Non-Food Rewards

Because I’m a dopamine junkie, I’ve been all over the internet getting super excited about losing weight and getting healthy. I was just going to be journaling every day (going well so far), but then I got enrolled in a 12 week, genetics-based intervention trial via one of those direct-to-consumer genetics testing services. I’m going to be doing a high fat, low carb diet, which historically ALWAYS results in significant weight loss. I’m a little nervous to see how low carb it is, since I haven’t been told the specifics, yet. Hopefully, more than 20 grams of carbs a day. If it isn’t, I’ll get sick (migraines) and drop out. Still waiting on the details.

I had intended this to be a post about non-food rewards, not about how my “goals” for the new year have changed. It’s still important, though. My child sees an ADHD coach and one of the strategies we’re going to use to change his behaviors is to use positive rewards. For me to keep journaling, to stay on task, to eat healthy, I need something IMMEDIATE to keep me going. Those long term, big picture things don’t work for me for some reason. I mean, they kind of do, but nothing beats immediate gratification.

I have been looking for some good non-food rewards to keep me on task. I’ve already purchased two things since I’ve done a great job journaling. The first thing was I put $30 into a dietbet pool (Chris and Heidi Powell’s dietbet). I also bought this cute, visual chart for running. Since I’m not actually running, it’ll be an exercise chart. You just cross out each day you do something. Easy peasy, right? For a visual person like me, I think it’ll work great.

Here’s some more non-food rewards in a list from SparkPeople:


  • 1 star for going to the gym
  • 1 star for going to the gym three times in one week
  • 1 star for walking at least 30 minutes
  • 1 star for walking outside in temperatures below 20 or above 80
  • 1 star for drinking at least six cups of water per day
  • 2 stars for drinking eight or more cups of water per day
  • 2 stars for staying below my daily carb range
  • 1 star for meeting my daily calorie goal
  • 2 stars for not weighing myself more than once a week
  • 100 stars = Get a reward from the list

Depending on the specifics of my diet intervention study, I’ll tweak things. But this is a great start.

Reward ideas: 

  • Give yourself permission to take a nap.
  • Visit the library or bookstore all by yourself.
  • Have a guilt-free home spa afternoon.
  • Sleep in!
  • Take a selfie to celebrate your progress.
  • Spend an hour away from your phone or computer.
  • Eat lunch outside or at least away from your desk.
  • Clean out your closet and donate all your too-big clothes to charity.
  • Post your progress on social media (or SparkPeople) so your friends can celebrate with you.
  • Take a bubble bath.
  • Drive to a beautiful neighborhood or park to walk instead of taking your usual walking route.
  • Use smiley face or star stickers to note milestones on a wall calendar hung in a prominent place.
  • Make your own ribbon or trophy.
  • Make or buy a refrigerator magnet with a motivational quote.
  • Take a vacation day from work to do whatever you want!
  • Unwind with a movie of your choice.
  • Plan a night out with your friends.
  • Buy a lottery ticket.
  • Subscribe to a fitness or healthy cooking magazine.
  • Get a new driver’s license photo. (Don’t lie about your weight.)
  • Download a new fitness app for your phone.
  • Buy a new workout song.
  • Get yourself a bottle of fancy shower gel or lotion.
  • Pick up a new plant for your garden.
  • Invest in some moisture-wicking workout socks.
  • Get fitted for a new sports bra.
  • Try a new shade of nail polish.
  • Get some new shades for outdoor exercise.
  • Come home with a bouquet of flowers.
  • Try a fresh hair color.
  • Buy a small personal blender for smoothies and protein shakes.
  • Order a pair of high-end wireless headphones.
  • Invest is a fitness tracker to motivate you even more.
  • Sign up for a charity walk or running event.
  • Splurge on some nice yoga pants.
  • Go for a mani/pedi.
  • Treat yourself to a massage!
  • Take a cooking class to up your game.
  • Get a new hairstyle.
  • Get fitted for workout shoes at a running store.
  • Go for a flashy piercing or tattoo!
  • Start a charm bracelet.
  • Get your rings resized to fit your smaller fingers.
  • Plan a weekend getaway with your significant other.
  • Adopt a dog so you’ll always have a walking buddy.
  • Hire someone to clean your house so you have more time to hit the gym.
  • Try a fun exercise class like Zumba or pole fitness.
  • Book a session with a personal trainer.
  • Schedule a professional portrait shoot.
  • Two words: Dream vacation!

I love these ideas. I like the movie, night out, lottery ticket, and workout songs. Those are all reasonable and not terribly expensive. Maybe do 50 stars, 100 stars, 500 stars, 1000 stars level of rewards. I gotta keep tweaking this. I have a couple of days to work out the kinks and get things set in stone.

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