. graciouspantry says:

      LR – Excellent!!!

    2. graciouspantry says:

      LR – Excellent!!!

  10. Terrific list.
    My favorite way to distract myself from that urge to stand in front of the open fridge door / open pantry door looking for that comfort food item is a long walk with my kids (usually they ride their bikes).
    I have found it helps when they are doing the same thing…( standing in front of the open fridge/pantry door ) out of boredom. A good time to break that cycle …while they are still young.

  11. Pingback: Repost – Do Not Reward Yourself With Food… « I am Ready to Lose
  12. Oh I can relate to this and I like the idea of thinking “hey I am not a dog”!

    Wonderful ideas to do instead of eating. I am doing a spa night in the beginning of May for myself as a reward for eating clean:)

    I adore your blog btw;)

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Sara – Fabulous!! Sounds like a wonderful treat!

  13. I enjoyed this post. I like your idea of of walking through an area such as the farmers market, and just enjoying the energy of the people! Its something I do all the time and didn’t know others did the same 🙂

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Nessie – I do it all the time! Love it! It’s very relaxing.

  14. graciouspantry says:

    Emily – That’s why I tried to do a list of about half and half. People enjoy pampering themselves in different ways.

  15. graciouspantry says:

    Beth – I’d be willing to bet that the reason you crave it so much is the sugar in the chocolate. Also check your peanut butter to be sure there isn’t any added sugar there. Try having JUST a 1/4 cup of no sugar added peanut butter and see if you still want to continue.

    For that time of night, you can write in a journal, knit/sew/craft, read a book or work on some other small project around the house that will keep your mind busy.

  16. graciouspantry says:

    Mind – So true!!

  17. graciouspantry says:

    Cec – Oh I like that!!

  18. What a great post. We’ve all dealt with this issue in one form or another. You are so right that it really DOES help . . . for the moment. One thing I’ve done that has worked at times is to just pretend that I just had whatever it is I wanted for comfort food.

    One more thing I’ve done (I’m a Christian) is memorize Scripture passages that deal with several issues related to the core of why I am turning to food. For those who are religious, using faith statements might be very helpful.

    Right now, I just remind myself that in 29 days, I’m heading out on a 30th anniversary cruise with my soul-mate, and I want to look good in a bikini! 🙂

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Br – You can do it! That’s a great way to remind yourself!

  19. SmoothGrl says:

    Beth- been there done that. LIke Tiffany replied, the sugar leaves you craving more and you can’t stop. I switched to natural peanutbutter (I use Smuckers) and I am just fine w/ the 2 tablespoons. Try going sugar free for 30 days- I PROMISE you won’t crave hardly at all….the firs week is the hardest. Good luck!

  20. The Starving Artist says:

    I completely 100% relate to this post. It’s such a simple concept, but so profound. I’ve been down 60 pounds for over a year and I STILL need to be reminded this. Many thanks for sharing!

    1. graciouspantry says:

      TSA – It’s a lifelong struggle, no matter how much weight you lose!

  21. Great list. I’ve been seeing this quote all over pinterest. Always a good reminder.

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Whitney – Definitely! Really puts it in perspective!

  22. Veronica1022 says:

    This is just the reminder I needed. I tend to eat emotionally and I am stresses 96% of the time these days.

  23. Veronica1022 says:

    This is just the reminder I needed. I tend to eat emotionally and I am stresses 96% of the time these days.

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Veronica – I understand. Hang in there!

    2. graciouspantry says:

      Veronica – I understand. Hang in there!