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Serbrider 05-16-2010 05:04 PM

Thoughts on this "rewards" system for weight loss?
 
I'm the kind of person who has to directly see the results of what I'm doing. So... for quite a while I have been trying to think of something I could do to reward my weight loss (apparently my subconscious doesn't think that weight loss itself is a big enough reward), to make me WANT to lose weight.

Well... I think I've thought of something.

I like to buy things. Not ALL the time... but I do. I also have the money to do this... but since my parents are currently paying for everything for me (food, housing, some of the extras), I dont' really have any necessities to pay for... just fun stuff.

So... I was thinking:

$5 per pound. I weigh once a week, and can only get the reward if I have in excess of 1 lb, preferably 2 lbs. If I gain, I have to physically earn $10 per pound. Meaning I have to find a job doing something (like an odd job, even just with parents) where I have to earn at least the $10 per pound. But the catch is that it has to be something physical, like going out and mowing the lawn out at the campsite that they're working on, or fixing fences on the ranch where I will be living with my grandparents next year, etc. Stuff that needs to be done, but I'd be doing it instead of them. So I'd still be working off whatever, which I don't always particularly enjoy doing... ;)

But if I lose a lb when I weigh in, I have $5 I can use that week, so it becomes an incentive to lose more than 1 lb (more like 2 or 3) so that I can have a bit more to use. And it's for the whole week or I can put it in a savings account for a slightly bigger prize.

I do have around 60-70 lbs I'm wanting/needing to lose... so altogether that's around $300 to $350.


So... thoughts? Does anyone else use a reward system? I have no desire for new clothes, no desire for specific foods/treats... but since I have constant mood swings, I never know WHAT I might want... so the money would be better than one thing every week. :)

I'd be doing whatever it takes to lose the weight, most likely calorie counting with consistent exercise (probably swimming and/or walking/hiking due to my urticaria stuff).

Shmead 05-16-2010 05:33 PM

You'd do better to reward yourself for behaviors (which you control) than for weight loss (which is a bit less linear). Otherwise, you are going to run into weird weeks when you haven't lost weight but you KNOW it's water weight because you are about to start your period or whatever. Over and over and over again in this site, you'll see that the successful ones were the ones that regulated behavior, not weight loss.

I'd set yourself a set of weekly goals--a "bare minimum" amount of calorie restriction and exercise per week. If you do exactly that, you get nothing. If you do "better" than the bare minimum--skip a weekly treat you have planned, or do extra exercise--you pay yourself. If you do "worse"--skip a planned exercise or over eat, you pay in by some proportional amount.

Serbrider 05-16-2010 05:46 PM

ok... took me a moment to understand that last part. :p

Yeah... I do see your point... but... I don't spend that much money to begin with... and for me... since I'm ALWAYS so busy, it's hard for me to regulate what I do "better" or "worse" a lot of times, and the only way that I see that I can truly see the difference is in the actual weight. If it's water weight... it's water weight. And if I gain, and that's water weight, then I just work harder, and I still earn money... I just can't spend it. ;)

Like I said... I do see your point, but I'm so scatterbrained as it is, that it's kind of hard for me to completely see something as a specific "success" or "failure". I have a tendancy to forget most of my day... if probed, I can remember... but it doesn't come back up easily.

I dunno... maybe I'm completely wrong in this... :p

Shmead 05-16-2010 06:00 PM

I think learning to plan and monitor your behavior is the best way to learn to control and monitor your weight--otherwise, what will you "work harder" at?

You need to have a plan for both food and exercise: just having a vague intention to "work harder" and "make better choices" and "try to exercise" is basically a way to get all the misery of dieting with none of the results.

Here are a couple ideas:
1)Assign "points" to every "good" behavior: every day you eat on plan, every time you exercise. Keep a list of total points in a notebook you carry or on your phone. Once you reach some number of points, give yourself some amount of money.

2) Take a calendar (you can make one on the computer or on posterboard) and on each day, put "exercise" (or "E") and "Food" (or "F"). Add any other areas of behavior you are regulating--water intake or taking your vitamins or whatever. Get some stickers. At the end of the day, put a sticker over each behavior you were successful with: did you exercise? Did you eat properly? When you get to the end of the week or month, reward yourself based on how many stickers you have.

