Why do we "treat" ourselves...?

by (952) Updated July 06, 2011 at 10:54 AM Created July 05, 2011 at 5:12 PM

If we're just going to feel like crap.
Ok, some cheat treats don't affect me.. but some certainly do and I noticed a trend lately. When I am going through a rough time, I will BINGE on junk. I guess it's my vice, I don't smoke or drink, not even caffeine (but in chocolate which I try to avoid).
This last weekend I went on a 3 day binge.. I just finished off the last of my junk and plan to go back to clean healthy eating.. but why did I do it?
Our family is going through a rough time right now, we had some upsetting events happen... I guess I want to eat like crap cause it helps to just generally feel like crap and your emotions are numbed down a bit. When you come off sugar, everything is so raw, you have to deal with your emotions- you don't have that buzzy high to carry you through. Am I the only one who feels a little buzzy when I eat a lot of sugar?

So do you "treat" yourself to a cheat because of something positive and good in your life and you feel you deserve that chocolate molten lava cake? Or do you do it when things aren't going right and you want to sit on the couch with Ben & Jerry's and junk TV?

How do you go back to clean eating again? For me, I try to cleanse myself of the sweet cravings by avoiding even fruits for a couple days. I'll eat lots of veggies, eggs, sardines... and I work out. Working out always feels like a cleansing experience for me. Maybe I can learn to use working out to deal with the rough times rather than binging. Go on a hike or something.

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15120 · July 05, 2011 at 5:27 PM

im actually trying to change my mindset on this one (and the mindset of our culture at large). because its totally psychological. my family has had a really rough couple of years too with a lot of kicks while we were down and i gained a lot of weight "treating myself" and numbing out with bad food.

im trying to think now in terms of "treating myself" by not eating junk or treating myself to a super healthy meal. also, trying to re-frmae things into non-food rewards like treating myself to an extra long stretching session after exercising, or a sugar scrub in the shower, or treating myself to a pedicure. i like to treat myself by cooking something stupidly involved and complex that i might not do otherwise, just because i really enjoy the process of cooking and dont get to do it as much as i would like because of two tiny kiddos. i treat myself to heading upstairs an hour early to knit or read in bed, or a massage.

basically, i want to reward myself with something nourishing, so that it actually does feel like a TREAT and not torture and shame spiral a few hours later. if i think of treating myself with jellybeans, i get sort of turned off because i know im going to feel pretty crappy emotionally and physically soon after. not that i never slip! i totally do, and frequently. i just dont use bad food as a reward or escape.

1927 · July 05, 2011 at 6:30 PM

I think you touch on the root cause when you made the connection between your emotions being "numbed down" and "feeling like crap." Actually, I think it's more likely that the "crap" we eat -- whether we know it's crap (like processed foods, fast food, empty calories, sugar, etc) or not (SAD, whole grains, legumes, etc.) -- that causes the numbing. We get "hooked" on that stuff, same as we can get hooked on other "substances" that are routinely thought of in negative terms -- like alcohol and nicotine.

Also, like those substances which are often referred to as "drugs," I've learned that it's pretty easy not to understand the nature of addiction until you realize you're suffering from it. As a former smoker, I know that my ability to understand and accept some of the Paleo concepts that so often freak out our "civilian" (ha) family and friends. Only when I finally decided that I didn't want to smoke anymore was I able to stop -- and only when I tried to quit did I realize how addicted I was to nicotine!

Same holds for food. Food addictions are real. I used to joke for years with people -- when they told me they had a sweet tooth, I laughed and said I was lucky to not have one, but that my challenge was what I called a "carb tooth." It's even funnier to me now, having learned what I've learned over the past 6 mos of moving in the Paleo direction -- in that there's no appreciative difference between a "carb tooth" and a "sweet tooth," and, if we want to get even more technical, both of them come down to sugar in the end. The system havoc that's wreaked by over-consumption of carbs and sugar (causing continual insulin spikes and the resultant insulin insensitivity that leads to such conditions as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver) and whole grains (and the gluten that causes inflammation and hinders our digestive system's ability to efficiently provide our bodies with good nutrients) is what causes us to "feel like crap" -- but for most of us, it's how we've eaten our whole lives, so feeling like crap feels normal to us. We walk around not even knowing we're sick until we stop consuming the stuff that keeps us in that state of having reduced energy levels, body awareness, mental sharpness -- you name it!

I believe that the "treat" concept is different for everyone. We all have different limits, and different abilities to resist temptation. If an occasional serving of ice cream keeps you happy, and otherwise on the healthy path, then I think it's part of the path. But if you can't open a pint without eating the entire thing all at once -- and then needing another one tomorrow -- you may want to avoid it. I recently heard someone refer to certain foods as being "red light items" for them -- those things that they know they won't be able to resist. For some people it's pizza, for some it's peanut butter, for some it's Doritos -- whatever they are, keep them out of your house!

On the other hand, the great thing about Paleo living is that you can snack on so many wonderful, tasty and fulfilling things -- avocados, guacamole, sardines, veggies, nuts, etc. And you can eat eggs, and steak, and bacon (in reasonable amounts) -- we don't have any reason to be hungry! Overall, the good so outweighs the occasional craving for pasta or a hot dog that I don't feel like I'm suffering at all.

But if and when you do fall "off the wagon" -- just get back on. There's always room. We always save your seat. Don't beat yourself up -- no shame in saying "whoops" and just getting back on track.

