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Eating is Not Treating. Why We Should Think Before We ‘Treat.’

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

By Dr Marianne Trent of Good Thinking Psychological Services

Each time I stand in the queue at the post office I strongly have to resist the urge to buy myself or my children a ‘treat.’ I see the assortment of delicious sugared yummies and it makes me think of my children. If I’m honest, probably one of my first thoughts is that if my children were with me they would be pestering for some sweets and so I’m glad they’re at home! Whatever, the first thought, the result is the same. I’m in a queue and thinking of buying some sugary stuff for either myself, my husband or my kids. I begin to imagine giving them the Freddo, the Fudge or the Haribo and imagine myself being like the Pied Piper of Hamlin as the kids see what offerings I have. Who doesn’t want to be popular with their kids? Who doesn’t want The Happy Meal effect?’ But I need to resist and resist I do.

Am I being a mean Mum?

You might think, oh go on, the kids would love that! Just buy it for them you meanie! But I still need to resist. I need to be firm in my mind that food, especially sweet food, is not love. I was brought up in a household where sweet food was a novelty. I’m talking that a dried apricot every now and then was a treat. That is just not the world that modern children are growing up in. Our children are surrounded by sugar and are drip fed it from almost as soon as they can swallow. We already have far too many ‘treats’ in the house. I don’t need to buy more. And anyway, it’s not about the ‘treats’ it’s about what our children need to hear and need to feel, not what they need to eat.

How can I show my kids love without food?

This is a common question. My answer is, we can tell our children that we were thinking of them. We can scoop our children into our arms and let them know that we thought about them today. We can reinforce the knowledge that out of sight is most definitely not out of mind. We can let them know that they light up our worlds and make our hearts happy. That is literally a direct quote from what I said just this morning “You make my heart happy!”

Can I learn anything about my own eating from this?

You might find that throughout the day you also have thoughts of ‘treating yourself’ with food. It can be useful to consider where these messages have come from. Of course we need food to survive and our very nature of being helpless and needing caregiving from birth usually means that we are cradled and rocked and nurtured as we feed. It’s not surprising that eating feels so good for so many of us! And yet if we have eaten our meals in any given day it’s unlikely that we are actually physically hungry. It can be helpful for us to think about what emotional need we might be trying to feed within ourselves if is not hunger related. Perhaps, in much the same was as we can tell our children that we thought of them and missed them today we can learn to tell ourselves for example:

· “I’ve done really well today. I feel really proud of myself.”
· “I’ve had a hard day. It’s understandable and completely normal to feel sad / tired etc.”

What do you think? Does this resonate with you? Get in touch and let me know.

If you enjoyed this post have you seen our post on 'leftovers?' Check it out here

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