There are a lot of reasons why people get fat. Some of us have, I would say, a hgher food reward sensitivity (due to genetics or environment), and this tends to result in gaining more weight over time.
I see this in certain cultures around the world and different families as well. When we look to food as a dopamine (feel good hormone hit), we are often seeking out foods that offer little to zero health benefits. Overly processed reward foods are also expertly formulated to get you hooked with their addictive "bliss" points.
It's common practice, at work or at school to offer a "special" - and often unhealthy - food as a reward for good behaviour or a job well done. Not only food, but alcohol as well in many workplaces, which, as we know, is basically liquid sugar, not to mention highly addictive as well.
The food reward hypothesis suggest that constantly eating foods which lead to massive dopamine release (sugar is a prominent example) can cause people to overeat and gain weight.
Truth is, many of us have been conditioned, since we were children, to use food as a reward. If we did well on a test at school? Let's go get ice-cream! We cleaned up our room? Now we get to have dessert with dinner! We won our basketball game? The candy starts flowing...
This reward system can undermine our healthy eating habits. While we can't change the outside world, we as individuals, can learn to think twice, about accepting the free pizza or ice ceam on offer. Remember, just because some tasty food is being given to us, it doesn't oblige us to eat it! While living in the USA, I can't tell you how many times I collected my kids from school and they had pockets fulls of Hershey's kisses because they did something right at school that day.
For a number of people, food is not only a reward, but it also elicits a powerful 'relaxation response'. So we can easily get into the habit of 'needing' some highly processed foods to unwind with after a long and arduous day at work or school. I call this the 'food coma', however, we need to be awake to stop this habit!
Truth is though, that rewards could simply be verbal words of encouragement or a hug rather than gummi bears. Emotional hunger, or the need for connection, empathy, acknowledgement and compassion will never be filled by the phyical means of food.
If you love a reward, try rewarding yourself in other ways too, other than food. My favorite ways include going to a movie, buying a new book I've been wanting, treating myself to a pedicure or simply a walk along the beach. Whatever it is, just know that, with our full awareness of the reward system that is entrenched in our society, we have choices as to how we want to be rewarded.
G'day. Welcome to my blog, where I write about mindful eating. My name is Sally Asher and I'm a wellness author of three books. I hold a Health Science degree and have a passion for behavioral change. I live between South Florida and Melbourne with my husband and two teenagers. My husband and I run a real estate investment company. I love to help people eat mindfully and reconnect with the innate, intuitive sense of eating that we are all born with.