Wednesday, 11 February 2009

I Want A Treat

Yesterday was day 10 of the no booze, no sugary food month, and I started really wanting a drink or a pudding. I was having a frustrating day - nothing much out of the ordinary, just run-of-the-mill work hiccups: unexpected problems arising which needed quick solutions, difficulty getting hold of people, that kind of thing. And I realised that I have a slightly repulsive inner dialogue going on much of the time, as if between a child and a mother: 'I'm fed uuuuuup, it's not faaaiiiiiir.' 'You're doing really well, you deserve a treat, if you're still being good at teatime you can have a nice cakie.' Bleurrghh.

I use wine and chocolate to reward myself. That's not exactly a revelation. I'm sure it's not unusual. I'm also sure I learned it from my mother, and that it's her voice in my head. I don't think it's a bad strategy, in moderation. But I do think it's got out of proportion in my life. Yes, I work hard, but do I really need a reward for good behaviour every single day? I have a life many people would kill for: a wonderful partner, a big loving family, a nice house to live in, a job I enjoy, no debts apart from the mortgage, and plenty of me-time. Isn't that enough? Why do I need to feed myself booze and sweeties, too?

We want a lot, don't we, in our overstuffed culture. PI said don't give up too much at once, and I agree, although I haven't mentioned that I'm also having a year off clothes/shoe shopping. What I really want, paradoxically, is to want less. I'd like to use up less energy on wanting, or perhaps to use it differently, to want different things. The daily desires can easily be satisfied - a glass of wine, a triple chocolate muffin - but the satisfaction is temporary, they're soon back nagging at me to think about them some more, to satisfy or deny them again. My big desire is to make my living as a writer. Maybe a month off alcohol and sugar will help me to divert some of the energy I spend on daily wanting into the big desire, the one that takes more energy to realise. Or maybe that's a fantasy, and all it will do is give me a bit of a detox, and I'll settle gradually back into my old lifestyle.

In the meantime, being a researcher, I think it's time to collect more data. So please tell: do you feel the need to give yourself treats? Why? What constitutes a treat for you?


Clare Sudders said...

Hmmm. Cake and chocolate are my treats... but I don't use them as rewards. I've tried that but it doesn't really work, I haven't enough self control. No, I use eating for comfort. When I'm a bit down, and when I'm bored. So giving them up is maybe slightly easier for me, because I know I just need to change my habits. The more I eat junk, the more I crave it. If I just insert a little self control at the start of the process, it gathers its own momentum until I forget all about sugary treats and don't bother with them any more.

Currently I am at the wrong end of that process! I have (re)developed v bad habits in the last year or so. I need to break them again but have been waiting until other stuff gets sorted first.

As for rewards... For me, productivity is its own reward. I know it makes me feel brilliant when I get stuff done, and that's mostly how I motivate myself. "Come on, you'll feel so much better if you do this" type thing.

Speaking of which, that's exactly what I should be doing right now. I'll give it a go.

Shane said...

I think not in terms of treats, so much as in terms of the occasional break - usually a mental break, in which my focus will be shifted from whatever the latest work or domestic issue is. To satisfy the desire for this, I find that either playing or watching (in the flesh, not on tele') football serves this purpose. This is a taste that I've brought from childhood.

The other thing... is that a 'treat' would call for some preceding good deed, and I really wouldn't want to go raising (or setting) expectations.

HelenMHunt said...

I find the glass of wine/bar of chocolate treat beckons me a lot. But I also recognise the 'mental break' as treat mentioned by Shane - if I do an hour's work I can read a novel for a bit, or watch TV or play with the cats. Sometimes I find I've given myself so many treats that I haven't done any work, which obviously isn't good!

Leigh said...

Chocolate and booze does me very well!
Actually, all my life I have been at my happiest when I have a) something goodie to eat, b) something goodie to drink c) some good music to listen to, and d) a good book to read/write!

Queenie said...

Mental break, hmmm, yes, reading a novel in one go does that for me. But - and maybe this is more of a girl thing - I've come to the conclusion that I need a cake-and-chocolate-alike. I'm currently experimenting with cocoa, no sugar, and sugar-free cereal bars - which sounds very, very worthy but right now it doesn't feel that way!

KAREN said...

Soemthing I can really relate to as I'm currently trying to break my cakey/puddingy/chocolatey habits.

Trouble is as soon as you deny yourself things you want them more (or is that just me!)

We were discussing this during tea-break at the library last week, and everyone admitted that they spend a large portion of their days thinking about food of the chocolate/pudding/cake variety, and this is women from all walks of life. Comfort seemed to be the key word. We don't 'need' it, we love it!! Shame our hips/waists/bodies don't :o(

To that end I've started eating Green and Black's almond and raisin dark chocolate (I eat less but it's satisfying) and baking the healthiest-but-still-yummy puddings at home that I can find (currently a low-fat chocolate cake, and fruit crumbles in ramekins instead of big bowls!)and if I eat healthily all day I treat myself to one with a pot of custard in the evening (evenings are my weak point!)

Mad isn't it, but surprisingly common :o)

Queenie said...

Definitely not just you, Karen! I may fall off the wagon tonight...