Rewards – because you’re so worth it

Let’s talk rewards.   In this fast paced world,  we can feel pressured to be everything to everyone and to do it all in our home life and career.   Whether you’re a working mum or full time homemaker,  a dad providing for his family and diy-ing everything around the house,  a student trying to get good grades or a young person trying make your parents proud, in the modern world the weight of the traditional stereotypes still bares heavy.   All these things build up into stress,  which for me was one of the reasons I ended up at a very unhealthy weight.   I take full responsibility for myself.   I just didn’t make good choices about what I ate or did.

Making the decision to change my lifestyle was the first achievement.   As I’ve mentioned before,  the achievements that come along during the long journey need to be recognised.   Whether just mentally noted or written in a journal.   I’m a visual type of person,  so seeing my progress on paper,  in a chart or comparison photos helped me to realise how far I’d come.   I believe achievements should be celebrated in a practical way.  There is no harm in giving yourself rewards.

It’s important to be kind to yourself and take the time to do something for yourself.  Essentially we need to love life and enjoy the present.   I learnt to be kind to myself by using treats and rewards for reaching small targets/goals and celebrating non scale victories.   The main thing here is that these treats and rewards would not include food.   I had to break the cycle of food related treats,  I used to think, “I’ve had a great exercise session,  so now I’ve earned a chocolate bar”,  sounds crazy but true.   Besides my food treats can be worked into a daily meal plan as part of a balanced diet,  this way I stay in control.   I try not to make them an extra thing because this can get out of control and lead to overindulgence.

Some of my favourite treats are baths with a new bubble bath on the market,  scented candles,  nail polish, make up,  costume jewellery,  a book or a new cd/music download – somehow life feels better to music.   Some treats have helped to enhance my healthy lifestyle,  a new pair of shoes/trainers/walking shoes, leads to new socks or sports wear which spur me on to exercise more.  Then there’s gadgets and technology which I see as investments into my healthy lifestyle,  or just a simple bunch of flowers or a plant that brighten my day.

Photo of walking shoes    Be kind to yourself – new walking shoes or a bunch of flowers, some of my little celebration treats

Rewards and treats don’t always have to be new things.  I’ve enjoyed rediscovering clothes, cosmetics and toiletries I had stored at home and not used. There were also the clothes that were too tight or small that now fit.   I even had new clothes that I couldn’t quite fit into or didn’t like how they looked.  As my body shape changed,  I would try them on and be delighted when the day came that I was more comfortable in them.   This sort of thing also gave me a little target to aim for.   Whatever you’re choice of celebration is,  the thing to remember is to mark the moment……..after all, you’re so worth it!

Portion control- Have my cake and eat it too!

Eating cake sounds like a bit of a contradiction to pursuing a healthy lifestyle but in fact no food should be off limits. I’m fully aware that I have a ‘sweet tooth’ and I’ve often joked that I don’t just have a sweet tooth, I have a full set! Unhealthy habits of overindulging on sweet, sugary, high fat foods and drinks was one of the reasons that I became obese in the first place.  Having said that, I know my life would pretty boring if I were to completely cut out indulgent food.  Also realistically I wouldn’t be able to keep it going for very long either.  This is where portion control comes in.

The thing that appealed to me most about the Weight Watchers program is that they don’t tell you what to eat and no food/drink is off limits . That’s important to me because I don’t like to feel restricted, that’s too much like a diet and I don’t like diets!  I spent some time getting to know which foods are better to eat in large quantities and which foods are better in small quantities.

Throughout my weight loss / lifestyle change journey I’ve had to acquire the skill of portion control, mostly through trial and error.  Starting with the basics of weighing and measuring foods to be sure of the amount that I was consuming.  There is no doubt that this can be time consuming but I’m willing to invest my time in doing something for my own long term benefit.  I bought a set of kitchen scales, which live on the counter top and after a while this became a routine part of my food preparation.

I’ve also learnt that along with portion control, an equal measure of self control is needed to really make a difference.  I give myself permission to enjoy my favourite sweet foods in small quantities.  For me it’s better to have a couple mini biscuits most days than to try to restrict myself to one or two regular sized biscuits a couple times a week. A personal preference which works for me.

