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Notes from April

July 16, 2009


Many of us have struggled time and time again to keep our body weight under control and our overall health at a good level.  The concept of rewarding & comforting ourselves with food is a common block that must change in order to achieve the good health & fitness we’re all looking for.

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, or even a really intense or particularly long workout.  Whoops, time for a treat.

Changing Habits

Habits die hard and, if you are rewarding yourself with food, you have probably been doing it for a very long time. 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 Ben & Jerry’s 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 – for me it’s Friday after my last class or assessment is finished!  I replayed my thoughts (impulses!!) as I was driving home from the downtown post office…I drove home dreaming of all the food stops I could make between downtown & my house ( Barberitos, 5 Guys, Dunkin Donuts, Big City bread for cookies, Wendy’s for a Burger, The Grit for mac & cheese, Marti’s for Chicken Salad and lots of Pita chips…) Before I realized the pattern, I gave in to the urge countless times (and on occasion – gasp!- still do – ’cause I’m not perfect)!!  It’s not about these choices being “BAD” it’s the whole idea that I could “pig out” because it was the end of the week.  That kind of thinking has always added up to extra weight.

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?  Perhaps if you stopped having Starbucks mochachinos every afternoon at work you could save enough for laser hair removal (or some other cosmetic treatment) before you know it!  Consider giving up an immediate reward for a bigger, more permanent reward you’ve been wanting for years.  She set your sights on a higher goal, and it will work for you.

As you lose weight, it’s often very productive to give yourself rewards along the way for each weight loss goal you reach.  Chose a reward that does not involve food that 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.

Changing Physicality

This reward idea will really appeal to men.  Have you always wanted to play a certain sport or try a physical activity?  Did you give up playing basketball or tennis when you reached a weight where it was uncomfortable or you did not feel you could play competitively?  A great reward might be a new tennis racket, running shoes, a set of golf clubs or joining a team. 

Or will your next adventure be more fitness oriented?  Step up to a more challenging goal like running a 5k, 10k , ½ marathon or completing a triathlon.   Adopting a new activity will help you lose even more weight and gain vitality as well, especially if you are adding metabolism-boosting muscle to your frame. 

Dump the Too-Big Wardrobe

Have you decided you are not going to buy clothes until you reach your ideal weight?  Many people do this.  But how good do you feel in clothes that are 2-3 sizes too big?  Besides being uncomfortable, they can hide the fact that you have lost weight from others and, most importantly, from yourself.  You do not have to buy a complete new wardrobe but a few items, even a new outfit, could help your self-confidence a lot.  If you’re concerned about price, designate a set amount for each 10 pound loss.  

When I was in the process of losing 40 lbs., I liked clothes from Ann Taylor loft because they were very flattering, used nice color schemes and were simple in design – this made them easy to alter as I lost weight.  I found that simple dresses and pants could be adjusted through the waist and hips easily.  Looking your best and paying attention to your appearance as you lose weight can be a great confidence booster as well as an important part of lesson in self-care.

Changing Chemistry

Did you know that, as you lose weight, you change chemically and your old perfume, cologne or aftershave may not smell the same on you?  Age can change that too.  And your tastes can change.  So, if you’re still wearing the same scent you got for Christmas 5 years ago, try something new.

Women’s attitudes towards makeup and cosmetics is another thing that also changes as you lose weight and that can be fashioned into a great reward system.  A new tube of lipstick or even a make over.

A Most Enticing Reward

Rewards are the ultimate motivation, whether it’s for reaching your goal weight or for losing your first 50 pounds!  If you are a jewelry lover, there is nothing more exciting than a beautiful ring, pendant or pair of earrings that you will wear forever.  A huge advantage to a reward that lasts a lifetime?  Every time you wear it, you will be reminded of your accomplishment!

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