Serbrider 05-16-2010 06:58 PM

Yeah... I can see that... I dunno. I'll think about what I want to do. I just travel a TON... and sometimes I can't always bring a bunch of stuff with me... but I probably will if I'm going to carry a notebook and calorie book...

I dunno... I'll figure something out.

jennyplain 05-17-2010 10:00 AM

I do something like this, but it is for longer term rewards than weekly things. For example, for every pound I lose, I am setting aside $5 (like you). Then, when I get to my goal of 102 pounds, I will have $510 to spend on a brand new wardrobe. I'm not frustrated by week-to-week fluctuations.

In the meantime, I had a big reward at 26 pounds (a new bike), and I'm planning a big one for 50 and 75. Yes, it takes a little longer to see the benefits, but I'm not a slave to the scale. It sort of motivates me to work harder.

One thing I did do, when I first started exercising, was give myself money for every day I went to the gym. Now I'm in a routine and don't need the reward, but for the first couple of months, I lived for blowing that money on Amazon at the end of the week!

QuilterInVA 05-17-2010 10:36 AM

The only way you will be successful at maintaining your weight once you lose it, it to make the permanent lifestyle changes and be totally aware of what you are eating and why you are eating it.

We don't reward ourselves for gaining weight and I don't see why you feel the only way to measure your success is by the scale and then to reward yourself with money. I can tell you now you will not lose weight every week and some weeks are going to be better than others. Much better to reward yourself for the lifestyle changes and the reward is good health and feeling better.

Am I wrong in thinking you might be a teen? If so, I can see you line of thinking better.

And one last thing, never ever reward yourself with food or food treats. Food is fuel for you body, not a reward, not comfort, not to be eaten because you are bored, etc.

Sameen 05-17-2010 01:26 PM

i will have to agree with qilterinva..... however i can also understand your need to reward yourself... so what i do is that i take something that absolutely needs to get done for instance a haircut and then i wait for a month and i reward my self by getting the haircut for not the number of pounds ive lost but just to reward myself for sticking to the lifestyle change plan!

Desiderata 05-17-2010 01:50 PM

My choices are similar to Sameen's. While I've assigned rewards to every 5 and 10 lbs (this time and my last time around :) ), I tend to "splurge" on tools that aid my weight loss. A food scale, a new exercise DVD, new hand weights, a new bathing suit, running shoes, etc.

It has an interesting effect. Sure, some might say it'd be good to have all these tools from the get-go to help the scale move faster, but because the changes are implemented gradually, I'm more likely to adopt them in as new behaviors. Putting off the purchases makes me desire having them! By the time the food scale arrived, I was actually excited about it and very motivated to use it. :)

I know you travel frequently, and so might be less "stuff"-oriented, but would this approach have any value to you?

kaplods 05-17-2010 02:37 PM

There's nothing wrong with short term rewards for behavior that naturally provides a reward, but only in the long-term.

Yes, weight loss is a reward (for the behaviors that led to it), but it's a long-term reward. The benefits of the behavior may not be seen for weeks or even months. Unhealthy habits, provide an instant reward - a candybar gives you pleasure NOW.

I have a masters' degree in developmental psychology, and a bachelor's degree in primarily behavioral psychology, and I could cite research, but that's rather boring (and available in any intro to psychology textbook) - it boils down to short-term rewards tend to be more powerful than long-term rewards. Most people succeed by creating short-term rewards (which may just be a sense of gratification, reminding oneself that the benefits will eventually be tangible).

You can give yourself a pat on the back, every once in a while, and call it good - or you can create short-term rewards that you find meaningful (whether that's something tangible like money, or symbolic like stickers).
I would agree though that you don't want to make food a reward. As it is, with all the cultural and family messages we get about food, it's too easy to see "bad" food as a reward, and "good" food as punishment, which sets you up to see a healthy diet as a punishment rather than as a way to take care of yourself.

