Listen to this: Research from Stanford University shows that your food tastes better when you're slimmer. Sex gets better, too, say scientists at Duke University Medical Center, who found a 10 percent loss of body weight caused an increase in sexual satisfaction. And your cognitive skills could sharpen, suggests a study from the journal Neurology. Our point? Your body rewards you when you lose weight.
But if you're in the midst of a weight loss journey (first, high-five!), sometimes you need some tangible rewards along the way to keep you motivated and to celebrate major milestones. It's the proverbial carrot dangling in front of you. (Except, actually, scratch the whole idea of a food as a reward!)
"I think a non-food reward or incentive is a fun way to keep people motivated to meet their weight loss goals," says Abby Langer, known as Canada's Food and Nutrition Expert. "But noticed the emphasis on 'non-food.' In general, it's not a great idea to treat food as either a reward or a punishment." With that said, here are 25 stellar ideas for rewarding your weight loss. See which ones appeal to you the most—and then check out these 20 Best Weight Loss Viral Stories of 2016 for extra inspiration on how people achieved success!
A High-speed Blender
Your budget blender is a smooth(ie) operator. But it's starting to make exasperated noises to signal it's getting tired. It might be time to upgrade before your blades retire mid-smoothie, leaving you with an awkward salad rather than a green smoothie. Langer suggests investing in a kitchen tool that you might not otherwise be inclined to spend money on. "Consider a high-speed blender that would be helpful in preparing healthy meals," she says. Once you've got a quality one taking up residence on your kitchen counter, you can pretty much throw anything at it, er, in it—herbs to make pesto, nut butters, soup, and, of course, smoothies. Take a peek at our guide to the 20 Best Ever Blenders for Every Budget to find your future incentive!
A Healthy Meal Service
The only exception to the rule prohibiting food as a reward? A healthy meal delivery service that can help you out for a week or two when your work schedule gets super-busy, says Langer.
From Hello Fresh to Blue Apron, we're witnessing a meal service arms race with the proliferation of meals and ingredients that can show up on your doorstep. If you haven't tried a service before, the previous ones can be great an option. Or you can take things to a new level with Fuel, which is doing things a bit differently. How so? Well, they're customizing meals that have the right amount of calories, carbs, healthy fats and protein for your body. Before you order, you'll fill out a bio that takes into account your height, weight, and age; how much activity you do in a day; if you want to maintain your weight, lose weight, or build muscle; and whether you're looking for a Paleo diet or a low-fat one.
We get it: When you're losing weight, it can be easy to fall into a chicken breast rut. And how many ways can you dress up that salad before saying kale no? "Cooking classes can inspire you to try new, fabulous, healthy meals," says Langer. Sounds fun to us, too! Not sure you really need a class? Brush up on your own with these 30 Kitchen Skills Everyone Should Know by 30!
When it comes to dressing yourself while you're losing weight, the struggle is real. It might not be realistic to buy a new pair of designer jeans each time you go down a size. But workout clothes that don't necessarily need to be form-fitting and high-quality yoga pants like these Anthropologie ones are a worthwhile investment while you're shedding pounds. Plus, being comfortable and looking good are too great incentives to keep going.
A Wellness Getaway
You might want to save this as the grand finale reward: Treat yourself to a vacation, especially one that's centered on your health and wellbeing. A 2015 study from Cornell University found that spending money on experiences brings you a greater, longer-lasting happiness than buying objects. Translation: vacation > big-screen television.
Christy Brissette, RD and President of 80 Twenty Nutrition, suggests booking an active vacation that includes activities like hiking, cycling, and other fun adventures that you might have shied away from when you were overweight.
For a vacation that's equal parts luxe and adventurous, book a stay at Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah. It's surrounded by—you guessed it—stunning red mountains. Once there, it's a choose-your-own-adventure kind of itinerary. Guides can lead you out to Mt. Zion to take a river hike or you can go rappelling down those aforementioned red mountains at sunset. Plus, there are plenty of hiking routes that will wind you by the lava tubes and other geologic wonders. Hammocks are stationed throughout the resort if you need to get a little R&R, or you can regain some focus in your life by walking around the resort's labyrinth.
