Thursday, April 25, 2013

Extrinsic Motivation- (a trip to the dieting prize box)

Lately I've been posting mostly about dieting. I'm sorry to tell those of you who aren't diet and health enthusiasts that this post is also related to my diet! But never fear, today you are in luck because this method can be applied to help you reach a wide varieties of goals. Interested yet? Read on...

I have mentioned previously that before starting this intense diet program I was really worried that I wasn't going to stick with it. I did really want to lose the weight- but I knew in the past sometimes I'd choose the instant satisfaction of a hot yummy brownie over the eventual reward of weight loss and better health. I think to some extent all of us struggle with this concept. We have grown up in a society which constantly tells us to take instant gratification over long term gratification.

So somehow I needed to figure out how on earth I could break myself of this pattern of giving up my diet for an instant reward. What could I possibly tempt myself with that could help me say NO to that brownie?

Then my mind got going in teacher mode. In school, especially with younger children, getting them to learn and participate in your class is all about finding the right motivation. So you start with extrinsic motivators (motivation that comes from an external source). You offer stickers to the students whose behavior is excellent during class, you let the students who have turned in their homework all week take a trip to the prize box, or if the whole class remembers their recorders they get a class star that may eventually earn them a pizza party. --- In other words you bribe them. You find things that the students want and are interested in and you say if you do this ____ then you get this____. Child psychology tells us that extrinsic motivation does work well but that eventually as teachers we want the motivation to become intrinsic (motivation coming from the student). Instead of the student bringing their recorder to class to earn a star- they bring it to class because they want to play recorder.

So I decided all of us aren't really that much different than kids. When I diet- or do anything- I do much better with rewards along the way. So I created a plan for myself to go along with my diet and exercise program to essentially bribe myself to stay on the diet and not cheat! Just like in teaching I am hoping that after awhile my motivation for staying on the diet won't be because of prizes and rewards but because I will really be focused on being a healthier person- and eventually that will be enough to say no to a brownie- but for now? Let's be real, I need something a little more tangible to keep my eye on the prize and say no to all the yummy temptations along the way!

How did I manage to do this? Glad you asked. My mom and I developed a pretty complex rewards program to fit with our schedule on the diet! Here is what we came up with:

First we questioned what things should earn us rewards? 
Here are some of our ideas...
- Not cheating on the diet?
- Losing a set amount of weight?
- Exercising a certain number of days or a certain type of exercise?
- Drinking all of our water?

What we ended up going with: 
- Not cheating on the diet
- Exercising
(I'd recommend not setting a goal based on the # of pounds lost- because it's already frustrating enough when you don't lose weight while dieting- try to reward yourself for practicing healthier habits instead).

Next we questioned when should we receive the rewards? 
We took out a calendar and broke it down by cycle. We have both done this diet before and tried to remember which points in the diet do you start to feel extra pressure to cheat. Then from there we scheduled check points for the rewards- some only a few days apart- some a week apart or more. Our main concern was to keep these rewards frequent enough that it'd be easier to say no to the brownie because you knew that very soon you'd be earning a reward. 

The Timeline!

The days with a colored dot= A day that we would earn a reward for making it through. 

Example: on March 30th we earned a reward for making it through the first light blue dot (first 3 days).

The colored line represents which cycle you are in.

Light Green= Cleanse
Yellow= Cycle 1
Orange= Cycle 2
Pink= Cycle 3
(Cycle 4 isn't included since after cycle 3 you can repeat diet or proceed to cycle 4)

Of course then there's the dilemma of what the rewards would be...
We tried to come up with levels of rewards. Small, medium, and large. But the trick is the rewards need to be things that you really want, something you wouldn't just buy yourself in every day life, and rewards that have nothing to do with (bad) food! So we brainstormed rewards and here is what we ended coming up with:

Small Rewards ($1-$10): Examples: Craft Supplies, Makeup, Nail Polish, Summer Scarf, Sunglasses, New Jewelry, Hair Product, Movie on Demand, Thrift Store Purchase, Flip Flops, Flowers, Healthy Treat, New Small Plant, etc.

Medium Reward ($11-$20): Manicures, Summer Shirt, Magazine Subscription, New Book, New Plants, Panera Lunch, Sandals, Shoes, etc. 

Large Reward ($21-$30+): New Decor, Purse, Dress, Massage, Live Theatre Tickets, Ikea Trip, Whitening Strips, Exercise Equipment, Antique Purchase, etc. 

(Obviously we could change our minds as long as we are within the price range) 

We also designed a handy dandy small chart (to the side) to keep track of the rewards we have earned so far. Color of dot corresponds to level of reward- and color of line at top corresponds to which cycle it is earned in. 