I'm not a teenager, but you would think I was if you looked at my weight loss binder (ironically a tool I had given up, because I didn't think I needed it). Yesterday, I realized that I was far more successful when I was keeping my weight loss binder (with it's sticker charts and rewards) so I dusted off the binder, and have committed to using it again.


Actually it's more of a "lifestyle" binder, because some of the behaviors I keep track of aren't really weight loss related. For example, I even have a sticker chart for writing on my novel (another behavior that if it earns any reward at all, it's in the long haul).

I have sheets in my binder that look like empty bingo cards, but each box represents a pound lost. Every time I reach a new lowest weight, I put stickers in the corresponding boxes. If I gain, I don't remove the sticker - but I can't "earn" the next sticker until I reach the new lower weight (that's why each box has two numbers in it. The # of pounds lost, and the weight I would be at that pound. For example. My "next" box has 310 written in one corner, and 84 lbs in another (because it's the weight I'll be at, when I lose 84 lbs). The following box would be 309/85.

For every 5 lbs (completing a "row" of stickers), I would write in a little reward (most of them cost very little money, because hubby and I are on a fixed income and we have to be careful with money). The "rule" is that once I write it down, I can't buy or get "that thing" until I lose the weight. Sometimes, when money was really tight, that reward was something free like a specific book from the library. However, for really big milestones, I'd choose something bigger. For my 50 lb loss, my reward was an MP3 player to use when exercising (we bought an older model, at pawn shop or second-hand store).

My best advice is to focus on rewards, not punishments. Unless you're a very unusual woman, you punish yourself enough for failure - you don't have to pile on more. Besides, tons of research has proven that rewards are generally more powerful modifiers of behavior than punishment. A college professor of mine once said that "punishment rarely permanently changes behavior, it only temporarily represses it."

You want permanent change, not termporary ones, so stay away from the punishment.

Personally, I find the sillier and more childish rewards the most successful. I think for a couple reasons. One being that I find most weight loss skills rather tedious. Injecting fun into a boring subject has always helped me be more enthusiastic about it. The other being that it's a serious subject for me, becuase I have health problems. When I start to realize how serious it is, I get very sad and overwhelmed, when I keep it fun and even silly, it feels more doable. If you looked at my silly binder, you'd think "anyone can do this," creating something that is "so easy a five year old could do it," I don't dwell on how hard weight loss really is (it's so hard, most people don't ever do it - but it doesn't have to be as hard as we tend to make it).

I have my binder divided into different subjects. In one section I keep my weigh-in data (I started using a calendar, and just wrote my weigh-ins down on the days in the calendar boxes). In another section, I keep my "bingo" cards with the stickers. It helps me to pick the reward before I lose the 5 lbs that will earn it. Then it's something I look forward to, to motivate the weight loss (Even before I abandoned my binder, I had been getting lazy - and didn't decide on the reward until after I lost the weight. For me, it was more motivationg to have the reward in mind ahead of time).

Another section is my food diary pages. I have another section for meal planning - but I've never been very good at doing that ahead of time (I'd probably be more successful if I did - something I need to work on).

Another section is for exercise. It includes a new set of "bingo" cards for exercise (I don't currently give any rewards for exercise, other than the sticker in the box). Each box symbolizing at least 20 minutes of fast exercise or 40 minutes of slow exercise. I also have a folder in this section for articles on exercise or motivating stories on exercise....

Another section is for recipes I find that I want to try (I have a folder in that section for clipped recipes).

Another section is for inspirational stuff and interesting articles I've read (I have a folder in that section too for magazine clippings).


There's nothing special about how I put my binder together. I just picked stuff that had meaning to me. I have to fight to keep it simple. And I think that's important. If it gets too complicated, you won't do it, or it won't be fun, and you won't do it for long.

When I started my binder it didn't have an exercise section, because I didn't worry about exercise until I'd already lost quite a few pounds.


My system isn't right for anyone, but it works for me, when I use it. In designing your own, I only have some really basic advice. Keep it simple. Keep it specific (your rewards and the behavior you're rewarding, should be specific. Something that is judged objectively, not based on how well you think you're doing, so that your perception of success or failure doesn't cloud your judgement. If you're feeling lousy, no matter how well you do, you won't count it as reward-worthy success.), and keep it fun. If it isn't fun to do, it won't work as a reward.

