Lose weight by changing the way you reward yourself

Just finish a workout? Instead of reaching for the chips, keep the weight off by thinking of new ways to feel good post-workout.
Post workout Getty Images

If weight loss is your goal, make sure you don’t fall into the “food reward” trap where you think every time you exercise you deserve a junk food treat. Obesity researchers have shown this phenomenon is quite common. Some people will burn 300 calories on an elliptical trainer and then reward themselves with a 500 calorie piece of cheesecake…now that’s just bad math.

In reality, exercise strengthens your brain in ways that make it easier to choose healthier foods. You’ve just got to be mindful about it and see exercise as a powerful tool in learning to control what you eat, rather than an excuse to eat.

But you still need to reward yourself for all that hard work too, right? I went to Facebook and Twitter to ask people about their healthy rewards for exercise and here’s what they said:

1. Clothes! This is one of those “Well, duh!” ones. If you lose weight, you’ll want some new clothing to show off your hard-earned physique. It could be a nice dress or even a new bikini. However, if you’re in the beginning stages and the old clothes still fit, another idea is putting money into your fitness wardrobe (my fitness wardrobe is worth more than my car).

Having nice, high-quality fitness clothing that feels good and looks good improves your attitude about working out. If you’ve got enough nice items, you’ll also never have to worry about having something that’s clean.

2. Shoes! I don’t know if feet shrink when you lose weight (probably not much) but this is more about running shoes anyways. If you’re looking at getting into running, a visit to a running store to get professional help on the right kind of shoe is a great reward. Or you can get more comfortable walking shoes, or a pair that are better for the gym and fitness classes. If you’re into the outdoors you may want new hiking boots, ski boots or snow shoes. Anything you put on your feet that is good for moving around in is a great reward!


3. Sex! Would you believe my wife came up with this one? It got echoed across Facebook as well. Physical activity makes you feel sexier, so why not go for it? Read my recent interview with a sex expert on how to exercise for better sex.

4. Guilt-free TV (or other alone time) A health writer for the Globe and Mail told me his Sunday morning run means Sunday afternoon football. I don’t watch football, but there are certainly lots of mind-rotting things on the screen that grab my attention. Knowing you’ve worked hard at exercise means you’ve earned yourself a bit of couch time. If you’re more interested in expanding your mind, you could read a book, or soak in the tub (with a book), or even take a nap

5. Fitness gadgets I am not talking about a Shake Weight. There are lots of motivational technologies you can purchase to help you with your exercise endeavors. Things like music players, GPS watches, fitness apps and heart rate monitors. If you’re excited to use them, you’ll be excited to workout.

6. Coffee I love coffee, but hate spending money, so most days I make it myself. However, every once in a while it’s nice to treat myself with a pricey cup of java. Just make sure you don’t add sugar and choose milk over cream if you’re watching calorie intake. And definitely stay away from those choca-mocha-caramel-creamy whatever coffee drinks that have hundreds of calories.

7. Spa treatments Let’s be honest. Part of exercise isn’t just about feeling good, but looking good. There is nothing wrong with using vanity as a partial motivator for exercise. Whatever gets you moving right? And why not reinforce that with a trip to the spa for a feel-good treatment that also makes you look your best?


Fitness is an investment, and spending a little extra money here and there helps you adhere to your regimen. Just be sure you reward yourself the smart way. You’ve earned it.

James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary. He writes the syndicated column “In-Your-Face Fitness” for the Chicago Tribune and consults with clients on strategic planning for fitness and health. Get your free Metabolism Report here.


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