Weight loss Regime Survival Tip #6: Rewards

Occasionally, you deserve a gold star.

They say that losing weight it its own reward, and I can see where the thought comes from.  When I started my journey I couldn’t remember a time when I woke up without my feet and knees hurting within ten minutes of being out of bed.  A few pounds down and once my body started to forgive me for the new daily torture, my feet and knees started to feel better. It was a nice reward and an incentive to keep going.

I’m not saying that losing weight isn’t a reward in itself.  But most of the time, this applies to those who only need to lose maybe 10-20 lbs or are trying to fit into a specific dress for a wedding or something of that nature. My goal going into this was to lose about half of my body weight.

That’s right, half of my weight.

It’s an entirely different beast to tame than losing only a few pounds. Not that some of the same challenges don’t apply, but it is very different.

While the aches and pains of starting to move do fade, sadly you don’t always see a lot of change, especially in the beginning.  When you are 246 lbs, you can drop five pounds yet remain the same clothing size and see no real outward change.  Which means even if the scale is changing, you may not see the change in yourself. You just see the sweat and feel the new aches and notice the time taken out of your day to participate in what seems like a pie in the sky dream.

Losing a lot of weight is a long hard slog.

There is no real way around that fact.

And to be honest, other people can often be more of a detriment than a help.

I know no one wants to hear that.  I know a lot of people work out with a buddy and love it. And if you have a friend in the same head space as you and losing weight at about the same rate, this can be wonderful. It is less wonderful when they appear to do the same work as you and drop weight faster (or you notice it more on them than yourself because you are far more critical of yourself than you are of anyone else).

Family encouragement is often a mixed bag as well.  Don’t get me wrong, my family is good. They are well meaning in their encouragement. However a couple of them got the perky overly optimistic cheerleading gene I missed. Personally being told I look great when I know the scale hasn’t moved since the last time I talked to you really just means I made good clothing choices that day.  And constantly asking me how much weight I’ve lost every time I see you just makes me feel like I’m failing.

And like I want to avoid you.

I would rather just get on with it and talk about something else.

But that could just be me. 

As my weight went up, my more anti-social tendencies took over and I found the regard of others to be a bit overwhelming.  I am starting to change that, but I am still not all that comfortable being the center of attention.  Plus after focusing on workouts and calories, sometimes I really just want to have a conversation that relates to something else. 

Anything else really.

So the big trick with a long slog like this is keeping myself motivated throughout the journey. So along the way, I have built in a series of rewards for myself.  Yes, essentially I am bribing myself. There are two different kind of rewards involved in my system. One, both or neither could work for you.

The first kind of reward is the milestone reward. This is earned at certain markers.  I’ve set mine at 10 lbs. Now, this is trickier than is sounds.  At ten lbs you aren’t fitting in a goal dress. Clothing shopping for the new you is kind of a long way off. With a lot of clothing off the table, finding a lot of these rewards is tough work. There are a couple of rules I follow for my rewards.  You can use or discard any of them as suits your needs.

My first rule is that the reward cannot be food related.

I know that sounds like an obvious one, but when I started thinking about giving myself a reward, I had to really think about it.  I thought about what I wanted on my walks. I thought about it at the gym. I thought about it when fixing a large salad for supper.

Let me tell you, it took a lot of effort to think past rewarding myself by making brie en crute.  Oh yeah,  a round of triple cream brie covered with fig jam wrapped in prosciutto, then wrapped in buttery brioche dough and baked until it was warm and oozy. That seemed like the best reward.

The urge was strong, but I moved past it.

My second rule was that I didn’t want my rewards to cost a lot.  I didn’t want to set my reward at an expensive item and then when I got close to the goal re think it because I needed to get new tires or something else that was more of a necessity. I set my plan at around $20 or less per reward.

My third rule was that my reward should be a help rather than a hindrance to my weight loss journey. The best way to explain this is with my first (10 lb) reward. My first reward was my Scentbox subscription.  Now I know this bends my $20 rule as it is $14.95 / month and the months add up to more than $20, but first I promised myself if I went off the rails I’d have to cancel and two this has proven a very beneficial reward.

While I have always liked scent, I realized I hadn’t been wearing perfume in a while.  In fact many of the perfumes on my dressing table no longer even remotely smelled the same as when I purchased them and were just hanging around because I liked the bottle (and spent enough on them that I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away). 

The reason they sat around so long is that not wearing them was part of my drawing in.  I didn’t want people to notice me.  In my head I didn’t want someone thinking, ‘Wow, that fat girl smells nice.’ I stopped wearing perfume because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.  I also stopped wearing most of my makeup, reducing it to basic lip gloss and I only glanced in the mirror to make sure I didn’t have toothpaste spatter on my face or my hair sticking up at crazy angles.  I stopped looking at me and I wanted everyone else to do the same.

Choosing the perfume subscription gave me something I liked as a reward AND it helped start to crack through that don’t notice me barricade. In addition, it also gave me a sort of daily reward. I tend to work out in the mornings, mostly as a get it over and done with before life takes over and the day runs out of time measure. 

So in the mornings I just use a light moisturizer and sunscreen if I am going out for a walk. Then once I have sweat for the day, I shower and get ready.  The final touch is a spritz at the wrists, cause I’m certainly not wearing perfume to the gym. The nice scent applied after I’ve completed my sweating is kind of my prize for the day. ‘See you worked hard, now you get to smell nice instead of like stinky sweat.’

It works for me.  It’s an individual journey though, so find what works for you.

The second part of my reward system involves smaller bits of personal encouragement.

Did you manage to drag yourself to the gym this morning even though it was raining and you were awakened at three in the morning by the neighbor’s cat? Then this afternoon give yourself twenty minutes of relaxation by using a sheet mask.  You can get them for relatively little money at the drug store and  twenty minutes of down time in your day wouldn’t completely kill your schedule. It might even give you a chance to think through a thorny issue before shooting off an ill-advised e-mail.

Did you finally manage to touch your toes for the first time in god only knows how long? Celebrate those newly touched tootsies by swiping a layer of glitter polish across the toe nails. 

My particular polish of choice for this came from the dollar tree.  It tends to flake off after a day or two, but that’s really not the point. It is a momentary celebration. Whether it is remaining on track for a week’s worth of workouts, or managing to successfully avoid going into your favorite fast food place because you foolishly forgot to eat lunch before running your errands, celebrate the small victories as well as the large ones.

The rules for this set of rewards are simple.  Again, no food as reward and keep it appropriate to the victory. Making it to your workout instead of letting inertia take you may earn you a cheap bottle of glittery nail polish, it doesn’t earn a $60 handbag. Keep things in perspective. Use the rewards to keep you motivated and to reinforce the fact that even though you haven’t dropped another dress size yet you are doing a good thing. It may be a long haul, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable one. Remember, even thorns can occasionally come with roses.

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