Gold32 05-17-2010 02:55 PM

No desiderata, you are entirely correct about the putting it off makes you want it more. And makes you more likely to use them, because you've been picturing yourself using them for so long.

For me, I'm not setting weekly or pound markers. Nothing that regular. But I do have a "If I'm down a size or two before my vacation at the end of summer, I WILL buy a new swimsuit" goal. For me, taking the rewards as they seem right works best. When I can wear size 12 again, I'll buy new clothes. That kind of thing. I recently bought new running shoes because I picked up a new program, have been sticking with it, and so needed them. It was not because I met some arbitrary number. So I hope the rewards will keep you motivated, but for me, the regular ones don't work at all. I'm more motivated by the goal itself- to be happy and healthier. How does splurging on a haircut help that? (Noooo disrespect to those that need this motivation, mind you. Whatever works for you.)

If you really want to keep the rewards, I don't think they will motivate you much if you don't have a clear idea on what your working for. "Money" (that you barely spend as is) doesn't sound like a motivator in itself. "Money" is too vague, too easy to say, "So what...?" Think of what you want to do with the money (like my swimsuit) and it might motivate you more than just cash. If you can only think of things that you "might kinda sorta wanna" spend money on down the road, then maybe money isn't the right type of reward. What else might be a "treat" for yourself that you usually withold from?

That said, I agree with Shmead in that you do need to be looking at the long term, and the only way to achieve a healthy lifestyle for life is to pay good attention to the choices that go in to it. You need a plan of some sort. Think about it some more. You sound both young and smart. I'm sure you can achieve your goals.

Sameen 05-17-2010 04:35 PM

thank you for your post kaplods! i have been writing in your food journal but your binder is really interesting me right now! i think that will be next goal! to make a nice binder with the kinds of things i want in my lifestyle!!

thank you once again!!! i love making things and this will be by next project... will keep me occupied as well:)

Serbrider 05-17-2010 04:52 PM

Thanks guys. The thing is... not a whole lot motivates me. :p I'm the kind of person that, if you stick me in a concrete cell with no windows, I'd still find a way to keep myself at least somewhat content. ;) I'd either come up with stories in my head, sleep, sing, etc. :p Which makes it hard because I am a reward motivated person. What I do with my schoolwork is that I can't go riding until I have all of my schoolwork done and my room cleaned. Or I can't play a specific game until I do. That way it's not the fact that I finished my schoolwork (or lost the weight) that is the reward, because I'm not quite... umm... like that.

I do like the idea of setting aside the money for a new wardrobe. If I do that, I might change the amount to a dollar per "good behavior". That way by the time I reach my goal weight, I will hopefully have more money to spend. ;)

But yeah... it's horrible... but also nice... but I don't complain about circumstances much. People... different story. ;)


ETA: on the thing of the binder, I don't usually have room in my purse/backpack for that (and I travel a lot... :p ), but about a month ago, I bought this notebook. A smallish notebook, lined paper... and I decorated with all of my favorite things... things that'll make me WANT to take it out... even just to look at those things. ;) And... I might print out some things that I can check off or put stickers on. I do like stickers. :p

And yeah... I'm a teen... to answer a couple peoples' question.


kaplods - do you think you could show me a picture of your "bingo" thing? I'm not quite "seeing" what you're describing to me. :p

Desiderata - I move from one place to another too much. :p I already have a set of weights, a couple exercise DVDs, and running shoes (albeit old running shoes)... and... I'm really not needing much else. A lot of my exercising after the summer (and hopefully my urticaria will die down some at that point) will be going for a morning run with my dog. Something I've always wanted to do... but never had the energy to do (my dog can RUN... :p ).

Gold32... I'm not motivated by clothing. I guess I could do something like "I can't get my dog a new toy or collar until I reach this weight"... because getting stuff for my dog DOES motivate me. :p Oooh... for the first like... 20 lbs... I could do a furminator as the goal... I've always wanted one of those things (and it'd be helpful for when I am volunteering at the nearby dog shelter or working at the local vet clinic)... but... the $50 price tag just kind of turned me off... ;)


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