Can food be a reward?: This running thing all... - Couch to 5K

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Can food be a reward?


This running thing all started because I was on a diet using MFP, counting calories and lost about 14 lbs which was great. Wanted to also exercise to burn some calories and to improve my fitness so started cycling (which I loved) but hurt my hand and so decided to try something I had only dreamed about before, running using this programme.

Then my friend started a week after me and she is 25 years younger, slim and I just felt at 51 I wasn't going to let her beat me by quitting - she is doing great by the way and I share any tips with her I can - we will run a 5 k together soon!

Week 6, day 3 to me seemed significant - no more recovery walks to break it up and now it is running all the way to week 9! I did it and enjoyed it (little ache in my old left knee but breathing good, pace good)! Measured total distance including walk - 4.2 km in 43 mins so I feel I am doing ok.

Decided to treat myself to a Full English breakfast at home - bacon, sausage, fried bread, egg, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and a sweet cup of tea. I spent over 500 of my daily 1450 calories and it was worth it!!!!

However, does it really just show my unhealthy relationship with food or should I just chill out!


24 Replies

The one thing that MANY/MOST of us lack in our lives is BALANCE!!! - me included, but at least I am really aware of this now!! :)

Lots here will tell you that running doesn't lose much weight - most weight is lost in the kitchen and it is even suggested that some put on weight because they start to eat more when they exercise , sometimes by treating themselves to "rewards" !! :)

500 calories from a full English breakfast is fine - and so is half a bottle of red wine -- BUT NOT EVERY DAY!!! - which some of us ( me included) have been guilty of!!! :)


JoolieB1Graduate in reply to Bazza1234

So true. I know my calorie limit for today and never eat extra for calories burned through exercise. At least we worked for our treats!


Well done JooolieB! Awesome achievement!

I must admit I would love to shift some lbs, but I have only lost two since starting C25K. Before that I lost over 10% bodyweight but put some back on when I had a dreadful cough virus followed by shingles and was hardly moving for three weeks. Now I'm left with sore shoulders and weak arms (imagine having the arms of a TRex? that's me) so can't go swimming that's probably when C25K emerged as a way forward.

Your next cooked brekkie could exclude sausages and fried bread, then it's really not so bad :) there are ways of cooking mushrooms which are delicious but don't use fat, too...

WELL DONE now we are both looking forward to week 7, which is just more of the same :)


Having lost a fair amount of weight since starting C25K back in February, I do enjoy the fact that I can have a blow out every now and again - there's nothing unhealthy about it. I'm not sure I think of it as a reward for running, though - running is something I enjoy.

Balance in all things! As long as it's not a pattern. Enjoy your treats!!!


I agree, this is not a regular treat and all logged and adjustments will be made later to allow the indulgence. Week 6 day 3 seemed huge to me. It is the last session with recovery time and now we are facing a week 7 with 3 x 25 min runs so it is going to be tough. It felt like a tasty holiday from being good, it is over now and back on it!

My Fitness Pal App is free and I log everything I eat, weight track and there is a helpful forum too. According to most people, exercise does not lose weight, we need to eat less calories than our bodies need and this can only be monitored through calorie counting. I've lost 15 lbs in 11 weeks so far with another 28 to go, so running is really for fitness - heart, lungs, muscles and self confidence too!!

Julie 😀

Exercise and healthy eating are both important in losing weight and a transition to an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise is arguably more sustainable than any diet.

If you want to lose a pound of weight in a week, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories - doing that by eating 500 calories less than you "need" each day or doing it by running 35km are both perfectly valid - but of course a mix of the two is best.

I guess it depends on your initial relationship with food. For me, I've never had a good relationship with food and have been advised by health professionals that despite being obese that I should not use food to punish or reward myself. What I am trying to do, more successfully on some days more than others, is to try and be more mindful of what I'm eating, when and why. I'm also not focussing on weight loss just now for the same reasons.

So all depends :-) I think it could be a great system if it works for you.


I love food, it's not good for me, lost most by watching what I eat.


Hmm. I think that the very fact you are ASKING if you should is a good indicator of your relationship with food :) As many have said here, it's a question of balance. Food isn't an enemy, nor should it be a reward. A reward doesn't have to be edible! Food is necessary fuel that should be enjoyed without feeling guilty. As long as you're not filling yourself with full fried brekkies every day, where's the problem? Do it, enjoy it, file it as a good experience, move on.


Now... all of the above plus don't beat yourself up ! And think of the next reward, the big one on graduation day: new pair of running shoes.. winter running tops, hats and anything to keep you warm during runs in the winter months?

And well done!


what they said.

I aim to eat anything I want, BUT to accept what it's going to do to my body, and mostly I eat sensibly. I must not use food as a reward. for me that would be a short slippery slope to obesity. Likewise I won't beat myself up for eating jelly babies when fail rule 1 above. I must just accept what I've done and get back on track.

Running does mean I can eat a bit more occasionally, but I do try not to eat away the benefits of running for an hour.

