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Treating Yourself

“Treating yourself is never wrong.”

That was the pithy phrase in the wrapper of a Dove dark chocolate I recently ate. I can understand why the chocolate people would want that message with their candy, but I don’t know that I can agree with it.

10-16-11 Dove Chocolate wrapper.jpg

For one, on principle alone, I’m not comfortable with absolutes. How can it never be wrong to treat yourself? What if doing so means exceeding your financial means, or risking your health? Or what if it means causing harm to someone else?

The other troubling aspect is that reading the message while savoring a piece of chocolate automatically makes me think of treating myself only in relation to food. This is nothing new in our society, and that association is particularly easy to make this time of year when we’re bombarded with candy sales in preparation for Halloween, so we can have a “treat” on-hand to avoid the “trick.”

But even in the late winter and early summer, when we don’t have as many holidays to contend with, that idea of reward being food-based is hard to escape. When I was trying various means of losing weight, it took me and my mom a while to settle on a way to acknowledge my progress when I had lost five pounds. What do you offer someone who loves sweets as an incentive or encouragement that isn’t related to eating? It depends on the person, but for me, it was getting a new paperback book.

Not that it’s wrong to treat yourself with food - it is, after all, one of life’s great pleasures. But to only think of food when treating yourself is very limiting and potentially destructive. We can do so much to nurture and nourish ourselves that isn’t related to food. Consider these ideas:

  • talking to a friend

  • telling a loved one all the reasons you care for them

  • letting yourself pause and take some deep breaths

  • listening to your favorite music

  • reading works that comfort, inspire, cheer, and/or motivate you

  • playing with pets

  • going for a walk

  • listing all the reasons you appreciate yourself

If I shift my thinking to those types of “treats,” suddenly I find I am much more comfortable with the message. While these are not activities that are never wrong (for instance, reading while driving would not be the best idea), these sorts of approaches can provide a much deeper and long-lasting pleasure. With that in mind, I urge you to think of your own ways of treating yourself, and to think outside the box (or candy wrapper) to something beyond food.

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