Reward Without Food
by Pat Barone, CPCC, MCC
“America’s Weight Loss Catalyst”
A few years ago, I was working on my computer and I heard my son approaching, whining about how bored he was. Obviously, RTEM (Repetitive Television Eye Motion caused when you don’t move your butt off the couch for hours) had hit the critical phase. I was unconsciously trying to soothe him and old connections in my mind surfaced. “Let me finish this one little thing,” I offered. “Then I’ll take you out for an ice cream.”
You would have thought I’d suggested jail. Flailing his arms and stamping his feet, he screamed:
“I don’t want an ice cream! Food’s no fun.
I want something fun – like a car!”
(Now, before I go too much further, let me explain that he was 8 years old and it was a TOY car he wanted. I cringe to think about hearing that statement when he’s 16!)
However, he had a point.
Not everyone rewards every little
thing in their lives with food!
Cars are more fun than food!
This is a principle I have been refining for years as I struggled time and time again to keep my body weight under control and my overall health at a good level. At this point, it stands as one component among many of the Catalyst Weight Loss System. The concept of of rewarding yourself with food is a common block that must change.
You know how it goes: a bad day at work, traffic jams, doing a particularly nasty job around the house, dealing with an overbearing person, a bad night’s sleep. Whoops, time for a treat.
Habits die hard and, if you are rewarding yourself with food, you have probably been doing it for a very long time. (I realize I’m setting my son up for just such a deeply-rooted habit!) We also know that trying to simply abandon bad habits is not easy to do. In fact, it may be downright impossible to approach habits with that mindset.
The most successful way to work with habits is to play with them. Watch yourself closely to see what feels like a reward and what doesn’t. Probably 90 percent of rewarding yourself with food actually feels like punishment — after you’ve eaten that pint of Haagen Daz and the guilt sets in, do you really feel rewarded?
Try substituting new and different rewards for those old ones. Do it gradually, quietly and don’t expect immediate results. Identify one particular “reward moment.” Is it Friday night when the work week is over? Is it Saturday afternoon after the house has been thoroughly cleaned? I once counted 16 times I felt I needed a reward and it wasn’t even a work day!
What do you really like? If it’s something you love, that might be an appropriate reward, especially if you rarely get to do it. If you typically eat ice cream AND read a book (or watch a movie), try separating the two events. Is it just a habit that you eat when you give yourself time to read? Would a cup of tea be nice at those times? (Again, substitution will work much better than simple abandonment of the old habit.)
Giving Yourself Gifts
You may think that it sounds expensive to give yourself “gifts” but have you ever stopped to think about how much some food costs? Especially “reward” food? I know a woman who stopped having Starbucks mochachinos every afternoon at work and saved enough for liposuction in three years! She said she gave up an immediate reward for a bigger, more permanent reward she’d been wanting for years. She set her sights on a higher goal, and it worked for her.
As you lose weight, it’s often very productive to give yourself rewards along the way for each weight loss goal you reach. Now, my friend’s liposuction might not appeal to you but there is a wide range of wonderful rewards that do not involve food you can give yourself for reaching health and fitness goals. Pick rewards that do not interfere with your diet, nutrition or exercise plans. Rewarding yourself in a healthy fashion will ultimately help you stay motivated to continue making steady progress towards your weight loss goals.
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