Why reward meals are important for everyone
Including a reward meal in your weekly eating plan can mean the difference between success or failure in the long run. In this article I’d like to offer a few rules to follow to ensure that you stay on track.
The process you are going through is all about change. Change is something that is very uncomfortable and difficult to maintain in the short term. To be successful at creating change you must be motivated to do so, an absence of motivation will inevitably result in failure.
Emotionally we are motivated by positive and negative influences for instance you may have decided that you wanted to begin this program because you are excited at the thought of slipping into that tiny new dress, that’s emotional pleasure. On the flip side you may have begun this program because you are terrified at the thought of having to get into your swimwear on the beach, that’s emotional pain.
You may be familiar with the term “carrot and stick”, some individuals are more motivated to achieve success with carrots and others require more stick. As our goal is health which requires a positive frame of mind I prefer to motivate people with emotional pleasure. Regular recognition through reward meals therefore gives positive reinforcement and recognises the fact that you have managed to strike a healthy balance in your diet. These small regular rewards are great “carrots” that help us focus on success in the short term.
Many question whether reward meals are counterproductive on a fat loss plan. Although a reward meal will not support you efforts towards becoming healthier nutritionally I do believe that regular reward meals help create more of a behavioural and emotional balance. Read on for more ideas as to why this may be the case.
It’s unrealistic to assume someone should adopt a perfect diet 100% per cent of the time. Even those such as full time athletes that eat health foods as part of there profession are allowed phases where rules around foods and drink become relaxed or removed.
Many personalities I have worked with have an all or nothing approach to diet and exercise meaning that when they are motivated they put everything into being the best they can possibly be. The inflexibility in this approach usually means that when one factor goes wrong the whole structure they had comes crashing down which results in inactivity, binge eating and drinking and a step back to square one. Finding a happy medium between health food and treats, exercise and rest is a much more sustainable approach which results in life balance and long term health. With this approach you never feel that you are “on” or “off” the wagon but rather that you continue to steer your health in the right direction.
The average persons diet (in the west) is generally not the healthiest and is a huge contributor to the health problems we suffer as a nation. Unless you are constantly surrounded by athletes and health fanatics in an attempt to improve your health you will likely find yourself eating and drinking produce very different from those around you. This of course draws attention and makes it harder to fit in and be “normal”, particularly among certain social groups such as friends drinking and smoking.
Although this is something you must learn how to cope with in certain situations such as birthdays and Christmas its a great release to join in with others and indulge in some luxurious foods and drinks and be much more relaxed about the whole situation. Planning such events to fit into your schedule as reward meals gives you the flexibility to be able to do this without the feeling of guilt that you are being counterproductive to your overall campaign to be healthier.
Reward meals rules – damage limitation
1. Reward yourself for successfully sticking to the program.
A reward meal is recognition for fully completing all of your weekly workouts and sticking with the diet plan for the whole week. If you did not stick to the plan and still grant yourself a reward meal you are completely defeating the concept of reward and stepping further away from desirable results you have spent some much time and money investing in.
2. Limit your reward to one meal every 7 days.
One meal can be of course inclusive of several courses but temptation to lengthen the period of reward such as turning a reward meal into a reward day should be resisted.
Your reward meal should begin as you are seated to eat and finished as you walk away from the table.
3. Begin your meal with a protein based starter.
Consuming protein first is very important for damage limitation and an undoing of all your hard work throughout the week. Protein helps keep blood sugar levels closer to normal and limits a rocketing of blood sugar levels when consuming sugary foods. High blood sugar is likely to lead to fat gain. As protein is also filling it also means that you will likely consume less sugars and fats before becoming full if you begin your meal with a protein source. An example of such a starter might be a portion of BBQ chicken wings before a pizza.
4. Don’t be tempted to over eat.
Eat until you have a feeling of fullness and not beyond. Eating past the point of feeling full will only make you feel unwell and may undo the hard work you have done over the past week.
5. Enjoy guilt free.
Providing you follow all of the above rules take comfort in the fact that the net effect of your actions means you can enjoy such foods and still be slimmer, fitter and healthier than ever before.