Congratulations! You’ve been working hard, making great choices, exercising regularly, and feeling the changes in your body as a result. You deserve a reward, so go ahead and treat yourself! Whatever you want. But here’s the catch: it can’t be food, and it can’t be expensive.
Screeech! Did your creative wheels just come to an abrupt halt? I often ask my clients if they have rewards built into their weight loss plans, because they can serve as an incentive and because they’re fun.
We all work hard, and building in opportunities to let loose and have a little fun is healthy and smart. But, it’s important to make sure those rewards are helping your progress, not hindering it.
Food is often our go-to reward because it’s so easy and inexpensive. Going out for a celebratory meal is the default when you finally get that job offer. Facebook abounds with pictures of happy children eating frozen yogurt on report card day. It’s easy to let food be a reward because it simply feels good to eat! It really does feel like love sometimes to share a meal with friends or indulge in something reserved for special occasions.
But, when your goal is weight loss, rewarding yourself with food can mean eventual sabotage. After all, you’re going to be wildly successful, so you’ll likely be celebrating quite a lot! Celebrating with food can be part of a balanced life, but if you are using it as an incentive or a reward, consider whether it is truly helping you succeed.
If you reward every milestone with food, it won’t be long before the diet mentality takes over and you’re digging yourself out of the “I worked so hard, now I deserve to eat,” trap. That is not a good place to be!
After we eliminate food as a reward, the next most popular idea is usually something indulgent like a massage, new clothes, or some other luxury item that feels a little bit scandalous. These are fantastic ways to celebrate an accomplishment if you have the budget for it, but for most of us, that party would get expensive pretty quick and then we would have to set a new goal for better financial management. That’s not a good place to be either!
Here are some ways to reward and celebrate your accomplishments calorie-free and under $15:
• Download a new song for your workout playlist or book for your e-reader.
• Reserve quiet time for yourself to do something you don’t usually get to do.
• Take a nap!
• Put a dollar amount for each benchmark reached into a vacation account.
• Find a beautiful coffee mug or tea cup to start each day with a piece of art.
• Buy yourself fresh flowers for your kitchen as a reminder that it is a place where beautiful things can bloom.
• Buy a frivolous magazine and actually read it (not while standing in the grocery store check-out lane!)
• Have your clothes professionally altered to fit your more svelte self.
• Purchase a new kitchen tool to enhance your healthy cooking.
• If you do choose to reward with food, splurge on the gourmet version of something you already buy regularly, such as your favorite brand of coffee or a nice bottle of wine.
The best place is somewhere between the two types of rewards that motivate us: external and internal. The external rewards, like fitting into a smaller size jeans or getting a pedicure after losing ten pounds, are fun and exciting. But ideally, the reliance on these incentives to prod us into taking steps towards greater health should decrease over time as we become more connected with the internal rewards of increased confidence, greater life satisfaction, and plain old feeling good.
Enjoy every step of your healthy journey, and when you stop to high-five yourself, do it in a way that supports the big picture. As you hit your stride and establish habits that will stand the test of time, you’ll find that making healthy choices are their own reward. The external stuff – the new shoes or the massage – just won’t shine with the same luster because they can’t hold a candle to how you feel on the inside.
Heather Fuselier is a certified wellness coach and personal trainer.
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Celebrate weight-loss wins with calorie-free rewards