Tag Archive for rewards don’t work for weight loss

Summer Shape Up Part 4: You Don’t Deserve A Treat/Moral Licensing/Tomorrow Logic.

20150620_125014 (1)Hello from Aspen, Colorado!  Mark and I lived here in the early 90s, and we’re back for a long weekend.  I’d forgotten how majestic the Rockies are!

Pictures that have absolutely nothing to do with this Post will be randomly sprinkled throughout:)  You’ll see Maroon Bells, Ajax Mountain, and a 20150619_195723Food Festival – OMGosh.  Grilled Gizzards are now my new favorite food.

Did you catch my title?  If you take my group fitness classes, you’ve heard me say this a 1000 times at the end of the class.  Then I usually say, “it was just a workout, we didn’t do anything to make the world a better place.”  And therein lies my purpose in today’s piece.

There’s a theory called the “Moral Licensing Loophole”;  I learned that term in Gretchen Rubin’s book on Habits, called Better Than Before.  ( I’m ALL about habits.)  The Moral Licensing Loophole means that we give ourselves permission to do something “bad”, because we feel we’ve been “good”. (This is a continuation of my assertion that our thoughts are more important than a food plan.)

In my 28 years of working in health and fitness, I see this theory used all. the. time.  Heck.  I’ve used this theory!

Here’s some examples:

*That class was so hard, I can definitely afford wine tonight.

* That run was so long, I deserve ice cream.

* I just did 100 lunges! The french fries and cookies won’t even register with my body!

* I’ve worked out every day this week – I must have Calorie Deficit going on, potato chips and beer won’t even bring me back to normal!

* I’m going to overeat today and just work it off tomorrow, and probably the next day too.  So this doesn’t really count.

20150620_171446(0)Actually, that last one also falls under the “tomorrow logic” category.  As in, Now doesn’t matter because I’m going to follow good habits Tomorrow.

I’ve even fooled myself into thinking that extreme indulgence today will give me extra self control tomorrow.  Does that sound familiar?

Here’s some facts, followed by thoughts we need to cement in our brain:

1) Studies show that Rewards inspire TEMPORARY behavior.

2) Everything we do counts. We are the culmination of our every day habits.

3) Tomorrow-logic doesn’t work, because our actions and behaviors cause brain chemistry that perpetuates more of the same behavior, not different behavior.

Let’s look at these points a little deeper.

“Rewards only inspire temporary behavior”.  That’s a well studied, well 20150619_203249documented fact, yet rewards are used so often to motivate behavior change that you’d never know it. Think about all those 12 week weight loss contests.  Or attempts at losing weight before a wedding or a beach vacation. Who do you know that’s actually kept the weight off once the designated time frame is over?  I have to keep beating this drum:  weight loss is NEVER a big enough motivation to eat healthy and exercise forever.  If it was, 95% of everyone who goes on a diet wouldn’t gain their weight – plus a few extra pounds – back.

A “reward” implies an “end”.  When this is about weight loss, that translates to a temporary, and often heroic, effort at Deprivation, feelings of Sacrifice, and a sense of Hardship.  All of these are Negative Values.  They make us feel as if we deserve some sort of Prize at the end, usually a food prize.


20150619_200732Change your thoughts about the food you eat.  This was what my last Post focused on, but there’s more.  In addition to looking at Bad Foods as potentially cancer causing, or migraine causing, or heart disease causing, what about framing Good Foods and Good Choices in a positive light.

*”Thank goodness I don’t eat after dinner anymore, I sleep so much better now.”

*”Thank goodness I don’t drink alcohol every night, I sleep better, my face isn’t puffy, and I have better energy in the morning.”

*”Thank goodness I started packing lunch every day.  I can’t remember the last time I felt sleepy in the afternoon.”

*”Thank goodness I’ve gotten rid of the starchy and sugary carbs, my stomach is so flat!”

Positive Assertions!  Friday night we went to a food festival, which was amazing!  We both ate a lot of food, and felt pretty full.   Alright, we probably ate too much, BUT, no bread and no pasta.  ( there were no desserts, so that wasn’t even a temptation)  We got back (walked home up a mountain!), feeling stuffed, but our stomachs looked fine – honestly.

Not being bloated and sick and gassy, it’s WONDERFUL. That’s our motivation for not eating grainy, sugary carbs.  We Feel So NORMAL and good that it’s worth it.

“Everything we do counts. We’re the culmination of our every day habits.” 20150620_171508 This is why I counsel my clients to start eating well RIGHT NOW.  Don’t wait for Sunday, or the 1st, start now.  It’s not about weight, it’s about whether you’re putting foods in your mouth that make you feel good or make you feel like crap – in the long term.

No fooling ourselves that a little bit of poison doesn’t matter.  Or that falling off the wagon won’t hurt.  Everything counts.  Look down at your stomach – is it flat or puffy?  Are you energetic and clear thinking, or tired and foggy?  How’s your skin?  How’s your sleep?  Do you digest without bloating, farting or burping?

Everything counts, and here’s why:

“Tomorrow-logic doesn’t work, because our actions and behaviors always cause brain chemistry that perpetuates more of the same behavior, not different behavior.”

When we tell ourselves that we’re not going to drink the wine or eat the pasta or have the chips, and then we do, we STRENGTHEN the habit in our brain.  We don’t weaken it with our actions or our pledge to be better tomorrow, ever.  The action creates chemicals that create substance -matter- in our brain. The action makes it harder to resist next time, not easier.  If over indulgence was a deterrent, we’d have no obese people, no alcoholics, no drug addicts, no gamblers, etc.  

Indulgence begets more indulgence.  Always.

Solution:  In addition to changing your thoughts about what makes you feel good and happy, access your circumstances and surroundings.  What do you need to change there?

Could you:

*Keep your home a junk free zone.

*Pack a lunch every day.

* Make enough dinner that you have leftovers for lunch.

*Pledge to quit depriving yourself, and eat 3 meals a day of Real Whole Food.

*Make butter, olive oil, and coconut oil regular additions to each of your meals so that you’re not starving.

*Set aside time to plan your whole week, so you can schedule grocery shopping, packing, and cooking, and power cooking.

*Want a sweet or a salty?  Make It Yourself.  Learn how to bake cookies with almond flour, honey, and dark chocolate.  Learn how to bake homemade french fries in your oven. Learn how to make homemade ice cream, with real cream, swerve, and vanilla or cocoa powder.

Back to the word “deprivation”, that’s not what being healthy is about, but that’s the term and the attitude that’s been instilled in all of us since the 1970s, right?  “If you want to be healthy, you need to eat boiled chicken and steamed broccoli.”  That’s such bull crap!

I still remember Mrs Poland from my high school saying, “if you’re not hungry, you’re not losing weight”.  I believed that for decades, and it’s so wrong! Hunger and deprivation set us up to Fail, not Win.

Hunger’s the enemy, and we can keep it at bay by having hearty meals full of good fats, good proteins, and a TON of vegetables; not over exercising, and working hard at getting enough sleep.

Those are the secrets and the tricks to being a Normal Weight, feeling good, being healthy, and having nice skin.  Honest.  Get in touch with me if you need help.