Food As A Reward? Bad Idea, Unless You’re A Dog.

Never fails to amaze me when I hear commentary about people ‘being good’ on their eating plan for a mere handful of days or weeks and then deciding to ‘reward’ themselves with a trip to the ice cream shoppe or pizza parlor.

Is that any different from quitting smoking cigarettes and then deciding that once a week you can puff away half a pack?

Even worse: parents using food to reward their kids for good behavior, good grades or for finishing their dinner?  I don’t know which of those three scenarios makes the least sense- teaching your children that eating extra calories from refined sugar and grains is some sort of a good ‘treat’ to strive for, or that doing so after they’ve already eaten a meal and are likely full is a good idea.

There is a time and a place, though, that using food as a reward is warranted in my book: when you’re training your dog.  Our dogs, who I’ve written about many times before, are an 70-pound male and a 60- pound female Weimaraner.  When they were pups, they became housebroken, learned to fetch the paper and learned commands such as sit and stay by being rewarded with treats.  These treats were tiny little pieces of dried liver, about 1 square inch in size.

Get the message?

Because dogs are, well, dogs, there aren’t many other things that work as a reward for their good behavior.  And, since you have complete control of what they eat (or almost, aside from what they might find, scavenging, on a trail run now and then),  you can easily monitor their intake and make sure they don’t get fat. 

It is a very different picture with human kids.

If you compare the way we think to how dogs probably think, you have to consider the many emotional factors that people often use to develop eating habits for reasons other than being hungry.

One of which is the belief system that ‘when they are ‘good’, they are entitled to a reward, and that reward is food.

If you’re someone with a weight issue, I will not even attempt to pretend that I know exactly how you feel and how tricky it is to overcome this concept, but I know it can be done as I’ve worked with clients who’ve battled their food demons successfully.

Now, if you’re  a parent, this is your chance to step up and not create the same problems for your own kids. 

Rewards in and of themselves are a great idea.

Just not food.

How about a shopping trip, a day at the spa with mom, an afternoon fishing with dad or a family day out at the movies?

Get rid of the non Paleo foods, and get rid of the idea that any food should be used for anything other than nourishment when one is hungry.  Then, of course, use rewards for that good report card or the pleasant way that your twins got along during dinner…but choose rewards that are not something to put in one’s mouth.