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  • Writer's pictureRachel Bennett

Shoes or a Cupcake?

I was having a conversation with Orren, my son, as we were headed to school drop off yesterday. He was getting his head on straight to get ready for a day of standardized testing. (I won’t get going on the way we test our kids… but man! The pressure!) He made a request that had me thinking. He says, “Mom, if I do well on this test can I get some cupcakes from my favorite place?” So here I am, a mom and a health coach, and what do I say? It was a serious struggle.


On one hand, I like having a target when I’m setting goals. What am I working for? If there is a reward at the end, I’m most likely to consistently work toward that goal every day. So, I totally endorse the reward mindset. It’s something that I coach. We talk a lot about habit loops. What is a habit loop? Glad you asked.


A habit loop is a system you can build around a particular habit you’re trying to start. It’s 3 steps that run continuously.

Trigger > Response> Reward.


An example of one that I’m working on now around journaling. My trigger is I get up and make a cup of coffee, the response is I sit down and work on my devotional or personal development and then journal, the reward is I’m becoming more thoughtful in how I spend my mornings instead of just diving straight into all of the responsibilities. I’m taking that time for myself. I love using habit loops because there’s that reward at the end.


The rewards are not always automatic. Sometimes the reward comes after time. It’s that way with weight loss. You can’t just eat a salad and lose 20 pounds immediately. It doesn’t work that way. What does work is making healthy choices over time and seeing the scale move in the desired direction.


So back to the cupcakes….

Should I allow food as a reward for good grades, when I coach to the exact opposite with my clients. My thoughts immediately go to my own hang-ups with food rewards. But then I realize, those were my hang-ups. Not my child’s. I see so vastly different patterns with food in my kid than I remember having myself. He’s not me. And so instead of saying, yes or no, I ask him a question. Do you want food as a reward? Or do you want to maybe get a cupcake another day to celebrate something special. And his response was, “I think I’d like to go when it’s a little more special. I get good grades all the time.”

So, I let him make the choice. He used his power to challenge his original choice. It inspired me that a 10-year-old could have that much self-control. When I was 10, I know I would have gone for the special cupcake. Now I’m 44, and I want to go for a glass of wine. A big one. Like, a bottle sized glass. Old habits truly die hard.


So, what if we could take a little inspiration from Orren? What if we could all challenge our choices by just stopping and thinking about the payoff. Thinking about the immediate pleasure versus the long-term satisfaction. This concept is something I have had to learn over the last eight years of truly putting in the effort to not only lose weight, but to get healthy.


I’m currently tackling some mid-life weight gain with a focus I’ve never had before. The focus comes from just being fed up. Fed up with my knees and ankles hurting from a run. Fed up with fighting with my jeans in the closet and turning to leggings every time. Fed up with just not feeling good and dealing with the fatigue of my age. I made the decision that there would be no going off plan until I got back to my healthy weight. The weight I was maintaining quite well before my hormones shifted. This decision and goal became non-negotiable. This means no wine or sweets at valentine’s day. No beer for St. Patrick’s Day. No enjoying cake at birthdays. And I’m not upset about it. It’s not even a thing. I’ve even played drinking games with friends with soda water. No, it’s not the same thing, but on the plus side I can drive home with no issues. All that said… I’m danged determined.


I find it so satisfying to see the results on the scale and in my clothes every week. I feel so much better, and my energy level is almost back to normal. And there have been times where I’ve been temped to reward myself with food along the way. But that has been a slippery slope… one piece of chocolate turns into all the chocolate. We even have a saying in the house that if mom has one cookie, then Orren gets no cookies. It’s really sad the struggle that I can have with food. So, do I just not reward myself at all? Am I that annoying that I can say that just knowing I’m getting back to my healthiest place is the reward? While that’s true, that’s pretty lame.


I had a client that inspired me a while back. She would say, I need to lose 40 lbs., but I really want something to work toward. So, every 10 lbs. I’m rewarding myself with something I can wear or an experience I can have. I decided this time around I’m going to do the same thing. At 10 lbs. I treated myself to a new pair of shoes. I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes that weren’t running shoes in probably two years. I am absolutely overdue. I love them. I’m proud to wear them. Because they mean I’m on my way.


I haven’t decided what to do for my next 10 lb mark, but whatever it is, I know it won’t be a cupcake. That’s for Orren.




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