Better Health Is Its Own Reward. But …

J. of 52 Weeks, 52 Pounds has a thought-provoking post up about the fact that some people like to mark various milestones or motivate themselves in this weight loss / health gain process with rewards. He has not followed this route:

For me, the weight loss itself has always seemed to be it’s own reward, it’s own snowball of virtuousness.  The more I lost, the more I wanted to see the scale get closer to the goal, the easier it got.  There has not been any particular point where I have felt like I struggled with motivation the weight loss front for more than a short period of time.  (Then again, I didn’t plateau weight wise either.)

I have definitely taken to celebrating milestones with treats for myself. I’ve lost weight in the past, but have not been successful at keeping it off, as I’ve never been successful at truly changing my habits.

Truly, I’m very much like J. I don’t have much, and I don’t want much. I certainly don’t have room for much! There are plenty of nice things I like, but I’m frugal, so I can usually talk myself out of a luxury purchase.

Reading his post, however, I wondered what has inspired me to be so generous with myself this time around?

Better health can’t be beat. My allergies are less annoying. I’m not taking any medications or having to pay for any doctor visits to monitor or manage chronic conditions. I have more energy to expend doing fun things with the people I love the most. My dogs are happier because we walk and play more. Our grocery bills are lower because I’m buying less food. My hair and skin and nails are clear (the skin) and shiny (the nails and hair).

I won’t lie. I’m also motivated by the outward and visible signs of better health. Fitting into smaller clothes works for me. It isn’t the reason for my behavior change, but it does reinforce the new behavior.

Why, though, am I doing things like buying puzzles or knife sharpeners or getting massages?

For me, it comes down to learning to take care of myself AND to rewarding, or, frankly, comforting myself with something other than food.

For the past few years, I’ve been very resentful when my husband has made time on a busy day for exercise. He’s not afraid to ask me to take care of an errand or meet a repair person because he prioritizes his spin class.

I’ve learned that I, too, can prioritize my gym time and the world will keep spinning. I can tell him he’ll have to eat dinner on his own, as I did last night, because I really wanted to get in a quick workout.

I’ve learned that I can invest in things I’ll enjoy that aren’t covered in sugar-frosted and candy-dipped.

Importantly, I do know that I don’t have a problem with compulsive shopping. I certainly understand that my little reward system might create a whole new set of problems for someone who did.

I’m working really hard to do things differently. My willpower is stretched and strained on a regular basis as I go through the day. Each time I expend energy NOT reaching for empty calories, NOT eating because I’ve received an upsetting phone call or email, NOT buying an entire cake because I’m going to be home alone for the weekend, I need to do something to recover from that expenditure.

Often, that recovery costs nothing. I read a book (I get most of those at the library or for 50¢ at a thrift store), I browse blogs (your blogs and my other guilty pleasure, home decor/DIY blogs), I roll around on the floor with the pupsters.

Sometimes, I do spend a little cash to buy some time to myself, make a task more enjoyable, or help me feel more comfortable in my own skin. Having a thing on hand, a tangible reminder of the work I’ve done and the habits I’ve developed, makes me feel good. It is positive reinforcement of a kind I’ve never used with myself during prior attempts and losing weight and changing my habits.

I’d still be losing weight if I weren’t giving myself these gifts, because at base, I agree with J. This is about my health and how I feel. But I’m loving my sharp knives and new puzzles, and the reflexology/massage people are my new BFFs!

Do you set rewards or goals? Do they help? Have you ever been about to eat something, thought about the next thing you are just a few pounds away from getting, and stopped or chosen something healthier?

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8 Responses to Better Health Is Its Own Reward. But …

  1. I am one that has a reward plan set up for myself as I hit certain milestones. I made myself a promise at the beginning, though, that I would *never* reward myself with food because that was counterproductive. I have been careful about that.

    My first achievement brought about a new necklace I had been eyeing for a while, but unwilling to “splurge” (the less than $10) to get it for myself. See, I am a single mother of two little girls, so money is not something I often spend on myself. However, my second two achievements that were “supposed” to be rewarded went unfulfilled (money constraints). Of course I did not let that stop me from pushing forward and continuing on to lose weight and gain health.

    I agree that losing weight/gaining health is its own reward, but I also agree with your mentality of “it sure is nice!” If I am never able to materialistically reward myself for a milestone again I would keep on going…but I certainly hope to be able to in the future. 🙂

    PS) I am “giving” myself one “reward” on the 19th of November for losing 50 pounds…I am walking in the Holiday in Lights 5K with two of my girlfriends. This is something I am really excited about, and I will be proud of both accomplishments (the weight loss and completing the 5K).

    -Erica

  2. J. says:

    Glad to get you thinking! I do want to make sure it was clear, I have no issues with people who do. If it works for you or helps you, I am all for it.

    I just got stumped one day a couple of weeks ago trying to think what I would want for a reward that could be motivational and the nearest I could get was personal trainer, and that was not really a reward, just a tool I think I’ll need. If the light bulb goes dim again, I’d be worried about motivation.

  3. Oh, absolutely! Not for weight loss, in my case, for but any goal I’ve worked hard to achieve. I am a very frugal, very practical person. I don’t buy stuff for the sake of stuff. But I will buy myself a book I’ve had my eye on, or a fun day out with my family, or just permission to soak in the bath watching something useless on my laptop because I earned the break. Tangible rewards are awesome reminders of our accomplishments, for sure. Great post!

  4. Pingback: Not a weigh in, but a check in. | A lovely project.

  5. Shonnie says:

    I have given myself rewards. One really on purpose for weight loss, but many of the other haven’t been what I would call rewards, but nessecities — Clothing! haha! I didn’t have any so something had to be done about that. 😀

    Great post

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