How To Establish A Healthy Reward System For Fitness + Weight Loss Goals

How To Establish A Healthy Reward System For Fitness + Weight Loss Goals

As human beings, we need incentives to achieve just about anything worth having in life.

Sometimes, the end goal of our actions (losing weight, getting fitter, forming a running habit, etc.) isn’t enough.

It takes too damn long to get to the results stage of our journey! 

This is why so many people fail to achieve healthy goals they set for themselves. 

We oftentimes need incentives + rewards that we can achieve sooner.

Nothing too extreme…just rewards that act as those little breadcrumbs to help us reach that larger end-goal! 🙂

Now, what makes us think like this you ask?

The Incentive Theory of Motivation

This way of thinking strongly emphasizes “The Incentive Theory” of psychology…and I find it FASCINATING!

Basically, this theory implies that human beings are naturally driven towards actions that will produce rewards, and are steered away from actions that produce negative consequences. (1)

A.k.a. our bodies want to feel warm and fuzzy ALL THE TIME and aren’t genetically predisposed to accepting feelings of pain and discomfort very well. 🙄

For example, when most start a running habit they quit within days.


Because it DOESN’T FEEL GOOD when you start!

It only begins to feel enjoyable after a consistent and continuous effort.

Basically, you’re going to have to get through a number of really crappy runs before you start having amazing runs consistently.

Now, to this…the body naturally says NOPE — NOT WORTH IT!

Because this action (running despite the discomfort) is producing negative consequences!

It’s natural for your body to tell your brain that this activity should be a no-go.

This is a survival tactic that’s built into our minds. 

Maybe back in the caveman days when we had predators to fear in the wild, this was a solid way of thinking…but in modern-day society, this only leads to self-sabotage (which I’ve had plenty of experience with).

We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable in order to produce any results in our lives.

Especially when it pertains to health + fitness. 

To get you started establishing a rewards system that will lead you towards your end-goal I’ve developed some key tips that you’ll want to follow…

7 Useful Tips For Establishing A Reward System

1) Earn Your Rewards

There is a fine line between treating yo’self and overindulging.

The key here is to make sure that the rewards are genuinely EARNED over time.

Rewards should be given based on how often you followed through with your plans to be healthier.

Perfection has nothing to do with it.

I classify following through with plans as “showing up”.

For example, if you have a crappy workout one day, but you got your butt out the door before your full-time job to do it…that’s still an insane win on your part!

You’re going to have weeks where you have setbacks or roadblocks on your health journey. This is natural.

So, I wouldn’t necessarily base rewards on the results you see, but on how often you show up and keep promises to yourself.

2) Long-Term vs. Short-Term Rewards

You’ll need to schedule smaller rewards for the short-term and larger rewards for the long-term.

Be clear with yourself as to what constitutes in your mind a “small” reward versus a “large” reward.

I separate small rewards into two categories: Daily and Weekly

I usually allow myself small rewards once a week, and sometimes set even smaller rewards for once a day!

For example, once a week I’ll schedule out time for my boyfriend and me to have a nice dinner together.

Sectioning off that time gives me the peace of mind that no matter how hectic the work-week gets, we’ll have that relaxing time pre-planned.

As far as an even smaller daily reward, I’ve made it a point to section off 30-minutes a day to practice self-care (taking a bath, reading a book, meditating, etc).

Examples of daily rewards include:

  • Taking a long bath
  • Meditation
  • A cup of herbal tea
  • Learning a new recipe
  • Watching a favorite movie

Examples of weekly rewards include:

  • Having an at-home spa-day
  • Making a vision board
  • Going out to lunch with a friend
  • A fun night out with friends
  • Buying a new book you’ve wanted to read

As far as larger rewards, I separate them into two categories as well: Monthly and Ultimate.

For my monthly reward, I’ll set a larger incentive once a month as a “gift” for all my hard work!

Examples of monthly rewards include: 

  • A new workout outfit
  • Taking a cooking class
  • Getting a new hairstyle
  • Signing up for a new fitness class
  • Getting a massage

Now, for the big kahuna — The Ultimate Reward!

Choosing this is super important since this is what you’ll be working towards during your journey.

