Learn the Most Effective Strategies for Influencing Healthy Food Choices
Are you over weight with poor eating habits? Do you struggle to continually make the “right” food choices? To choose the “healthier” option when eating or God forbid actually just say no? If you struggle with making these choices, you will want to read on.
For many of us, when focused on letting go of those excess pounds, we have tracked calories and kept a food log to keep us focused on making the “healthier” options. According to the latest research done by Cornell University in a study called “McHealthy”, they have found small incentives that make you feel rewarded and provide you the motivation to continually make healthier choices.
The research found that giving people points that can be redeemed later when choosing healthier food choices had a significant impact. Providing behavioral rewards versus outcome rewards for making healthier food options seems to have the biggest impact on helping you make healthier food choices. The research showed that getting an immediate reward for choosing a healthier food coincides with long-term goals of being healthier.
What does this mean for you? Come up with a behavioral reward system for yourself instead of just focusing on outcome rewards. We have outcome rewards of feeling good, getting on the scale and seeing a smaller number, fitting in a smaller size pants, etc. What happens when you have worked hard all week and or for the day and then you get on the scale and you do not see a change? Instant discouragement. Once the feelings of discouragement set in, many of us open ourselves up for losing focus and letting go of our goals in that moment. This is where we say, “screw it” I am having that pizza or ice cream or donuts we had been saying no to all week. I know you know exactly what I am talking about.
Creating your own Behavior Reward Program:
We all get in a mental rut at times and need assistance in re-focusing. Look at certain foods you want to incorporate more like drinking water versus crystal light or choosing specific food items when stopping at fast food for lunch or eating foods that are high in protein versus foods that are simple sugars. Decide first what specific foods you want to eat more of; make an actual list. Then add an immediate point system or monetary value to each time you make the healthier option. You can use a point system to track your progress such as adding coins to a jar. Be sure you are only measuring behaviors and rewarding behaviors instead of the actual outcome.
The key with creating a reward system is it needs to be immediate and it needs to have value to you. Other example may be every time you take a twenty minute walk you get twenty minutes of TV time. You can build up to bigger rewards like coins for the day at a spa or buying a specific item you have been wanting. For example, getting your protein intake every day for a month gives you a day at the spa.
Setting up a reward or incentive program is just important for maintaining certain behaviors as well, so be creative. If you notice you are starting to slip or go back into out patterns or behaviors it is time to set up a reward system in that area. I would love to hear from you. What reward system have you put into place? What have founds helps you in staying on track with making healthier food or lifestyle choices?
Sending a big hug,
Bariatric Dietitian & Behavior Change Coach