How Celebrating Small Successes Helps You Lose More Weight

Partying Pays Off!
Why the little things count just as much as the big things. (Maybe more!)

In the weight-loss world, we talk a lot about our “goal weight” and big, long-term objectives. When we reach those goals, we celebrate and feel proud (some of us even get cash!). But when, say, we run an extra half mile on the treadmill or get through vacation without gaining weight, most of us don’t mark the occasion. Turns out, ignoring these little triumphs could hurt your weight loss efforts: a whole heap of studies confirm that taking time to celebrate your small victories actually boosts success. A research-backed reason to celebrate? We’re in!

Mini-wins and Motivation

What keeps people motivated to keep working toward a big goal, like weight loss, day after day? According to researchers at Harvard Business School, it all comes down to something called the progress principle.

The researchers found that of all the things that boost motivation, “the single most important is making progress,” and “the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be…productive in the long run.” Another paper from Harvard Business Review expanded further, explaining that, for instance, if you have a big goal of going to the gym every day, you’ll be much more successful if you start with a modest goal like a daily walk, then track and celebrate your success.

The principle is simple: making and celebrating progress gives you a positive emotion, and the more you feel that positive emotion, the more you’ll want to do the thing that gives it to you. As B.J. Fogg, an experimental psychologist at Stanford, advises, “Emotions create habits…[So] when you complete your tiny habit, reward yourself with an ‘Awesome!’ or ‘Good for me!’ to affirm to yourself this is a behavior you’re proud of.”

We’re really into this idea at WayBetter. In fact, “Celebrate!” is the fourth step of the WayBetter Way, the behavior change model that we developed to help people reach their goals (and the one DietBet uses!). And now there’s evidence that we should be celebrating more than just the end goal. Valerie A. put it well: “Something as simple as being able to walk downstairs without hanging onto the rail because my feet are so tight it hurts…is a reason to celebrate.”

Planning the Party

Now, we’re not talking about throwing a wild party every time you notice a pair of pants fitting differently. Instead, come up with mini-rewards for the many mini-milestones you hit on your journey. This could be something like treating yourself to a bubble bath, or simply taking a moment to acknowledge your triumph and give yourself a “good job!” As GlampingGal said, “You know, they should make a Hallmark card for these moments…”

Celebrating with food can be tempting, but it’s important not to let your rewards derail your hard work. Thankfully, there are tons of non-food ways celebrate. Just take a look at some of the great ideas player Romana A. shared, plus some great suggestions from the DietBet community:

How will you celebrate next time you reach a little milestone? Tell us in the comments below!

Make it WayBetter

Use the “Blog” area of your profile to keep track of all the little wins you achieve on your weight loss journey. Mark it as “Private” to keep the list for your eyes only, or click “Public” to let your victories inspire the DietBet community!