Don’t Fall Into The Reward Trap

One of the biggest yet hardest traps to see in one’s fitness journey is the self-reward.

You worked out, hurray, you’re so pleased with yourself – and plus you’ve made room on the caloric budget of it – so you go ahead and have a soda, feeling good about it.

I’m falling into that bad again myself these days. I have a lot of free time in the afternoon after I’ve run all my miles in the morning. What started as eating indulgent food as a little celebration turned into joyless habit pretty quick and bam, I was insidiously back on the standard garbage diet.

For one, we do need to eat, so the work-around for that is planning what you eat long before you’re hungry. When we’re hungry our bodies start urging us toward the most energy dense foods available. So – as I’m going to say in another post I’m working on – Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry.

Part two of that is basing your meals on nutritional needs rather than your sense of caloric need, at least to start with. Meaning, I know I need 3 eggs in a day for choline, I need pumpkins seeds for magnesium, I need beet juice for nitric oxide, etc etc etc. I choose the foods in the house based on filling some nutritional requirement rather simply liking them. And if I’ve had all the healthy stuff I know I need everyday and I’m still hungry I’ll have an indulgent snack. With all the bases covered it’s at least enough food that you won’t over do it.

Controversial opinion – meaning I don’t know where I stand on this really – I think having a treat in the house is a good idea. I’ve found that with nothing sweet in the house I end up buying snacks on the way home. Which means I’m buying them while hungry which is bad and they’re not budgeted for, meaning I’m wasting money. Having cookies in the house may be a good way of telling yourself there’s no need to pick something up while you’re out and once you’re home it’s easier to say you’ll have the cookies after all other nutritional bases are covered.

This is based on the fact that knowledge of beer in the fridge at home was one of the few things that could ease the craving to stay for pints after work back in that day.

And speaking of, don’t reward yourself with booze.

What I think is important is don’t reward yourself at all. The work out was the reward, the health is the reward, practice sitting with those feelings and being okay. The idea that when you feel good you have to consume something in order to heighten it is never going to help you. It’s going to leave you forever chasing.

The best thing you can do is take that celebratory instinct and turn it into motivation. Feel great after a work out? Clean the house. And I know it’s tough when you’re feeling up to do a thing that seems so down but if you can create momentum, striking while the iron is hot so to speak, then you’ll strongly ingrain good habits.

Because the other trap I’m falling into right now is the idea that I’ve done enough for the day. I come home from the gym by 10 in the morning and for some reason the work part of my brain will not activate. Like my work-relax balance is supposed to be set at 4 hours to 12 hours.

This is shifting away from the purpose of the post so maybe I’ll pick it up next time but I notice that the downside of being a morning person is that morning doesn’t really last long. There’s some mental window that closes for me at, like, 11am and suddenly I have inertia to anything I should do.

I’ll explore that further another time, for today remember to be careful how you reward yourself. Is it thinking you’ve earned hours of junk food and video games with minutes of exercise or is it embracing the inner feeling of being a badass?


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