When it comes to rewarding yourself, I tend to think we either deserve what we want, or we don’t. Why on earth would we not deserve what is our right? Why would we not deserve health and happiness – for life? Why would you only deserve good things when you’ve ‘been’ good?
And what does ‘been good’ mean, anyway? Is it code for ‘harming yourself with exercise’?
I don’t get the idea of rewarding yourself by indulging in what appears to be holding you back. Is the idea supposed to be that we will automatically choose to reward ourselves with what hurts us? I don’t buy it. Something about that assumption always seemed a bit wrong. Deluded. There’s a lot about this whole topic that’s based in self-delusion, and I don’t like it.
If you’ve been exercising strenuously, you get hungry because you need to eat. The notion that you can or cannot ‘earn the right to eat’ is complete bullshit.
There’s something that’s not at all kind or optimistic in the notion of ‘rewards’. When you reward yourself (with food) what you’re actually doing is buying into a system of rationing, one that’s based on the idea that you’re not good enough – that you don’t deserve to get what you want, when you want it – you only deserve it on ‘special occasions’ or when you’ve been good, not because you are good. But I don’t play the obedience game with anyone, so I’m not going to play it with myself, or with you.
The idea that we don’t deserve what we want, when we want it is based on the idea that we don’t know what we need, that what we want is not what’s in our best interests, and that we need to be told and controlled – “you don’t know what you need, you don’t know what you deserve, I’m going to dish it out for you”.
I don’t know how we can foster an appreciation of exercise or healthy practices in any individual when we’re constantly telling ourselves our desires cannot be trusted and we must be told what to do all the time. We cease to trust the things that make us feel good, and instead we start to believe in the lie that it’s the things that make us feel bad that are the things that are good for us.
You know, exercising to the point of illness and starving ourselves? I’m being so good, why aren’t I any thinner? I’ve been good, surely I deserve it! News flash: you aren’t any thinner because you’ve been bad. You’ve been depriving yourself and burning yourself out.
We’re told we need discipline, to be obedient, and sooner or later we start to believe that if it’s good for us, it must taste bad or bland. We crave something rebellious, adventurous. So if we do like it, it must be bad for us, or maybe it just means we’re naughty. If we enjoy training, it mustn’t be hard enough. We need a trainer, so that they can ‘work us harder’, because we lack the ability to judge intensity for ourselves. To judge how much is enough. To discover what’s an appropriate workload for our level of development. Yeah, apparently we’re no good at that. So I’m told.
The way out is through.
If you’re ever going to ‘understand cravings’, you need to investigate them. Don’t expect to solve the problem by ignoring it, by trying to ‘be strong’. Rewarding yourself will only make cravings worse – we all know what it’s like to want the thing we can’t have.
So what do you do? Indulge. What do you need that you aren’t allowing yourself to have? What’s missing? From where do your cravings arise? If you’re only sleeping five hours most nights, and you want to give up coffee, don’t bother. Your efforts will only be met with disappointment. Try shooting for more sleep first.
Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t mean that if you’re craving sugar you should eat more protein because that might stop the sugar cravings – that might work and it’s worth investigating, but what if you actually do need the sugar? Call me a heathen if you want, but crazier things have happened.
Sometimes, we need carbs. Y’know. Need them.
If you’ve been chronically starving yourself, maybe you just need shitloads of calories for tissue repair, and your body doesn’t care where they’re coming from? They say protein is what you need for tissue repair, but if you’re serious about wanting to gain muscle or rehab an impressive injury, you just need lots of food across the board. The carbohydrate and fat will only help you to heal.
So – investigate, without prejudice.
It’s like they say with enlightenment – one does not achieve enlightenment by always looking into the light – one must resolve the darkness. The way out is through. If you want to understand yourself, if you want to get to the point where you can trust that what you want is what’s good for you, that requires investigation and letting go of the restrictions you’ve placed upon yourself. Letting go of judgement and preconceptions.
It’s your life, you deserve goodness. You deserve to have what you want. You do not deserve arbitrary restrictions. You deserve happiness even though you secretly feel like you’re not good enough, and you deserve to have what your heart truly desires.
Guess what? What your heart truly desires is ultimately what’s good for you. Your desires can be trusted.
Rewarding yourself with what was already yours to begin with (food, any food) reaffirms the idea that you can’t be trusted, that you don’t know what’s good for you, and so – it only shackles you to the wheel, the one that we’re trying to free ourselves from in our quest for development.
We have what we deserve, if we allow ourselves to have it.
I’m not sure what this all means in a broader psychological context. If you don’t deserve what you want when you want it, what about that body you want? The good health you want? The career or the partner who treats you right – if you’re not good enough, if you need to be ‘good enough’ (whatever that is), how do you know what you really deserve? Do you only deserve to be healthy because you’ve worked at it? Hell no. We all deserve to be healthy, but many of us are not, and it’s not because we don’t deserve health.
What about choice and consequence? What about the fact that choosing one thing means you can’t have the other? This is the basic idea behind the ‘cake or thin’ argument. You sacrifice one when you choose the other. It’s kindof infantile to think that health and thinness are so simple, that it’s a linear thing and that choosing cake precludes the other.
People talk about obesity, alcoholism and addiction as if they’re choices. Also, as if they’re the same things. A five year old kid knows that being fat is different from being addicted to drugs. Who wants to be obese? Or an alcoholic? Nobody, that’s who. But it happens anyway, despite the fact that none of us choose it. And still, we talk as if these things can simply be controlled.
Bullshit. It’s fucking obvious – if it could ‘be controlled’, it wouldn’t be a problem.
But it is a problem. I don’t mean that because of the ‘potential health risks’, but because of prejudice, abuse, and good god, it wears you down.
So we all deserve to be healthy. What does that mean for healthcare? Thin people who don’t smoke don’t have some magical right to medical treatment above any fat smoker. So you’re sick. Does that mean that you don’t deserve medicine, because you’re sick? WTF? Isn’t the point of medicine to help sick people get better?
Do you really think that being fat means you don’t deserve to be healthy? Do you only deserve medical intervention if you didn’t see it coming? You’re human, you’re alive, you have a right to medicine. It’s an intrinsic right in our society. We all have an equal right to medicine – that’s the whole premise behind the idea of medicine. It’s for sick people – not thin people, not fat people – sick people.
If you’ve been ‘busting your ass’ to ‘stay healthy’, your reward is not free medicine whenever you want, nor is it getting to decide who gets medicine and who doesn’t – your reward is not needing medicine in the first place. That’s if you actually are as healthy as you think you are. Medicine is for sick people, not healthy people, irrespective what you eat, whether or not you exercise, and whether you’re fat or thin. That’s what medicine is.
Your reward for trying to get healthier is having improved health. Your reward for training is improved fitness. Your reward for trying to lose weight... Well weight is kind of meaningless. Your body has a tendency to regulate your weight irrespective of what you want. But, your health, that thing that was so important to begin with? You can focus on that no matter how big or small you are.
Maybe we just need to get in touch with ourselves a bit better. The way out is through. A lot of my personal investigation in recent times was inspired by the idea that I wanted to be able to have what I want, and I also wanted my desires to naturally lead me towards the things that are good for me.
Mostly my thoughts were in relation to nutrition, but I was looking at it a bit wrongly. I was wondering how I could make myself crave ‘good foods’ and the more I investigated, the more I came to see that I already wanted what was good for me, there was just a problem with my preconceptions about what I ‘should’ be craving. Damn, it feels complicated sometimes, even when it’s simple as pie.
And on that note – mmmmm, pie.