Chicago Personal Trainer

Nicki Anderson has spent the last 15 years trying to shift the way people view diet and exercise. Nicki believes that exercise has become punishment for an imperfect body. It seems that exercise is perceived to be for the elite athlete or thin person. As a fitness professional, she feels that it is her responsibility to introduce exercise as something that is positive and life enhancing. More often than not people view exercise and sound nutrition as an all or nothing proposition.

Nicki Anderson, IDEA Master Trainer is the author of "Reality Fitness; Inspiration for Your Health and Well-being". She is the health and fitness columnist for Suburban Chicago Newspapers as well as a family fitness contributor for eDiets. She is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Nicki sits on the IHRSA Entrepreneurial Advisory Board, the Personal Training Committee for IDEA and USA Today’s Entrepreneurial Advisory Board.

Nicki speaks all over the country, teaching other health and fitness professionals about the value of customer service, an art she feels has been overlooked far too long by the health and fitness industry. Nicki says, “If we are to inspire others to become fit, we have to present the opportunity as an equal opportunity endeavor!”


Chicago Personal Training Articles

Food as a Reward? Not so Fast!

By Naperville Personal Trainer Nicki Anderson

I remember growing up and every time there was a crisis or cause for celebration, food was the reward. I can still hear my Grandmother saying to me, “Here Nicki, let me make you something to eat, you’ll feel better.” Or after the heartbreak of a major break-up, ice cream was the perfect consolation.

Food in most cultures is often used for celebrations but in our society it is used as a tool that may sound like a good idea at the time, but has become a crutch for all life’s situations, good and not so good. Either way, food has become the reward of choice.

Over the years, as a health and fitness professional, I find that many of the clients I work with often overeat or make poor food choices when stressed or depressed or even when there is something to celebrate. As a society, we have not learned to find ways to deal with the stresses of life other than satiety. “Hey, I got a promotion, let’s go out to eat!” or “My boyfriend and I broke up, let’s go get ice cream.” And with our kids, we have taught them to handle their emotional highs and lows much the same way, with food.

Rewarding children with food compromises their ability to seek out other coping mechanisms. Hopefully learning from our mistakes we can find other ways teach our kids how to deal with the natural highs and lows of life other than with food.

Using food as a reward teaches kids that emotions can be handled with food and often times its unhealthy foods. For example, “When I am upset, eating a candy bar makes me feel so much better” versus, “When I am upset, I need to sit down and talk with a parent, a relative or a friend.” It’s our responsibility as a parent to educate our children on how to handle their emotions without making food part of the equation.

Here are some reasons why you may want to reconsider rewarding your child with food:

Contributes to Poor Health: If children link “junk food” with emotional comfort, that is an unhealthy alternative. In my field of work, I have clients that have literally knocked off a gallon of ice cream because it was their way of coping with a crisis. Using food for comfort is a surefire way to gain unhealthy weight and down the road we know extra weight contributes to poor health.
Encourages eating the wrong foods: It’s bad enough that our kids think that grape soda is one of the major food groups. But more often than not, food rewards are typically comprised of sweets or fast food. None of which can be considered “good for you” foods. How many times have we heard ourselves or someone else say, “if you’re good, I’ll get you a treat.” And often the treat is candy or something sweet. Could you ever imagine saying, “If you’re good, I’ll get you a grapefruit.” That almost sounds like a joke, but the truth is that our kids don’t look to healthy foods as a treat. Our kids have learned to look to “junk food” as the more desirable food. We need to teach them the value of healthy treats of which there are many.
Develops poor eating habits: Rewarding with food doesn’t teach kids to discern from hunger or not. One of the reasons we overeat is because we don’t know the “signs” of being full. We eat until we feel that we cannot take another bite. Additionally, many don’t even know what it’s like to actually be hungry because food is so readily available. Teaching kids alternatives for rewards will help to set up a healthier relationship with food and prevent overeating for all the wrong reasons.
Increases consumption of sweets: With good behavior comes candy or whatever the choice of sweets may be. Kids will start striking up “deals” with their parents all in an effort to get the candy or sweet that they want. There’s enough sugar in everyday foods that kids eat, why compound it with more?
As we look to change our reward system, below are some options to food as a reward:

Rent or purchase a favorite CD or DVD
A “point system” for successes and at the end of each month, the points can be turned in for a special activity or event.
Visits to a local museum, art gallery, music store, etc.
Sign up for an activity your child has wanted to try, martial arts, art class, music class, dance class.
Take a day out to hike or bike somewhere special, the zoo, the movies, etc.
It is because of too many poor food choices that are country is in such an unhealthy state. You can start at home by teaching your child that we eat to live versus living to eat. Giving your child alternatives to food rewards will help to set them up for a much better relationship with food as well as helping them to avoid becoming a statistic.




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