The trick for programming a habit is to reinforce (reward) a good activity, not reward or punish the bad activity (eating junk food). Eventually the mind starts to associate the consequences with the actions. In this case, you do the exercise, you get a reward.
Simple enough, right? But, here is what happens: people will decide that they will take the reward before the exercise. So, after several beers or hours of television, they have lost any incentive that they had to get started. Not many dogs will do a trick after they get a reward. Not many people will work after getting paid.
Behavior conditioning rule #1: The reward comes AFTER the activity.
So, in the case of doing say doing 20 crunches or using the push mower to cut the back lawn, you would reward yourself after the crunches. For instance, after 20 crunches, I would recommend a glass of water or reading the newspaper. (Cutting the back lawn with a push mower earns at least a couple glasses of lemonade.) In my experience, the reward should just be short of total satisfaction.
The reward should not be too over whelming. Not an hour of television, a case of beer or half of a cheese cake. This will set your mind up for failure. Just like a spoiled pet, child, teenager or worker, your mind will tend to wait for the huge reward before doing the slightest bit of initiative.
Now, hearing this sometimes offends people as they do not think that it is very fair. It reminds me of the dieter who gorges on junk on a Wednesday because he or she “was so disciplined” and visited the gym on Monday and Tuesday. That is the wrong reward and the wrong amount.
Even granting large rewards for large efforts has its set backs. Like the lady insists on losing 20-30 pounds and then rewarding themselves with a trip to Mexico or a Liz Clairborne outfit. Each day is like work with no pay. The end seems miles away. In the weight loser’s mind, the dieting and exercise seems like bitter medicine every day. And every day is a small torture session.
Fortunately, there are simpler ways around this goal. For starters, you must go back to the small rewards strategy. In this case of weight-loss, this dieter, could give themselves a mark on the calendar for every day that he/she was true to the diet. Better yet, make that a check mark for every meal that she was true to her diet. There is a greater chance of success with several smaller rewards than a few large ones.
The check marks become the simple reward. Eventually a certain number of check marks, like say, 100, could mean a holiday trip or that fancy outfit. To make it even simpler, every 10 check marks could mean a movie or a visit to a store. 25 check marks could mean a visit to a nice restaurant. The rewards could …