This schedule and rewards levels covered exactly how and when we'd be rewarded for NOT CHEATING on the diet. Newt we had to factor in how we would reward ourselves for exercise! 
Here is what we decided: Each day we should be exercising at least 30 minutes. It could be at the gym, at home, outside, whatever. For every day that we exercised 30 minutes we will receive 1 "token" so to speak. You may collect the exercise tokens up until the end of one of the cycles. Then at the end you can use them to "buy" a certain level prize. 

*you have 17 days to collect tokens 
*you may only collect up to one token per day 
*1 token is earned after 30 minutes of purposeful exercise

13 tokens= A Large Reward Level
11 tokens= A Medium Reward Level
8 tokens= A Small Reward Level
6-7 tokens= 2 extra tokens for next cycle 
1-5 tokens= 1 extra token for next cycle

*Any tokens earned above 13 may be applied to the next cycle! 
*If you end up in the middle of reward levels you must opt for the smaller level. (ex. 12 tokens is still only a medium level). 

Soooo- for each cycle you actually have the opportunity to earn 2 large rewards between not cheating and exercising! 

As we were coming up with this awesome plan- we started to become concerned about what would happen if we did cheat! We didn't want to make this rewards program soooooooo intense that if you cheated once you blew it for that entire cycle! So we decided to create the "oops claus". 

Let me explain: The Oops Claus

We as previous dieters recognize that it is sometimes hard to avoid all forms of cheating while dieting. Holidays, special events, and other circumstances do occasionally arise and we want to make it possible to feel like we can be successful on this diet. 

If a cheat does occur you must rank it from a level 1-3. 
1= small cheat (ex. extra serving of carbs, specialty coffee, type of meat not allowed, etc) 
2= medium cheat (ex. that yummy brownie, other desserts, etc)
3= large cheat (ex. entire meal cheat, etc)

Since my mom and I are doing this together we both help decide how much a specific cheat is worth. 
Once you have committed the crime- in order for it to be erased from your record you have to "pay for it" with exercise tokens. 

Level 1= 1 token
Level 2= 2 tokens
Level 3= 3 tokens

Since we didn't want to let ourselves start abusing this cheat erasing feature we created some stipulations. 

*During a Cycle (17 day period) you may only use up to 5 tokens or up to 3 instances of cheating whichever comes first. 

This way if someone has a special dinner to attend they could enjoy the meal and a dessert and be able to pay it off with exercise tokens. But wouldn't be allowed to cheat anymore that cycle without disqualifying from the end of cycle reward. 

Another thing to remember is that the exercise tokens you use to pay off the cheats may not be counted towards your final exercise token count of that cycle. So, if you used 5 tokens to pay off your cheats- you could only at most earn 12 more for an exercise reward and that is if you exercise EVERY DAY of that cycle!

That pretty much sums up our entire rewards program to go along with the 17 day diet! If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask! 

Also I wanted to fill you in on how it's working...

We have been using this rewards program since March 27th and it's already April 25th! I can honestly say after a month of using this it is working like a freakin charm! I've managed to earn all of my rewards so far! And in the first cycle I only ended up with one cheat- a coffee at Dunkin- and I didn't feel bad because I knew I was exercising 30 minutes one day to make up for that treat. Plus I've managed to lose about 14 lbs so far! 

Since cycle 2 has started it's been a little harder to stay motivated and I've already had 2 level 1 cheats (this past weekend when I visited Mansfield). But looking back at that weekend I totally stayed on track with all of my food- I just decided to indulge in some beverages not included on the diet. And I really think, had I not been doing this program I totally would have fell prey to that whole "I'm on vacation it doesn't matter" mindset that so many of us use as an excuse to stuff our bodies with bad foods. 

I do really think this program is helping to change the way I'm dieting. I have been getting so much more exercise, I've been able to stick to my diet without serious or frequent cheating, and I'm getting some fun little things along the way!  

I can also feel myself getting stronger and developing more will power just for the sake of being healthier. I'm not saying that I'm totally ready to ditch my extrinsic motivators- but I'm thinking that I'm well on my way to being able to intrinsically motivate myself to live a healthier life! 

If you want any help in creating a program that suits you- let me know and I can help you think through all the details! And don't limit this approach just to sticking to a diet- it can really be applied to anything! Can't kick the awful habit of biting your nails? Set up a rewards system. Can't manage to force yourself to get in a practice room and practice? Set up a rewards system! Still procrastinating going through boxes in the basement? SET UP A REWARDS SYSTEM!! I'm telling you, it will work! 

Have an awesome day! I hope you can find some useable ideas for yourself in this post :) I'd love to hear your reactions to this crazy system my mom and I created! Thanks for reading! <3 p="">

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