If there’s one thing we all need to show ourselves in abundance these days, it’s grace. Making room for our fears, anxiety, our understandable grief — and not beating ourselves up. Yes, grace is good. And who doesn’t want to feel good? But be aware of what you’re turning to in order to feel good. Because often what we turn to is food.
Many of us use food as a special treat. When we can safely get to our favorite restaurant, we treat ourselves by ordering the supersized pasta dish, the decadent dessert or a frothy, fruity cocktail. We might reason that we’ve earned it by acing the presentation at work, navigating a relationship conflict, surviving another day of homeschooling the kids or reaching a hard-fought personal goal. One former client realized that ice cream was her go-to treat for small victories at work. For another, it was movie theater butter popcorn for Zoom meetups with sister-friends.
Many of us rely on food to celebrate or lift our mood, and we can often trace this habit back to childhood, when good grades earned you a trip to the ice cream parlor or a dollar or two, which you promptly used to buy a treat to eat. As we learn to connect feel-good feelings with sweet, salty and crunchy treats, we create a powerful food-mood connection that can lead to overeating and obesity. These high-fat foods can trigger feel-good hormones like dopamine, which work the same way as addictive drugs, by making you crave more of the thing that makes you feel good even if it’s not good for you.
The first step to making a change is to become more aware of that food-mood link. So how can you disconnect food from your sense of reward and satisfaction? I’ll pose the challenge to you that I often make to clients:
Name 10 ways to treat yourself that have nothing to do with food.
Think of these as ways to have a treat day instead of a cheat day, which is a detour from your nutrition plan. If you get stuck after naming three or four ways, see below for some simple and practical suggestions to help you discover ways to meet the challenge and treat yourself well.
- Reward your other senses. Lighting an aromatherapy candle in a fragrance like lavender, vanilla or whatever you find most pleasing can bring you calm or lift your spirits. Some scents like peppermint and cinnamon are even thought to curb your appetite, aid digestion or boost metabolism.
- Meet a sister-friend for a walk-and-talk. Even in cooler weather you can still layer up and get outside, get some fresh air and enjoy nature. Don’t want to walk alone? Meet a girlfriend for a safe-distanced stroll or join your local Girltrek community, which was created to inspire Black women to get healthy by walking.
- Have an at-home spa day. Doing my own manicure is one of my favorite pick-me-ups. For that hour or so, I take care to give my hard-working hands some TLC. You could do the same or give yourself a mini facial using all-natural ingredients like honey and sugar to make a gentle face scrub.
- Create a new self-care ritual. Like bubble baths? Drop a bath bomb in the tub, stream a mellow playlist and treat yourself to some downtime. If dabbing a new scent on your skin feels like a treat, try a new perfume or essential oil. Turn your shower into a pampering experience.
- Curl up with a must-read. Whether it’s the latest novel that everybody is talking about or something that’s been on your nightstand waiting patiently for your attention, give yourself the gift of time and space to read for pleasure.
- Upgrade your workout wardrobe. Having a flattering, fly workout outfit might motivate you to get moving. Find something that you feel good in and that makes you happy to wear it.
- Dance like nobody's watching. Moving your body can be so liberating! Crank up your favorite playlist, sing along with your favorite songs and do your thang.
Now it’s your turn to name three more:
Good job, sis! Which one of these healthy expressions of Black Girl Joy will you treat yourself to today? You more than deserve it.