“This morning I had oatmeal so I’m going to get that triple-patty burger for lunch!”
Does this sound familiar to you, or do you find yourself saying the same thing? Could it be possible that it’s human nature for us to reward ourselves with unhealthy food when we make good food choices?
If you regularly go to the gym and you have just finished an hour spinning class, do you ever find yourself asking your gym buddies to go for KBBQ? When you find your clothes getting a tiny bit loose on you and you find out you dropped a bit of weight, do you reward yourself with a good meal?
Okay, isn’t this a little bit backward? Why do we tend to go for this kind of behavior?
In social psychology, this is called ‘self-licensing’ or they refer to it as the ‘licensing effect.” Simply put, it is used in describing how people reward good behavior by means of indulging – giving themselves permission to be a bit bad as a form of reward for the good thing they did.
According to a couple of marketing research, people have this natural tendency to balance good and bad eating habits unconsciously.
For example, you are aware of what a healthy diet is and how you will be able to practice that. For you, as long as you are eating healthy, as much as you’re concerned, you won’t feel like you’re lost between good and bad food choices.
There will also be an instance where you have to deal with extremities: good or bad. For example, you had an intense workout. After that, you find rewarding yourself with a large cup of milk tea. Meaning you try to balance things out. It can also be the other way around. Say, you devoured a huge meal or had buffet lunch, you would make up for it by just eating salad for dinner.
Research even suggests that for people who pick out healthy food at the grocery store, you can count on their shopping cart to be balanced with a couple of treats as well.
When you’re trying to lose weight, self-licensing could get in the way. After you do good, you tend to reward yourself with something bad – which might slow down your progress.
Knowing that self-licensing is human nature is essential as this helps you become more aware of your behavior. With this, you can find your way to healthy eating. It doesn’t have to be that strict, but a path where you understand what you’re eating and how it should be: healthy, satisfying, and that will make you feel nourished.