I have been waking up most nights for the last couple of weeks. Either from a dream I want to get out of, a bathroom trip, or startling revelation. Sometimes all three, and then I usually cannot get back to sleep for some time. Last night was one of those nights.

So, some background. And apologies if the background for context gets a little long-winded. I feel like I need to gove you the full picture. My BIG work event is in less than two months. It’s big. Like 300,000 people big. It’s stressful. It comes with massive expectations. It comes with moving targets and cloudy or changing rules. A couple of months ago I decided to start a new 90-day workout program and with it, not have alcohol during that time. In fact, I decided to not have a drink until after my event was done. I figured that I would sleep better without alcohol, feel better, cleaner, more on my A-game, etc. And while it may seem counter-intuitive to NOT have a drink during the most stressful time in my work year, it hasn’t been too big a deal. I typically don’t sleep well after a drink, and don’t feel great the next day, even it’s only been one.

Over the last two weeks, my anxiety and stress levels have been sky-rocketing. We had a couple of major deadlines last week and we’ve had a few challenging situations to get through. I found myself questioning my no-alcohol decision. I started talking about it, making jokes. Like I NEEDED a drink to deal with what has been happening. Then I decided that instead of sticking with my original plan, I was going to reward myself with a drink next week, after another major hurdle in our planning timeline was accomplished. I even picked the drink. I can taste it in my mind. It’s called a “Strongerbow,” and it’s from a local pub. Absolute mandarin, peach schnapps, Strongbow cider and bellini over ice. It is absolutely delicious.

When I was awake in the middle of the night between last night and this morning, I found myself thinking of this reward drink. And I very clearly heard the words “You DESERVE it.” It would be AH-MAZING in the moment, absolutely spectacular. I would feel victorious, have conquered another milestone in our journey. I deserve that magic elixir of joy.

And then I thought about how I would feel after I drank it. It contains quite a bit of sugar and I KNOW that not only will I likely get a screaming headache the next day, but also will probably feel like utter crap, bloated and gross.

Do I “deserve” to feel like that?

And then, as the mind does in the wee hours of the morning, I began to dive deep into random, jumbled thoughts…but some were crystal clear. I have been stress eating again. I started this program strong, buoyed by the amazing 5 Second Rule and some pretty intense motivation. But when the stress amped up I started having extra snacks, telling myself I DESERVED them. They weren’t unhealthy or awful, but they were more than I needed. I was already full but I was making myself feel “better” because I wanted to make up for the stress I was facing.

But do I feel BETTER? No. This morning I feel bloated. I feel stuffed. I feel unhappy. I feel like my hard work on my fitness isn’t paying off.

Do I DESERVE to feel like this? By “treating” myself for all my hard work, I have effectively made it WORSE for myself. Because now, I not only have the stress of the actual work, but I have the stress of not feeling good.

WHY do we do this to ourselves? And I am going with “we” because I am positive I am not the only one who does this. I may be the only one who wakes up at 3am and dwells on it to the point of ridiculousness, but I am sure some people can even relate to that.

We DESERVE to feel amazing. We are in this world, living our lives. Some of us are working crazy stressful jobs. Some of are raising humans. Some of us are facing financial struggles. Some of us are caring for aging parents (and no, Mum, I don’t mean you). But we are all LIVING and life brings some stress. We DESERVE to feel the best we can feel, to be as healthy as we can, to get as much sleep as we can, to fuel our bodies for strength and SUCCESS, not misery, sickness and failure.

So why do we have this idea that feeding ourselves things that may taste awesome but are ultimately NOT awesome for us, are REWARDS? Why are things that could potentially make us feel bad thought of as TREATS?

Look I don’t have the answer. This rambling over-share is me trying to process this revelation. I think through this I have decided to NOT have the amazing frozen goodness known as the Strongerbow next week. And I think I have seen the light enough to potentially reduce the stress eating over the next few weeks. Maybe.

I’m not saying we should never have treats and things that taste amazing even if they’re not super healthy. It’s all about balance. But I think at least for me, I am going to try and reframe this whole “deserve” thing.

If I deserve to have a reward for my hard work, then surely I deserve to feel as good as humanly possible, right? And sometimes that takes saying no to things I THINK I want in the moment. It means saying no to immediate gratification in favour of longer term reward. Now I just have to figure out how to remind myself of that in the moment.

I think I need to get back to using the 5 Second Rule.

5-4-3-2-1…I deserve better.