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Coaching Corner: You Deserve a Break Today

Linda_Hopkins_wellness coachingI know. You had a hard day. You need a little pick-me-up. Yes, you “deserve” that bowl of ice cream, hunk of cheesecake, plate of nachos or whatever food conjures up comfort for you. Suddenly, your weight loss goal is out the window. You begin rationalizing: “I can skip lunch or exercise more tomorrow…” But when tomorrow comes, what are you left with? Usually guilt, shame, regret and maybe a few new fat cells.

Like many other people, I learned the culinary comfort/reward system as a child. My mother would pay me to eat my butterbeans—a penny per bean—and bribe me with dessert to clean my plate. I would stop crying for a cookie and go to church for the promise of a Dairy Queen ice cream afterward. I got the message: When I’m good, I get the goodies.

As a teen, I was further brainwashed by the McDonald’s slogan: “You Deserve a Break Today.” We all deserve a break, but can we get it at a drive through window? I don’t think so.

Now that I’m all grown up (I think that happened at about age 45), when I stop to think about what I really need and deserve, it’s not usually about food. Maybe I want someone to say, “Good job on that project,” or maybe I just need some time to kick my feet up and relax. Popping food into my mouth might be a quick fix, but it’s not the reward I’m seeking.

Over the past few months, I have been making a conscious effort to notice what I’m really feeling before I start shoveling food at it. If I’m hungry, I ask myself what food would be most satisfying. But if I’m not physically in need of fuel, I ask myself, “What am I hungry for?” If it’s attention, I may reach out for my husband or interact with my Facebook friends. If it’s quiet time or rest, I might take the phone off the hook and grab a quick nap or sequester myself in the bathtub, preferably with my Kindle. If it’s boredom, depending on my mood, I might take a walk on the beach, rally a friend to hit some tennis balls, play my piano or go to the movies.

As a healthy adult, here’s what I know for sure:

  • Butterbeans are delicious, and a roll of pennies doesn’t buy much anyway.
  • I can have dessert first if I want or skip it if I’m full.
  • A cookie will never solve the problem.
  • Church is a choice that has nothing to do with ice cream.
  • What I deserve is to take good care of my body, mind and spirit.

Next time you find yourself reaching for food at the end of a stressful day or grabbing a snack to soothe your emotions, take a moment to tune into your true hungers and discover what you really need. Then go after the break you deserve.

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