Now, the end result of achieving your health + fitness goals is a reward in itself; however, it helps to have a reward pre-planned for the very end!

Examples of ultimate rewards include:

  • Booking a vacation
  • Buying a new wardrobe
  • Having a professional photo-shoot
  • Investing in classes to learn a new skill (music, painting, etc.)
  • A new fancy piece of workout equipment

So, remember!

There are four types of rewards: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Ultimate.

Sectioning your rewards based on these four categories will help you stay better organized and motivated during your journey.

[P.S. A fun idea is to have a “reward jar” where you write rewards on little sheets of paper and choose them at random!] 

3) Free vs. Paid

Keep in mind that not all rewards have to cost money!

I recommend utilizing free rewards as much as possible, so you can save for that ultimate reward when you’ve hit the end-goal of your journey.

Some examples of awesome free rewards are:

  • Having a picnic
  • Planning a board-game night with friends
  • Going on a nature hike
  • Sleeping in
  • Writing a goals list
  • Taking a bubble bath

There are endless amounts to choose from.

Just be creative and figure out free-options that you’ll genuinely love!

4) Experiences Over “Things”

People generally assume that spending money on physical objects is more effective for our happiness since those items last longer.

As it turns out, science has proven that is is NOT the case!

Psychological studies discuss how physical objects may last longer, but this permanence causes us to adapt to them quickly, causing their value to diminish over time. (2)

Also, studies have implied that experiences connect people with their past in a positive manner.

Now, this being said, let’s be real. 

This knowledge won’t stop me from rewarding myself with that new workout gear I’ve had my eye on for months!

I just want you to keep this in mind, and start prioritizing experiences MORE than you currently do.

Once I started adding experiences to my list of rewards instead of objects, I definitely felt happier + more fulfilled! 

5) Make Sure Rewards Healthy

This should go without saying, but sometimes it needs clarifying.

Make sure your rewards are contributing to your overall mental + physical health…and not sabotaging it!

You’d be surprised how many people will work so hard towards a health or fitness goal, only to reward themselves with unhealthy vices — I’m talking about YOU junk food!

If you’ve done this before, don’t be hard on yourself.

I’m JUST as guilty of doing this in the past!

All I’m saying is…avoid doing this at all costs.

You’ll kick yourself later when all that progress is lost because you decided that something extremely unhealthy counted as a “reward” at the time.

6) Track Progress At Set Times

There are SO MANY psychological benefits to tracking your progress during your health journey!

This concept is actually so legit that it’s been heavily studied.

The American Psychological Association found that the more frequently you monitor progress towards a goal, the more likely you are to succeed. (3)

That’s great news! It’s amazing how something so simple can be so effective.

Based on personal experience, the advice I would give is to keep track of your health and fitness goals routinely; however, don’t drive yourself crazy doing it!

Schedule a specific time every day when you check-in on your progress to see how it’s going.

I find that when I obsess over progress throughout the day it becomes detrimental to my mindset.

Also, you can better organize your reward system when you track how you’re progressing along your journey. 

So block out time to reflect on your goals.

You won’t be sorry!

[You can find the best resources to track progress on your health + fitness journey HERE.] 

7) Have A Schedule!

I’m a huge believer that the chances of success towards any goal are MUCH greater if you have a planning system in check.

Especially with health + fitness goals, as planning prevents us from acting impulsively towards unhealthy decisions.

The main elements you’ll want to schedule are your Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Ultimate rewards + goals.

I’m a planner addict and there are multiple ones I’ve used throughout the years.

The best planning tools on the market are:

  • Productivity Planner — A beautiful, compact planner with a minimalistic design that focuses on grouping tasks by priority.
  • Passion Planner— The ultimate planner for setting + achieving goals. Walks you through step-by-step on how to organize short-term and long-term.
  • The Five Minute Journal — Focuses on gratitude and a healthy mindset, which is crucial for achieving your goals!

I hope this article shed some light on how important it is to have incentives on our health journey.

Sometimes, we tend to be a little hard on ourselves during this process.

It’s important to make this difficult process worth it along the way, and not just wait for those end-results to appear!

Till next time! 😃


Kat Rentas

Founder, Living In Slack Tide



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