The Reward System

sardine_can

It seems, at least in this country, I haven’t lived in others, that we are very big on rewards. Rewards for grades, rewards for achievement, but the one I’m here to question is the reward for exercise.

Because we seem to think that the reward for doing something good is something bad.

That is, many think the reward for exerting oneself often comes in the form of empty calories, usually containing sugar. Where does this notion come from? Why does doing something good for oneself mean that we must immediately balance it out with its equal and opposite reaction? It seems to happen in teams, that is groups of two or more people. I see many people post on Facebook that they have biked together for seven miles so they deserve to stop for ice cream. Is this a leftover from childhood, eat your brussels sprouts and you can have dessert? So we continue to think that through life doing something healthy means that we are then entitled to its exact opposite? And we’re more likely to give ourselves permission when there’s someone to be bad with.

I’m not preaching as if I was any better. When I was teaching gymnastics, sometimes up to 8 classes a day, and in great shape, we would finish with adult classes. And all us adults went out for beers afterwards. We had worked out hard and we deserved it. The only sustenance was the sardines that were served in this Swedish bar. And nobody really thought about eating sardines until we’d had a couple, and then it was just a challenge.

But again, we’d worked hard, so we deserved our reward. We seem to be creatures of impulse and entitlement, so I guess we need to balance things out right away. I mean, imagine working out five days in a row while the family’s on vacation. Can you imagine the buffet you’d need to eat on Friday if you just saved up all that good?

Come to think of it, maybe it’s just my generation and the ones immediately surrounding. Because with kids born in the 1960s, it is possible that their mother drank or smoked during pregnancy (not mine), the risk wasn’t as well known. So it’s quite possible that not only were the little fetus floating in the lush warmth of the mother’s womb, they were totally stoned all the time! It started at the very beginning. All that they were doing was growing, doing what a baby naturally does, and they were being rewarded for it.

Then again, we could all just love our treats and be looking for any reason to justify our craving. 🙂

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