November 21, 2008

Rewarding Yourself for Your Hard Work!

Our guest blogger today is Just _Kelly. She blogs over at Choosing Losing, where she is "documenting her slow and sustainable (or staggering and stumbling, depending on the day) journey to a healthier life!"

As ya’ll can tell I like charts and graphs. I also like makeup. And jewelry. And luxe spa treatments and gadgets. Combine these loves and you get reward charts! I think a little extra motivation for getting healthier never hurt anyone. Sure having good blood pressure and healthy BMI and low triglyceride levels are all good and dandy, but sometimes having something tangible to reach for can help put weight loss losers over the brink.

Most of us are extremely motivated by rewards, and rewards can be beneficial to your weight loss and fitness success. Looking at the big picture can often be intimidating. If you have a lot of weight to lose, realistically, it could be a long road to hoe until your reach your goal weight. It is important to reward yourself throughout your weight loss journey to stay motivated.

Long Term Goals

If you have over 10 lbs to lose I suggest setting up long-term and short-term goals. These goals should be personal and can be utilized to focus on the things you need the most improvement on. Long-term goals focus on the big picture. You should have a vision of your final goals. How much can you bench? What will you run a 5k in? What is your goal weight or size? What will your daily eating habits look like? What will it feel like when you reach this goal?
  • Long-term goals and rewards are fun to think up because they are BIG! Examples of possible rewards for your long term goals:
  • Weekend vacation or cruise.
  • New wardrobe.
  • Salon makeover.
  • Large piece of workout equipment.
  • Pretty piece of jewelry.

Your big ticket reward items should correlate with your big goals. Let’s take this out of the weight loss realm a minute. One of my goals is to get a higher paying job. Once I hit a certain salary number, I will buy myself a new car. That is dang good motivation for me to either earn a promotion or scout for a different, higher paying position. Your goal in itself should mean so much to you, should be something you want so bad, that you’d go after it just for its own sake. By adding some frosting on top though you might give yourself the little edge you need to get their sooner!

So you know your big, long term goal. You’ve visualized reaching it. What it looks like, how it feels. Now you just need to get there. Daunting, huh? Let’s slice and dice that into miniature, bite-size (can you tell Halloween candy is on my mind), less overwhelming pieces, shall we?

Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals are the bits and pieces that collectively bring you to your long-term goal. They can be related to weigh loss, food, exercise, water intake and other areas of personal improvement.

The key with short-term goals is to set small, achievable goals and reward yourself frequently. Create a simple chart to track your progress and watch as your rewards quickly add up, giving you another reason to stay on track.

Some examples of short-term goals are:

  • Reaching a weekly cardio limit.
  • Staying within your daily calorie range for so many days in a row.
  • Drinking 8 or more cups of water per day.
  • Reaching a certain weight loss.
  • Exercising so 15/20/25 days out of the month.

Using Rewards for Motivation

Often, people on weight loss journeys have difficulty staying on track because they feel deprived. Depravation often occurs when people cut back on calories and increase their exercise while working on lifestyle changes.

The hardest struggle for many overweight people: you have to break the habit of rewarding yourself with food. It will be easier to adapt if you put something else in its place.

Try using small rewards to stay motivated. The reward should be pre-determined and something you are willing to work for. Rewards should not consist of food. Rewards should also not be something you would need to buy eventually anyways. For example, I don’t think new running shoes are a good reward. Why? Because, if you are running, you’ll eventually need new shoes anyways. This inevitability of having to buy your reward gives you a mental excuse to not reach your goal to achieve it. So choose decadent rewards! Things you don’t need but want! Also, make them specific! Look up actual spa treatments/gadgets/books/thingamabobs and list them by name.

Examples of small rewards include:

  • A massage.
  • A manicure/pedicure.
  • A book, CD or DVD.
  • Dumbbells, medicine ball or resistance bands.
  • Inexpensive jewelry.
  • Moderately priced exercise gadgets.

Soon you will work harder and stay on track because you will look forward to treating yourself to these rewards as you work towards your long term weight loss goal.

Some final helpful hints:
  • Make sure you think of your goal and reward chart is a living, breathing document. Change it as necessary! Add new goals for yourself as they become relevant! Make it a document that grows and changes as you grow and change.
  • Post it somewhere you’ll see it regularly, whether it be your personal blog, on your mirror in your bathroom, on your iGoogle homepage, on your refrigerator.
  • Embellish it with pictures of your rewards. Seeing the image will be that much more of a trigger.
  • Don’t cheat! Reward yourself for your accomplishments. If you are struggling between small goals, maybe add an intermediate goal and a small reward to go with it. Look at your journey as an adventure; the harder you work the more rewarding it’ll be in the end!


  1. These are all very good suggestions. One thing I really liked about weight watchers was their 'rewards' for reaching milestone- even something as small as a sticker for every 5lbs was still motivating! (of course if they would reward you for maintaining I'd be doing much better!)

  2. Great suggestions. Thanks.

    Emily - if you read this :) have you tried asking them about rewarding for maintaining goal weight? Or, reward yourself! Give yourself special gifts (or stickers) for maintaining for so long.