A Kitchen Scale
You know the expression your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well, your eyes are actually choosing bigger portions for you, too. That why a food scale is the first thing on our list of 20 Weight Loss Tools Under $20. If you hit a weight-loss plateau, try measuring out your food and pre-portioning your snacks. A kitchen scale will help you accurately weigh your meals so that you don't accidentally consume an 8-ounce sweet potato that you thought was half that.
A Gym Membership
If you don't already have one, a gym membership can help you continue on your healthy journey, suggests Langer. To make sure you're not wasting your money, though, start booking your sweat sessions like you would any other important appointment. And keep your gym groove going by asking for a complimentary pass to a nearby gym when traveling and by scouring Groupon for limited-time deals.
You remember the joy of getting a new bike when you were a kid, yes? Replicate it as an adult and buy yourself a road bike as your weight loss reward! It can actually be a boon for your weight loss efforts, too. A study from the University of East Anglia and the Center for Diet and Activity Research found that those who started biking to work lost about two pounds, and those who were commuting 30 minutes by bike each way lost 16 pounds.
Reward your body with a relaxing massage. Not only does it feel good, massage therapy can improve your blood flow and relieve those sore muscles, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago that was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Another study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that massage therapy can lower blood pressure, help prevent colds, and even enhance skin tone. So book that massage, stat!
And these little piggies went to the salon! This is an especially great reward idea for anybody whose feet have been putting in work to help them lose weight. (We're looking at you, runners and walkers!) Aside from the cosmetics of having well-manicured toes, a pedicure can give your feet a dose of moisture to help prevent them from cracking. Brissette suggests even turning it into a spa day to include a massage or a manicure if you can swing it. "You deserve it for all your hard work!" she says.
Need a reason to party? Throw yourself a weight-loss success party, Brissette suggests. "Serve skinny cocktails and healthy appetizers and invite everyone you love. Marking this occasion with a party allows you a chance to celebrate and be congratulated. Plus, you'll be less likely to slip up now that everyone knows how hard you've worked." Need some inspo for imbibing? Check out our 8 Tips for Low-Calorie Cocktails from Diet Experts!
An Official Fitness Journal
Become a track(ing) star! Study after study shows that tracking what you eat can help you lose weight. A Kaiser Permanente study, for example, found that participants in a six-month weight loss program lost twice as much weight when they kept a food journal, compared to those who didn't track what they were eating. Plus, a study funded by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Cancer Institute concluded that faithful food journaling was the best way to lose weight. Make it fun with a Fitbook that gives you prompts to set goals, log other important factors like sleep, and reflect on your progress.
You probably didn't need a study to tell you this, but Harvard researchers found that flowers can make people feel happier and more energetic. But to ace this happiness hack, you'll want to put the flowers on your nightstand. The Harvard researchers who collaborated with Massachusetts General Hospital were able to confirm that those who didn't consider themselves "morning people" received the happiness boost when they looked at the flowers first thing in the morning.
A Lunch Box
The average takeout meal ordered by adults registers at 836 calories, according to a 2013 study published in BMJ. Yowza! If you packed your own lunch that was 500 calories, you'd save yourself 1,680 calories during the work week. But let's be honest: your brown paper lunch bag is kind of sad. And it could be holding you back. Upgrade to a lunch bag and buy one that has insulated cooler bags, as well as better storage for your Tupperware and utensils. For more smart mid-day moves, check out these 18 Lunch Rituals to Help You Lose Weight!
Fancy Water Bottle
Whether it's a Swell bottle or a Camelbak, having your own special water container that you love makes chugging water throughout the day all that much easier. Not only does keeping a water bottle with you at all times help you stay hydrated, a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism revealed that drinking water can be a boon for your metabolism. Drinking 17 ounces of water translated to an increased metabolic rate by 30 percent among participants!
