Wednesday, May 16, 2012

REWARDS

Several years ago, about the time I turned 50, realizing I might have only lived half my life I began to ponder if there might be things I could do to improve and maintain my general health.

I have always been somewhat physically active and I pay attention to what I eat. I don't always follow all the rules I know and learn but I do notice if I am or not.

My weight has stayed almost the same for nearly 20 years. I have believed if I could attain a more healthy weight, somewhat less that I now maintain, that I would be more healthy and able to do many things that are difficult for me at present. Nevertheless, though many strategies of activity and diet have been adhered to, I have seemed stuck on this plateau.

One of my favorite strategies has been to wear chocolate. Let me explain. Since I will wear it under my skin in the form of gained pounds if I indulge too often in too many sweets, chocolate being one of my personal vulnerabilities, I decided that each time I did NOT buy a chocolate bar (or other 'treat' item) that the price of it would go into a 'chocolate' fund.

My chocolate fund is spent on whatever I want whenever I choose- of course I have to have enough to cover the cost of what is purchased. That means I have to save it up. I tally and track it in the banks of my memory allotted to 'pleasure, I am worth it, and reward-me-I-have-been-good'. You have those files in your memory bank - right? If not create them and regularly add to them.

My inclination is generally to use the funds I save for clothes - something nice I wouldn't otherwise get or be able to afford. I can only enter the sum to my fund if I genuinely would have spent the money. I can especially enter the amount if I pick up the item and sometime prior to actually buying it talk myself into putting the price of it in my chocolate fund and leave it in the store.  (Sometimes I buy a smaller chocolate bar and only put in the difference.)

 One time I put back a case of my favorite bars at Costco in Canada knowing I would not be able to purchase any until my next visit to Canada - perhaps months away. I also knew if I bought them I WOULD eat them.I bought one small bar in another store later - and savored every bite of it - but it was only one bar!

chocolate sweater and pants
While shopping that week, yes in Canada, I bought a pair of pants and a sweater that were on sale. My chocolate fund happened to have the price from that case of chocolate bars recently added to it and I did not even feel a twinge of selfishness or frivolousness as I purchased my 'chocolate sweater and pants'. A girlfriend got a good laugh when I told her about this strategy - and took my picture.

A couple years ago, while recovering from a surgery to remove a massive 9x8x15 cm, nonmalignant tumour from my right thigh, I began to seriously consider ways that I might be able to prevent any occurrence of similar problems. I wondered if I have toxins in my environment or diet - or genetics ;). Would it be possible to remove or control risk factors? What might those factors be?

As I ate my hospital lunch I considered the food I had not been able to eat for a couple of days and relished the  food I was consuming. Portions were generous and the University hospital expects patients to order their meals in advance somewhat like a restaurant from an extensive menu. If you want to eat something, just order it and it will be delivered in about 45 minutes.

As I ate I wondered what changes to the things I eat might help my health and if there might be a food I could stop eating to improve my overall health. Immediately there came to mind a single item.  Ice-cream. I knew I could entirely eliminate such an item and not feel hungry or deprived.

I decided to do it.

I stopped eating ice-cream cold turkey, immediately, right there in the hospital. I found I seldom missed it and when I did and seriously considered picking up a carton at the store I often added the cost to my chocolate fund.  Inevitably my husband purchased more ice-cream to replenish his freezer stocks. I fully expected to have to fight with myself a bit to stay out of it. I did not. We had company over for dinner one evening and when I indulged in a single scoop I found I no longer really care for ice-cream.

My weight dropped about 12 pounds that year. It has stayed off for more than a year now. The only change I made in my life was to eliminate that one single food. I think on that a lot and have added another change. I began to walk more. I bought an inexpensive pedometer. I used my chocolate money. I make an effort to get to 3 miles every day. Nothing has changed. I often make it to 5 miles a day now spring is here. I am on another plateau.

I began to wonder what would happen if I gave up some other 'treat' - hmmm - what other change could I make? It would have to be so simple that it required minimal thought AND effort. I am basically lazy. What about chocolate, could I stop eating it? And I would need incentive. How might I reward myself? And if so what rewards might I enjoy as a 'fix'? I decided I will always call my reward funds 'chocolate money'. It is a good reminder.

This spring I am astonished to find that chocolate has 'pushers'. It is almost impossible to avoid chocolate. Why is it in so much food? Seriously - in Chili? That seems a bit excessive and silly! You all constantly have it and offer it and are hurt if I decline it. What? Are we all addicted?

It is amazing how much chocolate I now refuse and in a pinch throw away. Don't be offended. If I ate it wouldn't it still be gone?  I am determined to improve my health. I wasn't able to go cold turkey. I haven't even completely given it up. But I sure eat less of it than previously AND I find I crave it less and less. I AM AN ADDICT!!!! I must admit that much to myself.

Recently I was in an awkward social situation. The solution was to remind my husband he had promised to take me for ice-cream. He actually had promised that ... it is still his poison of choice. I don't remember what I did but he felt it was significant - and it was. We got in the car and went to the local ice-cream shop. I decided that one Tiger ice-cream cone wouldn't matter and it has been years since I relished the delicious orange licorice combination. They didn't have any. We left. He was relieved. He tends to be stunned by the prices of such places. I appreciated his offer though. And next time I see some I intend to enjoy it.


Next we went to the local home improvement store. We bought some plants for the porch and yard. That is almost as good as ice-cream - isn't it? Really it is better. Now I have to increase my activity to include their care. And so does he.

Today I did it again. I had been downtown on an errand. I was really craving something sweet, or salty, or maybe chewy, or even fruit like berries. As I drove along the street I decided where to stop and shop. Suddenly I remembered my resolve to improve my health. At the last possible second I swerved into a different lane and went another direction. Yes I shoulder-checked first. No one was behind me and I did not cause any traffic issues. Could have maybe but didn't!


I drove to the nearest home and garden center. I bought another plant I want. My mother said she lost a significant amount of weight by 'eating less food'. It might work. I am going to try. I wonder what other inducements I can invent. Do you have any you like?