Ooooh, a fried breakfast, I bet it was nice too?!

Sorry, haven't much to add except to agree with everyone else, but ooh, can't wait 'til lunchtime now!

I think maybe a good way of dealing with food treats is to make them something that you have regularly, but on schedule and to the hour. And the treat should a reward for being alive and enjoying food, not for punishing yourself by running, or for eating in a more disciplined way as a rule (that, you should find another way of enjoying, preferably "Happy Food Relationship #2"). I would set the time aside. Nothing gets in the way of that appointment. No phone, no TV, no distractions from the importang business of just enjoying occasionally eating just the things you like best. You don't miss runs if you can avoid it, so you shouldn't avoid other good things like chocolate day.

If you do things this way, you remain in control, but you get to feel like you still enjoy the good things in life. You'll enjoy treats more, because you're not saturating your taste buds, and dulling them.

BALANCE. (And rigging things up so that the impulse monsters don't take control, and come and ruin your life by turning good things into almost poison).


I haven't lost any weight, although I am trimmer. I don't know if you are like me but I can put weight on really easily and then struggle to lose it! I agree with the other posters - everything in moderation - but that's easy to say and not so easy to do!


This made me think about the difference between "reward" and "treat", as you have used both terms in your post. I Googled to check if I was getting bogged down in semantics (a common problem). This may have been the case, but anyway, I found the article below which seems to sum up my thoughts better than I can!

I think the exercise should really be its own reward, however to "treat yourself" occasionally is fine. Obviously the caveat is that there needs to be some monitoring to make sure the "treat" does not become a habit. The "reward" (the exercise), conversely, should, ideally, become a habit :)

But ultimately, it sounds like you're doing well, and can indeed chill out - after all, 500 kcal for a full English isn't bad at all!

You are counting calories and watching what you eat, so that's the important thing. You could lose weight by eating one McDonald's meal every day if it fit within your calorie allowance (and bank balance...) - it just wouldn't be very healthy.

Anyway, this post made me regret becoming a vegetarian. I miss lorne sausages on a Sunday.


mmmm food is just the best, isn't it! I agree with the others who have said that weight is lost in the kitchen. That's certainly how I got rid of 4.5 stone over the last 20 months or so. I only took up running when I had lost enough weight to feel like I could actually move my body that fast!

Obviously everyone is different, but I'd encourage you to look into a low carb way of eating if you are trying to lose weight. It has worked so well for me and I'll never go back to the standard (boring!) diet of cereal and sandwiches and chips. Besides, low carb is much more fun (and healthy, and effective) than calorie counting and eating super-processed low-fat food substitutes.

On a typical day I have an omelette with spinach for breakfast, a homemade flax muffin for a snack, a colourful salad with chicken for lunch, half an avocado for another snack, and meat or fish with a big side of broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, mushroom, or other low carb vegetable. I use full fat milk, cheese, real butter, real mayonnaise, and olive oil.

The key is to read labels and realise how much sugar and other carbohydrates you're consuming without even knowing it. I could go on and on about this - but this is a running forum so I won't. :) If you want to know more, google "LCHF diet", or feel free to message me if you'd like some links to check out.

Happy running, and happy eating!

I think a full english should be considered more as a brunch, that amount of cals is a lot for breakfast on its own, but is fine for breakfast + lunch combined. If you watch how much of it is fried then it's all healthy stuff, a good post-run refuel (re-fuel is perhaps a slightly more functional way of looking at the reward idea?). I make veggie versions of a full english with bubble and squeak, mushrooms fried in a minimum amount of oil, tomatoes just baked in the oven, and poached eggs (also sometimes make my own aubergine sausages and add baked beans in the mix too :) ). I'm sure it must be possible to make adjustments to the meaty version that similarly make it more of a healthy option.

JoolieB1Graduate in reply to Ruth_canal_runner

I was so full and out all day, so didn't need to eat again until dinner time so it was breakfast and lunch - result!!

Okay it's just the reward/refuel concept that needs to be addressed then. A big English breakfast brunch sounds like a great refuel, but maybe shouldn't be seen as a reward (denial of which then becomes a punishment when you don't do the run) :)

JoolieB1Graduate in reply to Ruth_canal_runner

Ok, let's call it an incentive! I felt I wanted to mark the occasion of transitioning into running intervals and straight running!


Incentive sounds good to me! I definitely enjoy a long cycling day out more if there is a pub at the end of it, that's always a great incentive :) But I have to make sure I don't come home every day I cycle to work and open a can of cider straight away. There's def a difference! Funny how much meaning is attached to all these words :) Congrats for becoming a 'straight' runner now. But you may return to intervals at a later date, esp if you decide to work on increasing distance/pace :)


You're not running far enough to warrant extra calories but if that was your breakfast then that's ok. I have a cooked breakfast once a week but try and keep it healthy so don't do fried bread or sweet tea. I sometimes have it for evening meal

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