How to Stop Rewarding Yourself with Food

Megan Meyer, PhD
by Megan Meyer, PhD
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How to Stop Rewarding Yourself with Food

One of my fondest memories as a child was going out to dinner with my family when we had something to celebrate. Whether it was straight A’s on my report card or if I lowered my best time in the 100 meter butterfly, food was at the center of how we celebrated these moments of success.

To this day, if something great happens, I still have this urge to celebrate with food, alcohol or both. Get a salary raise for doing good work? Pop the bubbly and bring on the cheese board! Run over 13.1 miles while training for my first full marathon? It’s burger and craft beer time. I know I’m not alone in celebrating with the delicious things in life. But, having this as my knee jerk reaction had me thinking that it isn’t really the best mindset for my healthy.

With 2017 on the horizon, I’ve been thinking about some other ways to celebrate these successes by not using food and alcohol as my primary reward. Here are six ways to reward yourself without using food:


A weekend getaway or a ten day trip abroad are really appealing ways to reward yourself and scratch a few places off that bucket list. While the celebration may be in the form of delayed satisfaction, it gives you something to look forward to throughout the year. This winter, I planned a long weekend to go skiing and a tropical vacation in the middle of the bitter winter.


Why not celebrate a recent success by meeting with a friend and getting your sweat on? The key here is to schedule and spend on an activity you’re going to be excited about. My personal favorites include hot yoga and barre. Other popular activities include rock climbing, kayaking or cycling. Exercising with your buddy allows you to catch up and share your successes with one another. The endorphin rush that comes during and after the class is a nice added bonus, too.


As someone who loves a good massage, spa day, or pedicure, but rarely receive these treatments, I’m planning to swap self-care for food. If you accomplished your goals, book yourself an hour long massage, facial or spa experience. Splurge on tickets to see your favorite band or sports team. Got a budget to stick to? Set up a nice, warm bubble bath and play your favorite tunes.


Been eyeing a new gadget? Want some new fashion accessories? This is the time for splurging on some bigger ticket items that you’d normally forgo due to the hefty price tag. While it’s important to budget for these items, celebrating a big win with a new fancy blender or killer pair of boots can be a fun alternative way to reward yourself and celebrate your success in a new way.


If you’re an introvert you may desperately want some alone time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Giving yourself the gift of well-deserved “me time” means you can power off your phone (and inbox!) and snuggle up with a good book (or Netflix), guilt-free.

Food is a natural part of celebration and by no means do I suggest that we completely remove it from some of these occasions. However, I think by having other outlets and methods for celebrating outside of food can lead to a healthier relationship with food as well as a healthier mind and body. I am definitely looking forward to adding a few of these to my radar for 2017 and hope you will, too!

Got ideas for other non-food rewards? Share yours in the comment section below.

About the Author

Megan Meyer, PhD
Megan Meyer, PhD

Megan is a lover of all things science, food, and fitness. A scientist by training (go Tar Heels!), Dr. Meyer has found that being able to communicate the science is just as important as understanding the science. Dr. Meyer has a BS in Biology from Loyola University Maryland as well as a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a regular contributor to sites like US News & World Report and The Huffington Post. In her spare time, she enjoys whipping up fun recipes in the kitchen, exploring new trails, and spending quality time with loved ones. You can follow her on Twitter.


4 responses to “How to Stop Rewarding Yourself with Food”

  1. Avatar Tristan says:

    I feel like celebrating a BIG win with party food is not a regular thing and probably not where people fail at their weight goals. Its the small daily or weekly rewards. Survived the grueling managers meeting? You deserve a bagel! … these kinds of moments cant be replaced with a, wtf, ten day trip abroad??? Where vacationers absolutely will over eat.

    • Avatar Facebook User says:

      I think the author brings up a great point though. Did you read through the rest of the list? Did you think of a few ideas for yourself? I did.

    • Avatar Nate Kelley says:

      No, no 10 day trip abroad, but how about that album or song on iTunes, or a bubble bath, or the new coffee mug you wanted (the walmart one is as good as the yeti according to consumer reports and 30 bucks less). What are things that you want that are rewarding to you. If you get to your goal weight or lost 100 LBS, AWESOME book that trip if you can afford it, if not maybe an overnight at a nice hotel or B&B with your significant other. Part of the motivation is knowing that there is a reward if you make it. I am getting a new shotgun when I get to my goal weight. Once I stay there for a year, I’m booking a trip to waterfowl hunt in Canada, and phesant hunt in South Dakota on the way home.

  2. Avatar johnsmart says:

    i’ve been getting massages periodically as i lose weight.

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