How to stay motivated during weight loss!
We all know that losing weight is not easy. It’s not that dieting is particularly hard – anyone can say, “Today, I will choose to eat less!” The hard part comes with choosing to eat less tomorrow, and the next day, and the next after that. And if you have a large amount of weight to lose – say 50 pounds or more – you’re looking at many months, or even years, of dieting.
Sounds daunting, but think of it like this: no matter what you do, time passes. If you don’t do anything to lose weight, a year will fly by and you’ll be exactly where you are now. But if you start your diet today you can have a brand new, healthy body in a year’s time – maybe sooner!
That thought, that image, of your potential new body being yours … it’s powerful. It’s powerful because what it taps into is your emotion. You are anticipating how it will feel when you have made that new body; how happy you will be to wear whatever you like; how proud of yourself you will be for sticking with something and achieving a goal; how relieved you’ll feel when something that has been bothering you for ages is now in the past. All of that – all those powerful reasons – is your motivation.
Think of any machine. It does something; work of some kind. But it does nothing without its fuel. That’s motivation; it isn’t what does the work, it’s what makes the work get done. What actually does the work is: willpower.
What About Willpower?
Your willpower is what will make you do what you need to do to achieve your goals, whether by dieting or exercise. And what fuels your willpower is your motivation. You know what it’s like: if you wait until you ‘feel like it’ before you work out or diet, most of the time it won’t happen. You need that high-octane fuel of motivation to get you going.
Very often, when you have achieved something, such as when I lost 60 pounds, people will come up to you and say something like: “Gee, I wish I had your willpower!” At times like that, I always think that it isn’t willpower they lack, it’s strong enough motivation. Of course, motivation can be strong to start with, but it can wax and wane, depending on what’s going on in your life. You can be all geared up and determined for a week or two, then suddenly something happens, or somebody does something that completely messes up your day, and you’re ready to throw in the towel and seek solace in a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. Life is going to throw all kinds of obstacles at you, and eating can be a highly emotional and comforting experience.
Maintaining your motivation at the right level for the long haul requires a well thought out plan. That’s why I have a six-step strategy for staying motivated, that will enable you to stick to your diet for as long as it takes to lose all your excess weight.
SIX STEPS TO SUCCESS!
1. Have a compelling reason
Most successful dieters have a story behind why decided to lose weight, once and for all. They might say, “I had a big birthday coming up and couldn’t stand the thought of being fat at fifty.” Perhaps a major event like a wedding or holiday was on the horizon, and they wanted to be in amazing shape for it. Or it could be that they needed an operation, and their doctor had ordered them to lose weight before it could proceed.
Those are all compelling reasons for wanting to lose weight, and make for great motivation. What makes them so compelling is that they come from within; they are linked to very strong emotions. Remember what I said earlier about the link between emotions and motivation? It’s emotion that makes for compelling reasons, and hence, powerful motivation.
It almost goes without saying that the reason, whatever it may be, needs to be YOUR reason. If you’re trying to lose weight just to please someone else, you’ll find it incredibly hard to stick to it. What’s more, you’ll probably end up resenting them and more likely to give up on your diet just to spite them.
Having a compelling reason for losing weight will make your resolve to stick to your diet unshakeable and unbreakable.
2. Write that reason down
Once you have identified your compelling reason for losing weight, you should write it down. Record it in your diary or journal. Write it out or print it, and display it prominently. Make a vision board, or dream board – whatever works for you. Let it act as a daily (or even hourly!) reminder. It’s too easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget what’s really important to you. Keep reminding yourself why you’re determined to lose weight this time, and don’t let yourself forget it. Leave yourself little sticky notes – it actually works!
3. Now write down all the things you hate about being overweight
I want you to write down every single thing you can’t stand about being your current weight. Include everything, no matter how trivial or superficial you think it sounds. Don’t worry – this isn’t about hating yourself, or not accepting yourself at any size. This is a very helpful and positive step that will serve to keep you highly motivated as time goes on. You need to write that list now, while all the pain, discomfort, embarrassment and inconvenience is still real, because as the months go by and you lose weight, these things will stop being issues for you. If you ever feel your motivation slipping you need to be able to recall how awful you used to feel, so you can be determined to NEVER let yourself go back there.
