Some of us are used to receiving rewards in the form of food, perhaps from childhood, or just as a way we’ve been used to treating ourselves for good behavior. This can sometimes be in conflict with our health goals depending on the foods we reward ourselves with. It may be okay to reward yourself with fruit for example, but you might be used to indulging in sodas or cheesesteaks. Especially if you’re trying to reward yourself after achieving certain health goals such as exercising a certain amount of time per week or eating a veggie/fruit with every meal, you may find yourself negating your progress.

So instead of rewarding yourself with foods or drinks, how about rewarding yourself with non-food items? It could be an experience or an object. And, it doesn’t always have to involve money if you can get creative. Here are a list of non-food related rewards that I came up with:

– A manicure/pedicure (either at home with nail polish and manicure/pedicure equipment you already have, buying nail polish and nail tools, or getting one done at the salon)
– New clothes (fitness or non-fitness related, can be from a thrift store)
– Video games (can be an old game you haven’t played in a while, or you could buy a new one)
– Fitness gear/accessories (you can buy, or you can design your own online and buy one for yourself while selling to others)
– A day/weekend/overnight trip, with or without friends/family
– Watching a show/movie
– Coloring pages/books (print or buy)
– Progress selfie or photoshoot (DIY or paid)
– Signing up for a course you’ve always wanted to take (music lessons, a program that gives credits, foreign language lessons, etc.)
– Home decor
– Scented candles
– Hiring someone to clean the house
– Flowers/plants
– Jewelry (buy or DIY)
– Books that you’ve been wanting to read (you can check out the library too)
– Stationery or journaling materials
– Haircut or dying your hair (DIY or at a salon)
– Massage (either set aside time to do one yourself, ask a partner/family member, or pay for one)
– Splurging at a cheap store such as the Dollar Tree (and setting a budget, such as $10)
– Live streaming, creating a video, or blogging about your progress for friends/family/others to see

I think it’s a good idea to come up with not only non-food related rewards, but also free rewards that require no money. For example, I already own some nail polish and some nail tools, so I can easily give myself a manicure as a reward. I have a printer at home and I already own some markers and colored pencils, so I can print out coloring pages. I have an account with my local library and own a tablet, so I can check out eBooks for free. Some courses are available for free online, so I don’t necessarily have to spend money to take a course.

The reason I like non-food related rewards is because I usually get the same amount of enjoyment (or even more) through other objects or experiences. For example, it feels nice and relaxing after cleaning the house (or getting someone to clean the house). It feels refreshing to get a new haircut. It feels engaging to play a new video game. It feels motivating to see yourself in clothes that flatter you and look good in pictures. And also, it just feels good that you’re not being driven by what you eat. Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s how it feels for me.

Non-food related rewards would be useful for me when I’m already out and about. Rather than buying sweets or fattening foods to entertain myself, I can for example buy an interesting book or engage in a fun activity. This would be especially useful when going on vacation. I would have my normal meals, and in between, I would find other interesting activities to do. Instead of consuming cotton candy and soda at an amusement park for example, I would just get the best possible ticket/pass and enjoy all the rides.

Personally, I’m going to work on incorporating more non-food related rewards. I’m going to use them after completing a workout (aside from my normal meals or consuming water), when I go out for fun, and when planning out celebrations. For example, I might watch a good show after taking a yoga class, or I might take photos when going out, or I might dress up for an occasion. Of course, I might still have to eat, but it won’t be the main focus or reward.

If you want to start using non-food related rewards, you should start by identifying when you’re going to use this. Define the event, and then define the reward ahead of time. Here’s an example. After one month of exercising 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes a day, you will treat yourself to a manicure/pedicure from a salon. It’s specific enough so that you know when you have achieved your goal, and you have outlined exactly what you’re going to do as a reward.

Have you ever tried using non-food related rewards? Do you think it is helpful in progressing with your health goals?