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Treats

Treats

I can’t be the only person on the planet who objects to the word “treats” when referring to food, can I? A treat is defined as being “an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure” My problem is that by putting certain foods in the category of “treats” we might be doing more harm than good. 

I’m thinking that eaters might do better embracing theses foods—yes, the ones high in sugar, fat or salt and often all three yummily mixed together—rather than keeping them at arm’s length. Seeing them as “out of the ordinary” might mean to some folks that they’re rarely eaten or eaten only on special occasions. My fear is that many dysregulated eaters might see treats as restrictive to only certain occasions.

During the holidays, I often hear clients talk about family foods that are treats—anything from soups to breads to desserts. Much of their talk is how they overeat these foods. When I suggest they eat them more often, they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Some fear they’ll be overeating them more than once a year (as they now do) and others fear eating them year-round would make the food less special. It took me a while to understand this second point and for them to understand that if they had “treats” they enjoy more often, they might actually eat less of them.

This is a difficult notion for them to wrap their minds around because the diet culture has convinced us that we cannot say no to certain foods and they should not be sitting in our refrigerators because we can’t be trusted around them. My experience with people who’ve had the courage to eat what they damned well please throughout the year is exactly the opposite. I’ve heard repeatedly that they forgot the food was around, were surprised when they saw it getting moldy on a shelf, and lost interest in it because they could have it whenever they pleased and, in fact, did and that was that.

This issue reminds me of another type of restriction that got the wrong result. When I was a pre-teen in the early Sixties, my mother pointed to a book on our bookshelf and told me never to read it. Well, what do you think happened the moment she left the room? Right you are, I dashed over and started thumbing through the book which I discovered had sexual content. I eventually read it at my leisure (wondering all the while why it was on our family bookshelf at all if my parents didn’t want me to read it). 

My point is that sometimes saying something is a treat can make us feel it’s off limits which makes us want it even more. If you like certain “treats,” why not weave them into your diet year-round and enjoy them when you want them?

Best,

Karen