Why do we think that to treat ourselves we need to eat tons of sugar or spend money? That’s not really a treat is it? When trying to develop total wellness we need to break the chain of unhealthy habits into a lifestyle of consistency and accountability and how we “treat” ourselves is for sure a part of that. If we make it part of our lifestyle to splurge every time we hit a milestone then we aren’t really being totally consistent are we?  We are almost playing a bit of Russian roulette for those who that “treat” will send them into a downward spiral. We need to find ways to reward ourselves well, in a way that reinforces us instead of undermines our efforts.

Positive reinforcement works! We know that! That is why we reward children and even as adults we like to reward our successes and as well we should, but it’s all about how we do it. Many people will share that they work so hard to lose weight and then they treat themselves with an unhealthy meal and before they know it they are slowly packing on the pounds because they just can’t manage self-moderation.  It’s hard; there is a fine line between an indulgence and a disservice.

Indulging and rewarding ourselves needs to be something we can truly enjoy and feel the boost from. For some that may include food or even spending lots of money on a new item or trip, but for most people it can be much simpler. What would be something that you could reward yourself with and feel that little burst of triumph over? Depending on your personality it may vary. These are our ideas

The Foodie: You love food and you see it as a reward. Instead of over doing it you could seek out a new restaurant or take the time to make yourself a celebratory meal. If eating ice cream then makes you crave ice cream that’s fine, but if you are trying not to eat ice cream steer clear. If you are rewarding yourself for cutting back on fried foods, don’t celebrate with your compulsion. Think of ways you can enjoy a new food experience that won’t set you back where you started.

The Collector: You love stuff and buying things makes you feel good. If your goal has been to save money, than spending it may make you remorseful over your new prize. If you finally finished a project or landed that new job don’t run out and buy something. Instead, set up a trade night with friends where you exchange items like clothes and accessories. You don’t always have to rush out to spend money to make yourself feel worthy of your accomplishments.

The sentimental: You like to benchmark events. This is great! A great reward to you might be taking photos, painting a picture or writing in a journal about your success. We might not think of these as “treats” but over time as you look back, they surely will be not only nostalgic but also rewarding reminders of how you felt during that occasion. It can be as simple as starting a success journal or even writing a postcard to yourself for each milestone and keeping in a safe place.

The Doer: You love to do things! These don’t have to cost money! Instead of going out for a big meal, take yourself on an adventure like a hike or bike ride. Celebrate achievements by creating lasting memories of something you did! You’ll surely remember the view atop a mountain a lot more than the pie you might indulge in. Better yet, do the hike first and that might actually make the pie that much more special. Don’t be afraid to make an experience a part of your prize.

When it comes to celebrating others there is a quote by Maya Angelou that can also be used when celebrating yourself too, it is; “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  How can you reward yourself in a way that you will “feel” that sensation you are craving from other people and things? How can you do the same for others? When working with clients we try to help them identify how they want to feel when they meet their goals, then how to reinforce that with health rewards.

How do you want to feel? Is there something in your life that you are working towards that would make you feel healthier, stronger, more independent or proud? Go for it. Make it happen and when you do celebrate in a way that reinforces your personality type and why you worked so hard. Don’t celebrate weight loss with unhealthy foods; don’t celebrate saving money by spending it. Eat something healthy and wonderful, invest that money or put it towards a greater cause. Let how you ultimately want to feel be your goal and let your reward be just as meaningful. Rewards matter, choose them well!


Mary Hoadley

Director of The Wellness Center