When you think of Las Vegas, you probably think of buffets and bottle service. But you can consider your Sin City sins absolved by checking in for a weekend at the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, which is about 10 miles off the strip and has a health focus. (A must-do: The inverted yoga class.) While there, you can get your body fat and lean muscle mass evaluated in a Bod Pod, a high-tech, egg-shaped device that's used by the NFL and offered at Well & Being spas like the one at Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa.
It might seem counterintuitive, but your Apple TV can actually help your weight-loss goals, thanks to a gold mine of exercise videos that can turn your living room into a full-on workout studio. It's also an excuse buster for those days when you can't make it to the gym because the weather outside is frightful.
Playlist or Music Subscription
The ultimate cheerleader, music can help distract you from feeling tired and instead can actually increase your endurance, according to research from Brunel University's School of Sport and Education. One caveat: It's got to be in the 120 to 140 beats per minute range to be effective. Subscribe to Spotify and create your own playlists or let the music service play D.J. for you. (Yes, there's a "Beast Mode" workout playlist that's heavy on the hip hop and those songs with high BPM's.)
Whether it's amateur night at a local comedy club or a well-known comedian is making a stop in your hometown, reward yourself by snapping up some comedy tickets. A study from Loma Linda University found that when we LOL, we lower our levels of the stress hormone (cortisol), which can improve our short-term memory while delaying fat storage. Plus, when you're laughing, you're toning those abs because your stomach muscles are contracting and expanding. Looking to carve out your abs? Don't miss these 30 Foods to Uncover Your Abs!
Take a hike! And do it with some hiking poles. If you've been relegating yourself to the same old creaky treadmill at the gym, reward yourself with some weekend cardio of hiking in the woods. A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that using hiking poles helped increase calorie burn even though the participants didn't feel like they were working harder.
A New Cookbook
Along your weight-loss journey, those southern cooking cookbooks and cake decorating magazines have probably collected a little dust. Reward yourself with a cookbook that will help you continue your weight-loss journey—or, if you've reached your goal, help you maintain your goal weight. Gina Homolka, the blogger behind Skinnytaste, has a new cookbook out that includes expertise from R.D. Heather Jones. Skinnytaste Fast and Slow is a collection of quick weeknight recipes and slow-cooker meals. The cookbook includes recipes like a slow-cooker chicken and dumplings meal and an under-30-minute recipe for zucchini noodles with shrimp and feta. In all, there are 140 nutritious recipes that come together easily. And if you like the idea of connecting with a Hollywood starlet instead, find out the 31 Celebrities with Cookbooks!
A Tricked-Out Slow Cooker
Yes, we all wish we could clone Rosie, the robotic maid from the Jetsons household. The next best thing, though, is a souped-up slow-cooker, working as your assistant to make one of these 35 Healthy Crock Pot Recipes. To sweeten the pot, the latest model from Belkin can sync up with an app on your smartphone so you can adjust temps while you're at work or the gym.
Take a break from adulting and crack open a coloring book. Focusing on the activity can spur creativity and decrease stress—which, in itself, is a relaxing reward and a great way to unwind at night. But keeping your hands busy in the evening can also mean less mindless snacking.
Fitness or Healthy Eating Magazine Subscription
Your mailbox has been eating a lot of junk (mail). Round out its diet by subscribing yourself to a fitness magazine or any other magazine that focuses on healthy living. It's fun to flip through a glossy magazine! Plus, it might just be the inspiration you need to try a new recipe, yoga pose, or workout. Check out magazines.com for plenty of deals on great titles.
Reached another goal or weight loss benchmark? Why not roll out a new yoga mat for yourself?! Carving out an hour to do yoga can be a healthy way to reward your body. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that yoga can help mindful eating, too. Another study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga can stimulate brain function more than walking or jogging on a treadmill for the same amount of time. Speaking of efficient exercise efforts, don't miss the insights revealed in our report, Can't Lose Weight? Fitness Trainers Explain Why!