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Lifestyle Change Strategies

How To Reward Good Behavior

How To Reward Good Behavior

Can you imagine working for a boss who:
  • Notices every single mistake you make
  • Reminds you of these mistakes at every opportunity
  • Belittles you, points out your faults, and minimizes achievement whenever you start to feel good about yourself
  • Never acknowledges what you do right with so much as a kind word or small reward
Thatís a strange way to motivate people! Yet, thatís exactly what we often do to ourselves when dieting. And then we wonder where our motivation goes.

We already spend a lot of time beating ourselves up. So often, in fact, that it almost seems normal. If you really want to build confidence and motivation, try a little love instead. Try focusing on what youíre doing right instead of what youíre doing wrong.

Positive reinforcement is so much more effective than criticism for building habits. Youíre someone who is in the process of building new habits into a healthy lifestyle. For motivation, you need the exact opposite of punishment Ė you need rewards.

The first thing to get in your head is that you deserve rewards. Negative self-talk may have you convinced that you havenít done anything special enough to earn one. Thatís the old, ineffective "boss" talking. Give yourself permission to be a good, supportive boss, and youíll get the personal performance youíre looking for.

Types of Rewards
Rewards can be big or small. No mystery there, except for how and when they are used. Big rewards (vacations, clothes, etc.) work great as "goal rewards," what you give yourself for reaching your final weight goal. Small rewards are often ignored, but they are perfect as regular, everyday "action rewards." These are the rewards you give yourself every day or every week for meeting your calorie levels, for running an extra mile, for consistently eating your veggies, or for simply following your meal plan. Small rewards can range from a movie or giving yourself compliments, to pausing 20 minutes to call a friend or take a bubble bath.

Timing of Rewards
You can literally reward yourself for anything you darned well please. The keys to doing it right are consistency and high frequency. Remember, youíre building a lifestyle full of healthy habits. And habits need repetition. That means rewarding good actions when they happen, instead of saving all of your rewards until you reach your goal results. The best approach is a mix; use rewards tied to longer-range goal weight milestones to maintain some big-picture motivation. At the same time, use rewards tied to daily and weekly actions to give those healthy habits some positive reinforcement.

Dangers of Rewards
Watch out for a few pitfalls when youíre building a rewards program. Mostly, make sure that the reward serves only as a boost, and doesnít overshadow other good reasons for your actions. In other words, donít rely so heavily on rewards or get so attached to them, that once the reward is achieved or taken away, your motivation level drops like a roller coaster. In the same way, watch out for rewards with too much monetary value. You might end up working for the reward rather than the built-in benefits of weight loss. Keep your focus where it needs to be. Also, never ever use food as a reward. Even good food. Itís just too much of a slippery slope. Donít even mess with it. To build a new lifestyle, food cannot be a currency to be used for anything other than healthy eating.

Smart Reward Strategies
Above all, make the reward meaningful to you. As a reward, a new pair of shoes may not hold as much motivation as a simple night alone with a book. Then again, it might. This sounds simple, but a lot of people work toward rewards that are more important to other people. Finally, be honest with yourself. Fudging the numbers mentally, or "borrowing" against the next reward hurts the cause of building a lifetime habit. Remember to keep your focus on building a habit, not just figuring out how to get the reward.

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