One way that we encourage good behavior is through incentives. From babies to pets, we are trained to perform an activity in exchange for a positive reward.
The same is true when it comes to dieting and lifestyle changes. We tend to try harder when we have something to look forward to. Some people are intrinsically motivated and knowing that we are making good choices for health and longevity is enough. But at some point everyone needs some external motivation.
This month you stayed on track with your meals, went to the gym, got enough sleep each night, and drank all the water. You are feeling GREAT! How do you reward yourself?
- Go shopping and buy a new outfit.
- Indulge in your favorite not so healthy snacks.
- Get a pedicure.
- Buy that new watch you’ve been eyeing.
What did you choose?
All of those options sound great, but one of the most popular responses is to binge/cheat/eat off plan.
I am not dismissing your ability to live your life. Even as we are changing our relationship with food, it is just as bad to feel like you “can’t” eat what you want. I choose not to use the term “cheating” because that’s not what it is. You are simply making a choice to eat a food that is not within your food plan, hopefully with plans to return to your regular scheduled program.
The real problem
However, the problem comes when we say: If I go to the gym three times this week, I was stop and get some ice cream on my way home. If I drink a gallon of water every day this week, I’m going to get myself a donut, or something outrageous.
We are not animals.
Food should not be considered a reward. If you choose to eat something off plan, that is a choice that you make and you move on. Nonetheless, we do not want food to be our motivation to do the right thing. Food is the reason that we are in this unhealthy cycle in the first place. By using food as an incentive, we are reinforcing those unhealthy habits that potentially strengthening our unhealthy relationship with food with inconsistent results.
Check your Mental
Instead of using food and treats as an incentive, here are some other incentive options that will continue to enhance your progress rather than set you back:
- Plan small incentives to celebrate baby steps and plan a big incentive for the big goals.
- Choose a goal outfit. Once you reach your goal and are ready to fit it, make plans to wear it to celebrate….and then purchase another goal outfit.
- Pamper yourself. Get a mani/pedi. Have a spa day. Do something that will help you relax and prepare to demolish your next goal.
- Plan a trip. Sometimes we get comfortable in our routines, but if you know that something new and exciting is coming up, you may be more motivated to stick to your plan and crush those goals.
- Buy a new gadget. Maybe a step monitor, ketone monitor, water bottle, workout clothes, coffee cup, air fryer, or other gadget has been on your radar, but you couldn’t justify buying another something. Stick to your plan and give your self a reason to buy yourself something new!
- Save a small amount of money for every pound or inch that your lose. Then, once you reach your big goal, use that money to treat yourself to something special.
- Your incentive can be something as simple as buying new nail polish. Don’t overthink it. Just be sure to have a plan to reward yourself.
- Write down your goals and assign non- food incentives to each one.
- Set time frames to help keep you motivated and accountable.
- Post your goals and incentives somewhere visible that you’ll see frequently.
- Get an accountability partner. Someone who you can trust, who is like-minded, and who is working toward their own goals. This can be someone you know or it may be someone who you met in an online Keto community. It is a little harder to fall off when you have someone to report to other than yourself.
- Celebrate EVERYTHING! All of the little successes lead up to large victories. Baby steps are always worth acknowledging.