I was thinking this morning about weekends. Weekends are tough. For years I have been conditioned to think that weekends are the time to have the things I won’t “allow” myself to have during the week. Weekends are for treats and enjoyment. They always feel like the time to ‘let my hair down’ and “enjoy life”.
There exists in this a false idea that I’m not “enjoying life” the other 5 days/week.
And, as I thought about how to “fix” my weekends so that they didn’t become a huge splurge-fest, I realized that the best place to start is to address this mentality. Because, I love what I eat during the week as well.
I’m not “starving myself” during the week, or forcing myself to eat foods I don’t enjoy to lose weight. First of all, I don’t have enough discipline and secondly, I like pleasure too much. Quality of life is important to me. I don’t want to suffer endlessly just to be thin. That is no way to live life.
But, I enjoy my homemade green smoothies, my salads and veggies, my eggs and toast, and water and coffee. I’m not missing out on anything. I’m eating things I enjoy.
So, why do I still have this mentality tucked-away in the recesses of my brain that tells me that I deserve to splash-out on weekends because I’ve “done so well” or “sacrificed so much” during the week?
I guess it’s that old dieters mentality. When you’ve tried to lose weight for almost your entire life, you develop a certain way of thinking. Things become classified as “good” and “bad”, there are “diet foods” and “treats” or “reward foods”.
When foods are classified in our brains as “good” there is always a sub-heading. It actually reads like this: Good – But, really bad (as in disgusting, not enjoyable, lesser-than). And, the vice versa is also true: Bad – But, really good (as in tastes so incredible, the stuff you really would rather be eating).
These headings get cemented in our brains with memories as well. For example: At birthday parties we don’t bring-out a huge veggie or fruit platter and celebrate. We do it with cake and ice cream.
As a child, whenever I went to the Dentist or Doctor, of if I had a particularly bad, or good, day at school, I was given McDonald’s or a DQ Blizzard as a special treat.
Chips, chocolate, cookies, cakes, pop, candy…these were the things you were given on special occasions. They were given to celebrate, to console, to comfort and to reward. Using these treats as a reward trains our brains to classify them as ‘better’ and the foods ‘to be desired’ and all the regular food as ‘not as good’ or ‘less special’.
There are also chemical reactions certain foods have in our brains and the release of dopamine is comparable to that of drinking alcohol or consuming other. For a bit more information you can check out these sites:
But, I have found, lately, as I have been trying to be more mindful when I am eating, that these “treats” are not really as enjoyable as they promise to be. There may be a a brief dopamine hit, but it fades and I realize that the actual food is not that enjoyable any more. However, because they are so wrapped-up in memories of rewards, a history of emotions, and the happy dopamine buzz, I want to keep eating them because I know, from memory, that they brought happiness and I’m expecting them to do it again.
I treated myself to a Boston Cream donut on the weekend and, it was ok. But really, my thoughts of it were ‘meh’-I didn’t really need that. BUT, when I had a few bites of my son’s grilled chicken wrap…YUM. That was something I truly enjoyed and I had wished I had skipped the donut and treated myself to one of those instead.
I have learned a lot watching my son, actually. We never fed him sweets or offered sugar cookies, drinks, etc. to him until recently. And, we found that he doesn’t like them. I suspect that this is because he has, since he was 4 months old, enjoyed natural foods and when we offer him the confectionery it just doesn’t taste as good. I’d like to raise him without the treat mentality. I want him to continue to be overjoyed when he sees we purchased a watermelon or cantaloupe and have zero feelings when he sees a packet of brownies. But, I have to get it right in myself first.
Therefore, on top of working on mindful eating, I am also going to be working on retraining my brain. I want to break this “treat mentality” and learn to have a healthier attitude to all foods.