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Here is a conversation that you’re not likely to hear:
Person #1: Hey, how are you doing with your weight loss goal?
Person #2: Great! I haven’t lost any weight since I started six weeks ago, but I have never felt more motivated in my life!
The biggest motivating factor behind continuing to work on any goal is seeing progress. And, once you see your progress by meeting your small milestones— you have to celebrate! Giving yourself something to look forward to on your journey will make it easier for you to stick with your new and improved habits.
And what is one thing that is often the center focus of a celebration?
Wedding cakes, birthday cakes, 4th of July cookouts, Christmas dinner…
Food is a HUGE reward in our society. And it starts at a young age.
How do you potty train your child? Most (if not all) of the people I know motivate their kids and celebrate their successes during potty training by rewarding them with an M&M. It’s inexpensive, instant, and it makes you feel good.
Assuming you want to stick to your diet long enough to reach your final weight loss goal, you need to recognize your efforts along the way, even if your wins seem very minor in the grand scheme of things. But–because celebrating with food pretty much defeats the purpose of your goal, it’s best to reward yourself in ways other than buying (and subsequently eating) a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Still, celebrations are important because they act as a reminder that you can reach your goals. These small occasions will help you maintain your motivation on those days you want to lie in bed with a bag of chips and binge watch tv because things aren’t going well in other areas of your life.
So in this article, we are going to take a look at 21 ways to reward yourself without using food.
Let’s take a look.
How to Reward Yourself Without Food
1. Marathon your favorite show on Netflix.
It’s ok to take a relaxing break, even when it feels indulgent. Taking some time to enjoy yourself, get your mind off of life and into an intriguing or hilarious show will give you the respite you need from the everyday routine that you’re used to.
Along with the hustle and bustle of work, you’ve been working so hard with your new healthy eating and exercise routine, which can be taxing on your mental health. The last thing you want to do is to start feeling burned out, and studies show that taking breaks and doing leisure activities results in fewer symptoms of depression and more positive emotions.
2. Meet up with a friend.
I have found in the chaos of adulthood that I rarely see my friends in the same manner that I used to. Because we are all so busy, we may plan a playdate with the kids or get together to go for a run or something, but it’s always hanging out in some kind of way that is serving a purpose aside from just being together.
Because of this, setting aside time to spend with a friend with no kids around, no exercise involved, and no second agenda would definitely feel like a reward to me, and it may feel that way to you, too.
3. Pamper yourself.
Whether this means getting a mani/pedi or a massage or just taking a long bath, indulging yourself in being pampered (DIY or professionally) will always feel like a great reward. This will help make you feel good and healthy, relax your muscles, reduce pain, and increase your motivation to keep working toward your goal.
Many studies have shown the benefits of self-care (such as pampering yourself) when it comes to improving your emotional wellbeing, but they also address the barriers that many people face when it comes to actually practicing self-care. Due to a lack of time, chronic fatigue, and excess stress, many people don’t make time for themselves in this manner, but practicing self-care as a reward for meeting your weight loss milestones can benefit you in all areas of your life.
4. Buy new kitchen knives.
Seeing as you’re killing it when it comes to losing weight, I’m assuming you’re doing a lot of healthy at-home cooking that involves fresh produce. Having high-quality knives will reward you with a safe and enjoyable process of food preparation. To enhance your cooking and ease the process of preparing meals, you should have the right type of knife for whatever you’re doing.
Whether you’re chopping veggies or carving a turkey, kitchen knives are going to be your essential tools. Low-quality knives have cheap, thin blades that can bend very easily, and, unfortunately, break very easily as well and potentially harm you in the process. The blades are also usually dull, meaning you need to push down harder to cut anything. Doing this creates a higher chance of slipping up, while a high-quality, sharp knife cuts much more easily and with less effort.
You will want to continue to cook at home if you have the best tools to do so. This will make cooking easy and hopefully enjoyable.
5. Buy a smartwatch.
Your average pedometer these days has come lightyears from where they once were. While they used to (inaccurately) count your steps, you can now return emails, get text messages, manage your calendar, choose your workout, and even pay for your Starbucks drink through these devices.
If you invest in one, you’ll want to stay active because you’ll want to keep your numbers high on your smartwatch–especially if you connect with other people and compete to see who is the most active each day.
6. Sign up for a fun class.
Have you ever thought of switching up your exercise routine to include pole dancing or zumba? If you meet a weight loss goal, sign up for one of these unique classes to try out a new form of exercise. You’ll already be more confident about your body and you’ll have fun while getting some extra movement into your day.
7. Get your car detailed.
Nothing is better than getting into a nice, clean car. Treat yourself to a full detailing of your car so every stain and crumb is removed and it’s back to feeling new. This is definitely the most inexpensive way to feel like you’ve upgraded to a luxury car.
8. Start a “rewards” savings account.
Open a savings account and every time you hit a weight loss milestone, put $5, $10, or however much money you decide into the account. Saving money will also feel rewarding as you’re losing weight and as the pounds melt off and your savings account swells, you’ll start to feel really good about yourself.