  3. Ooh, massages are great rewards! But since I sometimes have to get them because of neck issues (turning my head is always important), then it probably wouldn't be a good reward. I like the idea of reaching a certain salary point and getting a new car. I think I should probably just keep driving my clunker until I do reach a certain salary point, then I'll get a new one.

  4. I like the idea of thinking of hard work & exercise as an adventure :)

  5. great suggestions and reminder to me as well. I DO say and believe that my family and living longer are my reasons to be motivated but my rewards of pedicures surely keep me on track as well :)


  6. These are some good ideas. With the long term goals being fun because they're BIG- so true! So much more motivating if theres a really big prize at the end:)

  7. I have so much trouble remembering food is not a reward (nor is it a solace - not even a quantum of solace).

    Now that I'm in a poor place (one income household), I am trying to figure out free, non-food rewards. Any ideas?

  8. Kelly/Crabby - this is a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. I tend to reward myself with things I will "have to buy eventually" and I think your assessment of that situation is spot on. I need to start designing rewards that actually feel like treats.

  9. Gazelle--I am so with you on the whole trying to find 'free' rewards!! I'm on a limited income as well, so anything that costs money isn't a great reward for me. I'll talk myself out of buying it (I don't need it and can't really afford it), and so then I give up on the goal!

    One thing I have done, though is to save for my reward. For example, I'm currently struggling on getting out of bed on time, so each day I do, I put one dollar in a box. Each day I don't, I take a dollar out. This works pretty well without cutting into my budget because I can never possibly get more than $5 in one week, and it's a very real way to track my progress. Still, some actually FREE reward ideas would be MUCH appreciated!!

  10. I used to reward myself with food.
    Not such a great idea in the scheme.

  11. I didn't realize I was still doing this until today. I have hit 15 lbs lost this week and between last night and today, I have "allowed" myself extra food because I've been doing so well. Luckily there is still a week before next weigh in, so I can nip this in the I just need to think of something to reward myself for what I've done so far and for the next 10 or 15 lbs lost.

  12. One of the best rewards I've found is just being able to post about my achievement on my blog!!! Bragging is its own reward!!! Seriously. A good public pat on the back feels good.

  13. I have the same issue as SeaBreeze and Monica - I can't always afford the rewards that folks list.

    But if you can enlist the help of your husband/partner/significant other (when necessary), you can:

    Have a bubble bath with a cup of tea - or even ONE glass of wine. Let your SO watch the kids for a half hour while you soak (bubble bath can be bought at Wal-Mart for a buck or two).

    Take your girlfriends and spend an afternoon doing "kid" things: go to the playground or go fly a kite. It will be MUCH "funner" than you remember.

    Learn to give yourself a mani/pedi. Not QUITE as relaxing as a salon, but my hands and feet are so pretty afterward that it's worth it.

    Those are my big 3 "go-to's." When I have some extra cash, I give myself $5 or $10 for every week I stay "on plan" with my food and exercise, and that's nice, too, but I don't have the cash very often.

  14. Great post! I use a massage as a semi-regular treat to working out reguarly. I SOOOO look forward to it!

  15. Never sure about the whole external rewards things for myself personally. I'll never forget hubby bought me this skirt I so badly wanted one size too small as the 'reward' for when I could fit into it. But the moment there was this 'reward' boy oh boy - did I ever start off eating. Never did get to wear that skirt even though it hung in my cupboard for over 12 years.

  16. Great goals! Great suggestions! Thanks for sharing.

  17. I have to apologize, but I'm a little ambivalent about this reward thing. I see living a healthy and fit lifestyle as having plenty of built in rewards, not as a burdensome way of being that I have to reward myself for following. I'm just not sure about this. It may be different for everyone.

  18. Right now working out is my reward...
    This had some really good suggestions. I think the whole idea of charting things ahead of time can be a huge motivator.

  19. Rewards are nice, but they only take you so far, you have to have the commitment to your health as the ultimate incentive to keep you ticking!! That's how I work anyway ;) good post!

  20. Great post! motivation is a big motivator. I cant believe I just said that. I need more coffee.

    Kelly Turner

  21. Excellent post! I'll be checking out her blog. Also Crankster if you'd like to let your bloggers know I'm doing a giveaway for DryMax Socks, in the spirit if getting us out in the darn cold.

  22. I will usually reward myself by simply allowing myself to slow down. I like to people watch, so just sitting on a bench in the park or downtown and hanging out for awhile is nice. Or carving out time to cuddle up on the couch and read magazines/books that have nothing to do with anything but personal interest! Its very rewarding to me to see my dog happy, so sometimes I'll just take him to the dog park and let him go wild and play.

    Try volunteering as a reward. It requires work, but keeps you active and you feel great for helping people!

  23. Sometimes I need rewards to stick to something or get a chore done, but it's usually either food (bad idea I'm trying to get away from) or just doing something all for myself by myself, whether it be a movie, or getting to do some renos about the house I like. If I had a better tub it would be a bottle of beer in a bubblebath...:)

  24. Great Post! Rewarding yourself is wonderful, as long as you don't overdo it :)


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