When we meet a goal, we reward ourselves with food. When we achieve something big, or not so big, we reward ourselves with food. We lose some weight, set a personal best, win a game, get a promotion, make a sale and reward ourselves with a nice big pizza and some ice cream. On birthdays, weddings, holidays and other milestones we eat cake. We want the big moments in life to be even more exciting, so we celebrate them with food. Then we crash.
At the end of a hard day we raise our spirits with food. Food helps us deal with rejection and heartbreak. Food helps us deal with loss and grief and personal failure. At a funeral we eat cake. When we feel down food picks us up...then drops us like a hot stone.
If we want to, we can find a reason to celebrate or commiserate every time we eat. There's always something to be happy or sad about, always a situation that food can help improve. At least this is the story we tell ourselves.
For many of us, the foods we choose to celebrate and commiserate with are junk foods, highly processed and high in fat and sugar. In reality these foods are not rewards at all, they're punishments. Pizza doesn't help us celebrate, it hurts us. Cake doesn't pick us up when we're down, it kicks us.
We need to learn to see success as its own reward. When we achieve something big or reach a milestone, what's wrong with sitting back and admiring our own good work? Junk food only serves to distract us from our own greatness. What's wrong with feeling down? Why do we need to hide from our own emotions? Life is a rollercoaster, we need to accept that and understand that not only will the lows pass, they'll help us to appreciate the highs. If we want to learn from our failures we need to experience them fully, rather than distract ourselves with food.
The greatest moments of our lives are great because we made them happen, not because someone made a cake.