So often, when you do something well, your first instinct is to reward yourself - and the first reward that comes to mind is always food.

Likewise, when you have something to celebrate, you want food or even better, champagne.

The food you use to reward yourself isn't usually lettuce. It's more likely to be something sweet and high in calories.

I'd be the last one to tell you all sweet food is forbidden. Far from it. If you forbid any type of food, you'll want it even more. But food, sweet or savoury, even lettuce, should be eaten when you're hungry and not because you have completed spring cleaning, your exams are over or because you finished writing a letter you have been putting off for six months.

I'm often asked by clients trying to lose weight how they should reward themselves when they have had a good week.

My answer has three parts: How to use food if you must; what alternatives rewards there are apart from food and the best reward of all: One in the mind. Yes, it does feel good to choose a reward for having stuck to your decision to eat only when hungry and not to give in to cravings.

If you really really want to use food as your reward, you could plan for it.

Say you feel like rewarding yourself with a croissant mid-morning if you're out for coffee.

I would suggest you have a small breakfast - perhaps a piece of fruit - so that by mid-morning you're feeling peckish.

Then, after your croissant, I suggest you plan on waiting for lunch until you're hungry again. This may be 2pm. I hope you get the picture that you can eat your favourite foods but you must plan the food around it so you'll be hungry when the treat is available.

I'd rather you eat your croissant because that's what you fancy when you're hungry.

Don't associate the croissant with a good job done.

It's the thin end of the wedge. If you use (or abuse) food as a reward, what comes next? You'll use food as a comfort or because you're angry, bored or tired.

The message is more consistent if food is only for when you're hungry - even good food and high-calorie food (in small quantities).

The second option is an improvement on food rewards - it doesn't involve food at all.

Try a manicure or a haircut, a bubble bath, a magazine or a walk with a friend.

The third option is the best. If you had a good week without overindulging in food, you were probably in control.

I hope there were times when you felt like eating but realised you weren't hungry and told yourself you'd have it later. That feels good.

If you have a history of being out of control around food, being in control feels very good.

Why not tell yourself the very best reward is the good feeling you get when you're in control.

That way, you will enjoy every day you spend on your way to your goal weight and you won't be so impatient.

It feels good. Savour the feeling and move on.

You can get support from Dr Judy Citron and her team of DietCoaches by joining her telephone weight-loss classes, right from your own home. "You lose weight and you're not on a diet. It's amazing." Phone free for more information on 0800 074 0260 or visit the web site at