In case you need a bit of inspiration to put together your list, here’s mine:
- My hip hurts really badly, the extra weight is putting too much pressure on my hip replacement
- Bras are killing me, I can’t find one that doesn’t dig in
- It feels like my fat is smothering me. I’m only really comfortable lying stretched out, which is a ridiculous way to live my life
- I can’t wear clothes I love. Everything I wear is baggy and dowdy and selected to hide my body
- I hate having to cover up in summer. I’m so hot and sweaty all the time. I want to wear sleeveless tops but I don’t want anyone to see my fat arms
- It’s so humiliating bumping into people who haven’t seen me since I was slim, knowing they’re shocked at how much weight I’ve put on, but trying not to show it
- I feel unattractive and unsexy and so old
- I hate how everything is an effort: walking up a hill, carrying groceries, doing simple housework
4. The power of photos
If you have an old photograph of yourself at your ideal weight, you have a powerful motivational tool. Whenever you feel your motivation slipping, you can visualize yourself at your goal weight; so tantalizingly within reach if you just stick to the diet. It reminds you that yes, you can look the way you want, because you USED TO look that way, and here’s the proof!
If you have always been overweight and have no motivating pics, you can use a photograph of a celebrity whose body inspires you. Just be sure to pick somebody realistic! It’s no use aiming to look like Elle Macpherson if you’re 5 ft nothing with short legs (yes, I did just describe myself!) Similarly, don’t try to emulate a teenager – stick to a well-preserved public figure around your age, preferably one untouched by scalpels or implants.
Also important for your on-going motivation: record extensively how you look now. If you hate looking at yourself in the mirror, bite the bullet and take a selfie. As soon as you start to show even a slight improvement – hips starting to reappear, a neck emerging at last, a bikini that used to look like two rubber bands on an egg starting to look … well, downright sexy – you will feel galvanized, and motivated like never before. There’s nothing more motivating than an impressive set of before and after pics.
5. Plan a reward
Most people would probably say that reaching their healthiest weight and achieving their ideal body is the ultimate reward. While I can’t deny it’s a pretty amazing feeling to find yourself in the best shape possible, it doesn’t hurt to add some extra fuel to the motivational fire by planning a special reward for when you reach your goal.
A reward is an external motivation; an incentive that comes from outside yourself. You will notice straight away that this is a different sort of motivation to what I was describing earlier. I said that the strongest motivation was associated with powerful emotions, and came from within. But emotions can become weaker over time, and there’s a good reason for this.
You may find, as I did, that as you get within sight of your goal weight your motivation starts to drop off. It’s kind of understandable; you’ve been good, really put the effort in, but after months and months of dieting you can get to the point where you just want it to be over. Those last few pounds can be tough to get off, and you may decide to give up.
This is when you need to utilize everything you have, internal and external, to keep your motivation high:
- Go back and read – really read – what you wrote down in steps 1, 2 and 3.
- Get out all the photos you took for step 4. Look at them closely; don’t just go “Ugh!” and put them away quickly: remind yourself, and re-motivate yourself!
- Finally, plan that reward! What worked for me was promising to buy myself a stunning new outfit. To boost my motivation I’d regularly browse in my favourite boutiques, picking out clothes that I’d love to wear when I reached my goal weight.
By the way, another type of reward might also be to reset your goals. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with resetting your goals as you go. You may find – as I did – that you feel completely happy and comfortable at a slightly higher weight than you originally thought.
6. Go public!
If you keep quiet about your weight loss efforts and don’t tell anyone, it’s much easier to just quit. You’ll be far more motivated to succeed if you know that people are watching and taking an interest in your progress. Especially if those people are being encouraged by your success to lose weight themselves. Imagine being a weight loss inspiration for somebody else – now that’s motivating! That’s why having a thorough and complete record of your progress from ‘Before’ to ‘After’ (see step 4) is going to be important.
As with planning a reward, going public is also an external type of motivation. It’s different, though, because the way it works is that it taps into another strong emotion: the fear of failure. It’s a strong motivating factor. You have made a point of telling people that you are on this journey, and have got them involved, in the sense that they are following you. Don’t let them down!
Over to you!
You know that ultimately your success, or otherwise, in achieving your weight loss goals is down to only one person. That person has dreams, goals and desires, and the willpower to achieve them. You can now see how motivation is the fuel for that willpower machine. So now … it’s over to you!