Updated: Jan 17, 2019
Maybe you're struggling with sticking to a nutrition plan for one reason or another and you need some substitutes for those things that derail you. Or you've been working on your nutrition for a while, making progress, and may be thinking it’s time to reward yourself. Substitute activities and rewards can both support our success and motivate us. Here are some tools to think about how to replace bad habits with good ones, and reward your great behavior and progress in a way that sustains your great nutrition habits.
Substitute Activities for Poor Nutrition, Sugar, and Alcohol If you have learned this month, for example, that the evenings are the toughest time to deal without that glass of wine or a small dessert, consider replacing this time with another activity. Go for a walk with your family or your dog :-), take a bath, have a cup of tea or decaf coffee, play a video game, watch a movie, read an article, go workout, or even just go right to bed! Often our desire for carby foods, sugar, and alcohol stems from boredom or the need to relax or wind down. Choose alternate, non-food activities that can help you get through that time. And repeat that activity to make that your new wind-down habit.
Reward Yourself with Multiple Small Rewards Studies show that smaller rewards connected to short term goals are most likely to motivate you to success. If you’re working on getting at least 3 days of exercise in the upcoming week, consider setting up some rewards for yourself, and dividing them into specific categories. For example: maybe you value entertainment and pampering, but rarely treat yourself to these. If you complete two CrossFit workouts per week, allow yourself a reward from your “entertainment category” (e.g. tickets to the matinee). If, in addition to those two workouts, you add a long run and PR a lift, treat yourself to a second reward from the “pamper category” (e.g. a 60 minutes massage). Make these rewards regular and related to your short term, achievable behavioral goals.
Beware of FMO While rewarding yourself is helpful sometimes, some studies also suggest that you shouldn’t spend too much time surfing for new and better nutrition and exercise plans. You’ll feel that “fear of missing out” and be tempted to jump ship from the program you’re on, just in case you’re missing out on something better. First, know that ditching sugar is likely part of every nutrition program that you might consider jumping ship for. Second, if you’re training CrossFit or a mix of cardio, lifting, and body weight movements at intensity, you’re on the right track to results, and consistency with those is more important than a specialized other plan. Third, notice when you feel pulled off course by FMO! Start with a small handful of goals and rewards, but keep it simple without giving yourself too much choice. Make a plan for those substitutes and rewards and stick to it. Give it a whirl and see if it gives you the motivation you need to make things happen.