Are You Sabotaging Yourself with Entitlement Eating?

When I was training for marathons, my long Sunday runs were followed by a feast of sweet treats from breakfast pastries and midday cookies to a hefty bedtime dessert. I ran a gazillion miles after all, I deserved it!

I call this Entitlement Eating.

As in, "I did X, therefore I'm entitled to eat (or drink) Y."

It sounds something like this:

  • I worked out really hard; I deserve an extra scoop of ice cream.
  • I nailed my presentation; I’ve earned a few beers.
  • I ate really healthy this week; I'm entitled to this bag of chips.
  • I survived a hard day at work; I’ve earned some wine.
  • I endured a horrible commute; this huge dinner is well justified!

Can you relate? 

Want Dessert? Clean Your Plate
Most of us were conditioned at a very young age to view food as a reward for our good deeds and achievements, whether it was behaving well in church, eating all our dinner, cleaning our room, receiving an A or scoring a goal.

Don't get me wrong—I’m not saying food shouldn’t be a part of the celebration equation. Or that entitlement eating is a terrible thing. Even though it may not seem like it, it’s actually a way of taking care of ourselves, of fulfilling our natural human desire for recognition, appreciation, comfort and pleasure.

When It's a Problem
Entitlement eating becomes a problem when it results in negative outcomes. For example, when it…

  • Sabotages your goals and intentions
  • Becomes the norm rather than the exception 
  • Creates an excuse to eat or drink more than your body needs
  • Makes you feel cruddy—physically, mentally and/or emotionally
  • Drives other behaviors that compromise your well-being, like alcohol-induced overeating and crappy sleep that leads to skipping your morning workout, attacking the office candy jar and snapping at your partner

For me, my post-run sugar binge left me feeling headachy, cranky, bloated, achy and fatigued (and craving more sugar). My entitlement eating certainly didn’t honor my body’s amazing abilities or help it recover properly. Nope, it clobbered it.

I’ve since learned that the best reward for my accomplishments is how they make me feel—strong, powerful, confident, energized, joyful. All feelings that I’m incredibly entitled to experience—and that last a lot longer than a cupcake.

What's your relationship with entitlement eating? Is it time to shed some habits that are no longer serving you?