9. Treat yourself to a new pillow.
Go to a store that sells mattresses and have them “fit” you for the type of pillow that will work best for the shape of your body and the position in which you sleep. This is definitely one of those things that you don’t know you need until you have it–and then you’re left wondering what you ever did without it. You may not realize the important role that your pillow plays in the quality of your sleep and your overall well-being.
Having the right pillow that is customized for your unique needs will help you on your weight loss journey because it will help you get better sleep, help eliminate neck and back pain, or prevent these types of aches from arising in the future that could limit your mobility.
If you don’t have a store near you where a professional could help you pick out a pillow, here are some resources that may be helpful:
10. Host a game night.
Getting together with friends and having a game night is a great way to reward yourself because you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a blast. There are so many options for this type of event– you could play cooperative games (where everyone works together to win the game), mystery board games, role playing games…
The options are endless and you’ll get to have fun with your friends in the process as you engage in healthy competition.
11. Listen to a great podcast.
There’s a podcast for everything and everyone–and you don’t need to just listen to them while you have the chance on your commute. Reward yourself by getting comfortable at home and only listening to a podcast. Taking this time for yourself will be beneficial because you’ll learn something new, you’ll probably have a few laughs, and you can just focus on whichever subject you’ve chosen to get into.
12. Go for a walk without your phone.
You probably won’t know that this is a reward until after you do it. Getting out into nature and looking around (instead of down) is calming and centering. You will feel rewarded from this because you will be giving yourself time to disconnect from your everyday chaos and reconnect with the outdoors. Plus, this is a healthy treat because you will get some exercise. Sometimes giving yourself the gift of time is the best gift you can offer yourself.
13. Take a PTO day.
You don’t have to save your vacation days at work for an actual vacation. When you reach a goal, if you do have some lingering vacation time to take, use one of your days to do nothing but relax. Don’t let yourself be tempted to make a doctor’s appointment or run errands. Use the day to do joyfully unproductive things like sleeping in, grabbing coffee with a friend, calling and catching up with family in other states, take a nap…
14. Re-read your favorite book.
Re-reading a book might feel like a waste of time, but I would be willing to bet that there are several movies you’ve watched over and over, right?
The repetition that you get from watching a familiar movie or reading a familiar book has actually been found to be calming. Part of this comes from the sense of certainty in that you know what’s coming next and part of it is just having an experience that’s already familiar to you. However, even though the content remains the same, the way you see or interpret it can change dramatically with time, so reading old books can still keep you on your toes.
15. Get a new outfit.
You’re losing weight, it’s time to show it off! Go shopping and try on some new pants or whatever your closet is missing and enjoy your new size! And while you’re at it, take some time to clean out your closet and donate the clothes you have that no longer fit you.
16. Reach out for some praise.
If you want a cheap, easy, and effective reward for meeting your weight loss goal, receiving praise from family and friends definitely fits the bill. In order to get this type of attention, brag about your progress! Post it on social media or announce it at a family dinner– let people congratulate you and accept the praise you’ve earned.
Losing weight is exceptionally tough, so don't be afraid to let those around you know you’re killing it — even if you haven’t reached your final goal. You deserve to feel rewarded through praise as you lose weight and get a stronger and healthier body.
17. Give yourself some special reminders.
Buy some stickers that you really like or put some other indicator on each day in your calendar that you meet a milestone. The act of pulling out your stickers and putting one on your calendar when you succeed will serve as a reward and will give you motivation to keep working hard. This visual reminder will end up being something that you want to be able to see frequently when opening up your calendar each day.
18. Create your own trophy.
…or ribbon, or any other tangible reward that can remind you that you met your goal. If you have kids, get them to help you create something that you can look forward to displaying once you reach your goal.
19. Buy some new exercise clothes.
Workout clothes can be expensive, especially if you go for the extra-high quality ones.
When you achieve a weight loss goal, treat yourself to a new piece of workout clothing–and before you know it, you will have earned an entire collection. This will keep you motivated to work out long past the day you reach your goal weight.
20. Get a lottery ticket.
This is an inexpensive, yet exciting way to reward yourself. Even if you don’t win anything, the thoughts that go through your mind in anticipation are always fun–like what you would do if you could just quit your job tomorrow or pay off your mortgage…or travel anywhere in the world.
21. Find a peaceful place to sit.
Is there some place in your city that has a beautiful view and is peaceful, even if there are other people around? If so, go there and make yourself comfortable and just sit and be for a while.
You can practice mindfulness as you’re relaxing or you could practice some meditative journaling. No matter what you do, just relax and enjoy the view, people watch, and focus on your thoughts and feelings.
All of these rewards celebrate your health and well-being. Pick the rewards that appeal to you and schedule them throughout your weight loss journey to help increase your confidence as you melt those pounds away so that you feel good about your body, no matter what the scale says.
Don’t turn to unhealthy food as a reward for making healthy choices because doing so reinforces the idea that “healthy” food is “bad”. Reward yourself with something that somehow benefits your life, because this kind of reward will actually move you toward being the person you want to be in the long run.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.