Good luck!

18619 · July 05, 2011 at 5:33 PM

I had my first binge in over a year this weekend. I know why. It was PMS and stress, getting ready for our big party and availability of trigger foods.

Personally, a binge is something that happens for me when I don't want to deal with my current emotions. I have learned to stop myself and ask "Why am I eating this?". Initially, it took a lot of soul searching to figure it out, but 6 years down the road, I pretty much know when it's going to happen. Usually, I can avoid it by talking myself down or texting/emailing my sister or a friend that understands my disordered eating history.

I kind of chose to let myself fall into it this weekend. I know now that I can climb back out and fix any "damage" I've done. It's amazing to be able to do this and not feel guilt and/or self-hate for eating some Pringles and a couple of Oreos.

Paleo has fixed my high blood pressure and I really, really enjoy not taking the pills anymore, so it is a super incentive to get right back on track.

6140 · July 05, 2011 at 5:20 PM

I think it is the fact that you get immediate reward with delayed effects.

I had a horrible time avoiding gluten before I made the connection with my migraines. Knowing I will get a migraine in an hour after eating, I have had no trouble stopping now.

On the other hand sugar gives me joint pain, but it seems to be 18 to 24 hours later and it is really hard for me to avoid sugar and I find myself slipping.

3916 · July 06, 2011 at 10:54 AM

For anyone who feels like they have a problem with food addiction or binging I would really recommend doing some reading about intuitive eating. The place you must get yourself to psychologically is that there is nothing off-limits. Denying yourself only makes the cravings worse and when you finally do give in it's sure to be a binge because you feel like you may as well squeeze in all you can before you never have it again. By acknowledging that, yes, you can have the treat whenever you choose you can relax and get rid of the feelings of deprivation. It sounds counterintuitive I know, but it works. We want what we can't have. If we truly believe that we can have occasional treats it becomes much easier to pass them by because we know they will always be there. I really do believe that giving yourself permission for the occasional indulgence is the key to success and you will probably find yourself not really indulging that often because now you are going, but I feel so good without it so I am going to choose to not have it. You will not get that panicky feeling that you'd better have it now before the window of opportunity closes because you know that window is always open.

8753 · July 05, 2011 at 6:04 PM

My treats are mostly within the limits of primal, I make my own chocolate power bars and they are delicious and sweet! I also treat myself to a potato when I want one and generally a glass or two of wine on the weekends.

I really don't crave anything in particular and often don't want to subject myself to the discomfort afterwards. I think that because I do treat myself to 'within the limits' options I never feel the need otherwise.

I guess by giving myself 'treats' that are alternatives to things I would want (ie: chocolate) I don't want it otherwise.

I think the only thing that I always miss is buttery popcorn, which I couldn't eat before anyways due to a corn allergy, but the smell is enticing!!!

50 · July 06, 2011 at 10:16 AM

I have cheated twice, with faith that It's ok, as long as I get back to normal. But the thing with me is the guilt! As soon as I eat something bad, I immediately think I'm gaining weight and that makes me want to give up. I am trying to get out of this way of thinking, because I want my body back so bad! Good luck to you too :)

589 · July 06, 2011 at 12:44 AM

I reward myself with dark chocolate [ 85% ] but only if I have a good workout or lost a couple of pounds. Life is too short not to have some pleasures. Always remember life is to enjoy not endure.

30 · July 06, 2011 at 12:19 AM

I struggle with this as well, just posted a somewhat related post. Part of the problem is that culture constantly affirms this distorted idea of what "indulging yourself" is. Whether it's spending all day with the remote, drinking late into the night, or eating a bunch of sugar... That's not "treating yourself." that's, basically, addictive behavior (as someone else pointed out).

I'm trying to get my own list of treats going... - going way over budget at whole foods to fill my cupboards and fridge up with good things (the food addict in me greatly comforted by stocking up food - it's soothes almost same thing in me as eating to see a stack of sardine cans in my house) - turning off my phone for a few hours - not answering annoying emails for today - reading paeleo cookbooks

This are things that hit my comfort buttons.

198 · July 05, 2011 at 6:01 PM

My treat is ice cream, especially in the summer, I don't seem to eat it when the weather is cold. My trigger for eating bad things is not always stress related it sometimes is just because I feel like I deserve it. If I eat particularly well for an extended period of time, I eat it because I worked so hard. Part of me wishes I had a reaction to stuff, but that is just plain ridiculous!! No food really seems to bother me at all except for the typical too much carb sleepy feeling. Other than ice cream on occassion I do not eat any dairy, no gluten and very minimal grains if any....sugar on the other hand.... But to be honest I am a 43 year old woman who does CF style workouts 3 to 4 times a week and at least one HIIT workout a week and I feel and look great, and that is enough for me!!

4171 · July 05, 2011 at 5:36 PM

I have the same problem and I think I typically only crave that crappy food when I'm stressed out and worried about something. I ate fine yesterday until my husband and I went to the grocery store and I saw a limited batch flavor of B&J's that sounded delicious!

We both ate that after dinner. By 9pm he was ill with a tummy ache and my typical body aches + joint pain was so bad it felt like I missed a dose of my pain med but I know I took it. He got up at 3:30am this morning to get ready for an early flight and I could barely get out of bed I hurt so much. I'll be 40 tomorrow and I'm still trying to learn this lesson lol It's ridiculous really.

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