Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise Thompson: Overcoming emotional eating: rewards

Using food to reward ourselves might not be the best reward in the long run. Photo / Thinkstock
Using food to reward ourselves might not be the best reward in the long run. Photo / Thinkstock

Emotional eating is when we feel compelled to eat even though we are not physically
hungry. We are driven to eat by a need to change our emotional state. To feel differently
to how we feel right now. One of the most common types of emotional eating is treating.

We reward or treat ourselves with food for something we have accomplished. We use food as praise. We are feeling unappreciated and we want to feel valued.

It might be the reward coffee and muffin for having got all the kids off to school. It might be the reward for getting through the hellish product review meeting or awkward staff appraisal. It might be the treat for doing a morning walk. It's a reward for good behaviour.

However, if we are unhappy with our weight or body image, is it really a reward? Does it really make us happy?

Here's the thing about using food as a reward. It's an anonymous quote so I can't source it, but it's so powerful I want to use it anyway:

"You do not need to reward yourself with food, you are not a dog."

The image of rewarding our lovable hound for good behaviour with a treat is a strong one. Simple creatures, simple rewards. We use this principle to train for good behaviour.

The image of ourselves as a dog however, controlled through treats, is not quite as palatable!

Next time you want to reward yourself with a doggy treat ask yourself these far more rewarding questions instead:

• How do I feel 10 minutes after eating my reward/treat?
• How do I feel an hour later? A week later?
• Who do I need to receive praise and recognition from?
• What do I want to receive praise and recognition for?
• How and when and whom can I ask for this support?

Write 10 ways you could either ask for praise or reward yourself with non-food rewards so you have a handy "go to" list next time you want to feel appreciated. List 10 things that feel luxurious or treat-like for you that do not involve food:

1. ____________________
2. ____________________
3. ____________________
4. ____________________
5. ____________________
6. ____________________
7. ____________________
8. ____________________
9. ____________________
10. ___________________

Action step

Take back your control over praise and recognition. You are not a dog. You don't need to eat your praise. You can get it in many, many other ways.

Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise, visit or connect on Facebook.

- NZ Herald

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Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise is a corporate escapee turned wellbeing pro. After 17 successful years on the commercial side of media a serious health crisis led to a complete lifestyle overhaul and a brand new direction. As a life coach, and the first Martha Beck accredited coach in New Zealand, she loves nothing better than to help her clients get inspired, get happy and make their own rules for a connected, passion-fueled life. Her first book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to High Energy Happiness, aims to motivate people with practical solutions to step up and live their best lives. A qualified yoga teacher she also runs her own yoga studio and leads corporate wellness seminars. Louise loves to run, cook and dance, and is an incurable travel junkie.

Read more by Louise Thompson

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