Learn to Reward Yourself in a New Way

May 26, 2011

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For many people who struggle with their weight, food is their go-to reward of choice.

Maybe it started when Mom would bake cookies or take you out for ice cream when you did well in school, or when going out to eat was the family’s way of celebrating birthdays and other special occasions, or at some other time.

The problem is, rewarding oneself for an accomplishment (or commiserating over a failure) with calories usually means reaching for high-calorie, low-nutrition foods you really don’t need.

That’s why learning to reward yourself in new ways is an important part of taking off weight and keeping it off long-term.

At first, like any new habit, it may seem artificial. It will take time to break the nearly automatic response you may have learned and been practicing for years. But if you look at it in a positive light, it can become a fun, enjoyable, and stimulating challenge!

One way to get started is to make a list of non-calorie rewards you personally would enjoy so that when the time comes to celebrate an achievement, you have a list of reward ideas ready and waiting.

Perhaps that might be a massage, bubble bath, overnight getaway, time with friends, some new music, an interactive video game, a trip to the book store, an afternoon spent pursuing antique shops, or a hike along the beach!

As you can see, there are many, many possible ways to reward yourself (or soothe difficult emotions) that are actually even better than ice cream! And the list above is just a beginning to get your creative juices flowing.

Just like food, doing things you enjoy lights up the reward center in the brain, releasing natural hormones similar to opiates and creating a sense of happiness and well being.

Another nice perk of non-food rewards is that they don’t leave you feeling stuffed, uncomfortable, sluggish, nauseous, or filled with regret afterward like binging on high-calorie nutritionally empty foods can.

So go ahead start rewarding yourself in a new way. I have a feeling that once you give it a try, you’ll be hooked!

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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