A cup of cafe au lait and mini biscuits
One of my faves – Cafe au lait & mini biscuits

It took a while for me to really get to grips with portion control.  From experience I no longer buy large slabs or share bags of chocolate.  All the good intentions in the world doesn’t stop me from munching my way through them.  My mind is satisfied when I have a full portion whatever size it may be, so mini packs it is for me.

Another way that I work indulgent foods into my week is to plan for them.  If I have a birthday or similar celebration coming up, I take extra care to plan sensible healthy meals, as well as keeping up my exercise in the days leading up to it.  This helps me to fully enjoy the celebration without feeling like I’ve let myself go.  To me, special occasions should feel special and different to my daily routine.  Every day may be someone in the world’s birthday but that doesn’t mean I’ll be eating to cake everyday.  Know yourself and stay in control.

Trick or treat – Danger zone ahead!

Seven months after joining Weight Watchers I had reached a weight loss of 60 pounds (4st 4lbs).   I was very pleased because I was doing what I thought I needed to in order to lose weight and it was working.   I was being smart, eating healthy (low point food) for meals so that I could have my unhealthier (high point) treat at the end of the day, usually a sweet dessert or chocolate or both!  Looking back now, I know that I didn’t have a real change of mindset at this point, also I was in danger of becoming complacent because I was just working towards a goal, which was still a long way off.

The summer holidays came and I went off on my first all inclusive package holiday since starting out on my journey. This was a challenge to my efforts and could easily have set me back quite a few pounds of progress, but fortunately it was just a one week holiday and involved lots of walking around to visit the sights.   I was relieved to have only gained 2 pounds when I returned to the scales after that trip.  Over the years holidays have become one of my main learning experiences, you can read more about my thoughts on holidays here.

CC on holiday after 60lbs weight loss - danger zone
7 months after starting my journey – 60 pounds weight loss

Holidays are a rare occurrence but on an everyday basis the places I visit may seem harmless enough but in fact they can pose the most danger to my efforts.  The supermarket shop is always interesting.   I try to write a list, at first this was not so much because I was organised but more because I tend to be forgetful and would come home without a lot of the food I actually needed.

I’ve recognised the supermarket as one of my danger zones.  I’m a sucker for new products, especially sweet ones.  I can often be heard squealing with delight as I go around the aisles discovering new items..”oooo look at this, oooo look at that!”  Now I hear myself too and have a little chuckle about it.  The difference now is that I’m armed with a barcode scanner, which I use to check foods to see how high or low they are in Weight Watchers points before I buy them.  The higher the points value, the less healthy the food usually is.  Most of the time the item isn’t worth it to me and goes back on the shelf.  Instead I take photos of new products so that I can make my own healthier version at home.

Another of my danger zones is my workplace.  A social side effect of the workplace is the constant stream of indulgent food – biscuits, chocolates, birthday cakes, etc., every week there is one thing or another.  Combine this with a high paced, stressful day and I find myself in a weakened state. When I’m tired, it becomes easy to reach for a quick fix.  Knowing this I try to plan ahead, when I know that events are happening, I take in my own snacks – fruit, light snack bar, etc.

Photo of fruit and a light snack bar to avoid danger zones
Be prepared for danger zones with healthier snacks

I’ve started to think of it like this,… ‘if I didn’t bring it, I’m not eating it’.  But being only human, sometimes I still give in and have some.  When that happens I don’t dwell on it because in the grand scheme of things, it’s one fleeting moment.  I’ve learnt not to let it overshadow the good choices I’ve made that day or week and I no longer allow myself to use one poor or unplanned choice as an excuse to slide right back into my unhealthy habits.

Life is full of potential danger zones, getting to know your personal danger zones is not always easy.  The trouble is that you have to go through it to know how dangerous it is. If you’re like me, it can take several times before it clicks that I need to steer clear or arm myself against the danger beforehand.  So the next time you come to a danger zone, the trick is to stay in control of the treats.  Be aware and be prepared!