You are taking steps toward your goals and burning those calories like nobody’s business! Time for a little sweet treat to reward yourself, right?
Reaching for that cookie to reward yourself for your workout might just be the very thing that is making your healthy lifestyle journey so difficult.
Our brains are malleable substances. They notice, learn, and adopt patterns and behaviors without us consciously realizing it. This can be great for learning basic skills as a child, but it can be detrimental to our success when trying to permanently adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Though after a great workout we may think to ourselves, “Hey, I worked really hard. I’ve totally earned a little sweet treat!” you may want to think about what is really going on.
Rewarding our good behaviors with opposing, less desirable behaviors can actually trigger our brain to derail and fall back into our old lifestyles of unhealthy eating and reward systems.
Even just one cookie as a reward can lead you off course. One cookie can easily trigger your brain to fall into an addictive behavior…until it’s not just one cookie anymore.
It’s a cookie after every workout. It’s a cookie a week. It’s a cookie a day. And down you go into old habits that fight against the healthy lifestyle you are aiming for.
Consider the calorie count. The average cookie, muffin, donut or other favorite sweet treat contains about the same amount of calories that you burn from a really great 1 hour workout.
So you are you really “earning” the cookie at all?
No, you are simply equaling out your hard earned calorie deficit and leaving yourself exactly where you started.
There is no need to feel ashamed! A cookie is by no means the end of the world.
It is GREAT to enjoy a cookie every once in awhile. But for no other reason than to enjoy it.
No reward. No harmful triggers to the brain. No falling back into old addictive behaviors. Just savoring a cookie and being okay with that!
The brain is a tricky thing and understanding it is the first step to being able to effectively mold it and create permanent lifestyle habits that will lead you the healthy life you desire.
Rewards work in our brain because of our ancestor’s need of basic survival. This is important when considering food because when our ancestors could eat, they could live.
Unfortunately, this system in our brain can now fight against us in a time when we can find plenty of food easily on the shelf at the store or in our very own pantry.
When we eat, our brain releases chemicals that make us feel good and tells us we are doing something right. But today, we have to make these associations with the right foods to support a healthy lifestyle.
Making these permanent changes is not about your willpower, it is about encouraging your brain to make positive choices that are associated with the healthy lifestyle you want. You can learn more about this in our article, Willpower is a Myth and a Lie. Learn How to Change Your Habits for Good!
So next time you finish that amazing workout, give it a second thought before reaching for that cookie and try creating new reward responses in your brain. Give yourself a nice big glass of cold water, find a positive quote for the day, or snack on a bit of tasty fruit. Your body AND your mind will thank you!
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