how do i stay motivated to lose weight?
Making the decision to go on a diet is the easy part. Sticking to it is always more difficult. However good your intentions are when you start, you will face many obstacles on your weight loss journey that make it easy to become demotivated and difficult to persevere.
Finding the motivation to stay on a diet is a very personal thing. You need to find what works for you and what doesn’t. This means you will have setbacks, so whatever diet you choose, whatever your target weight is, you need to start out with the positive mindset that you will overcome everything that stands in your way and be ready to make changes if that helps you reach your target weight.
Having said that motivation is personal, there is still a general framework to a successful diet. The best way to envisage your successful outcome is to personalise the framework so it works for you.
Set a target
Decide how much you want to lose. Don’t be woolly or ambiguous in your target. Having a set target is far better than simply deciding “I need to” or “I want to” when it comes to losing weight. A target is your commitment to yourself and the impetus to get started. It’s perfectly ok to set a stretching target but not an impossible one. If you want to lose 14lbs, set a target of 21lbs.
Your target should also have some correlation to your expectations. If you want to take it slow and steady and decide that is the right approach for you, you will not need such a strong motivational framework to stick to your diet. If you are happy to see a loss of 2-3 pounds a week set your target and timeframe accordingly.
If, however, you want faster results and something to build on, and you will be motivated by seeing the weight come off quickly, you can reasonably set yourself a target to lose 10 pounds in the first week, 8 pounds in the second, and 5 pounds in subsequent weeks, as an example.
You will have probably read on countless websites and in magazines that for a successful diet, you need to aim for gradual weight loss as you change old unhealthy habits and form new healthy ones, and that it is actually unhealthy to lose weight quickly. But if you think about it, there is a very strong argument for faster weight loss. Not only can it be incredibly motivating to see your waistline shrink and that number on the scale change rapidly, but…
… the benefits of losing weight quickly far outweigh carrying around those extra pounds of fat.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, it makes sense to break down your goal weight into smaller, more achievable targets. It is usual that you can expect to lose more in the first couple of weeks, so it is not unreasonable to have bigger targets when you first start your diet. A good psychological trick here is to put your weight loss in terms of pounds. There is something much more (in emotional terms) satisfying in being able to say “I’ve lost 4 pounds” than saying nearly a third of a stone.
Some people advocate the use of treats for achieving each target. Make sure these are in keeping with your diet. If a treat equals a grande mochachino with a gooey chocolate muffin, don’t feel guilty about it. Dieting isn’t about guilty pleasures. Dieting is about getting to a healthy weight and staying there so pleasures aren’t so guilty.
Find the Right Diet
Weight loss is one of the most commonly searched items on the internet and it’s a minefield. There is a huge amount of information out there but there is an incredible amount of misleading, poor, and even incorrect information amongst it. You’ll find websites from medical professionals, personal trainers, nutritionists, the government’s health department, body coaches, and weight loss companies. There are however, websites written by unlicensed practitioners, people who have lost weight who want to share their journey, and companies selling every kind of weight loss aid. It’s no wonder we are confused.
There is one hard and fast rule for a weight loss diet. You must consume fewer calories than your body converts into fuel.
This means finding the diet that works best for you. It does not mean that the only way to diet is to count calories. Let’s just re-iterate that – it is not obligatory to count calories. Whatever diet you choose though, whatever name it is called, must result in a calorie deficit every day.
You might find that you need to try a few diets before you settle on the one that works for you. The significance of this is not only that you will see results, it is a motivating factor to stay on your diet. Hating your diet won’t help you stick to it.
There’s also no reason why you cannot swap and change the diet plan you are following. The whole point is that you are changing unhealthy habits and poor food choices and making new healthy habits and good food choices. If you aren’t committed to what is essentially a lifestyle change, your diet will fail. It takes time to form new habits, so even if you are fickle and flit between diets, ensure you are making those changes. New healthy habits will lead to sustainable weight loss.
Yes – You Do Have to Exercise
The idea of putting on gym clothes and running shoes might bring you out in a cold sweat, but you can indulge in a shift of thinking here. Although there really is no other way to get your body to turn more of your food into energy than by working out when you eat a healthy balanced diet, exercising is not so important at the beginning of your weight loss journey.
For some of us, it is more difficult to think about exercising than it is to eat less – especially if you don’t really move much about in your daily routine. If you are used to getting up, going to work to spend 8 hours sitting at a desk, coming home and plonking yourself on the sofa after dinner, the introduction of regular exercise is going to be a challenge. However, it is more important to focus on diet first. By reducing your calorific intake, you will already be signalling your body to meet that “less fuel = more fat burned” equation.
By focussing on the diet aspect first, you are giving yourself a better chance of success.
You are already putting yourself through a challenge to eat less, reducing those delicious things you love but know aren’t good for you, so do you want the additional challenge of introducing exercise to your plan too?
You can start introducing exercise into your weight loss plan when the time is right. There’s no requirement to go all out, boot camp style, but exercise is needed for a healthy heart and more lean muscle so if you’re aiming for a better lifestyle overall, you will need to begin to work out regularly at some point. A good time is when your weight loss has “plateaued” – i.e. when those last few pounds just won’t shift.
You will have great satisfaction in not only seeing those dropped pounds but there’s great motivation in seeing your body more toned and healthy looking. Bingo wings? Gone. Muffin top? Banished. Flabby thighs? No more chub rub.
Keep track of progress
Results are the best motivation. When you see that number on the scale go down, you should feel proud of what you have achieved. Tracking your progress however means being sensible. Do not weigh yourself every day. Your weight will fluctuate between days and even from day to night. You might see the results of changes in water weight. If you aren’t seeing results every day, it will simply make you wonder if the effort is all worth it. Tracking can be as equally demotivating as it is motivating when done sensibly.
The simple way to track is to weigh yourself at roughly the same time on the same day each week. This gives stability to your tracking. Another way, which is growing more popular as we rely increasingly on our technology, is to use a fitness tracking app. There are apps for every aspect of weight loss and fitness so, like everything else that keeps you motivated to lose weight, choice is down to what works for you personally. You might try a food journal app if you need to identify what you eat and at what times, or a fitness tracker that counts how many calories you burn while working out.
Going on a diet can feel a lonely experience, especially if you have a family. Sitting at a dinner table while everyone else is tucking into delicious dishes that you can’t eat is not easy. Circumstances will dictate somewhat how far you can involve other people in your weight loss journey but do it where you can.
Can your hubby or partner stand to lose a few pounds? Persuade him to diet with you. Dieting together means you have accountability but you can also motivate each other. If you have a family, you can help yourself by making meals generally more healthful, so you can eat “versions” of the same food that your partner and kids are enjoying. The whole family can benefit from better health without them feeling they are being forced to diet.
Let people know you are dieting. Having your friends and work colleagues support you will keep you motivated. You will be in a better position to refuse the free Friday doughnuts or to not go to the all you can eat buffet at the pizza parlour at lunchtime. It is easier to avoid temptation than risk it and those close to you will understand to not put it in your way.
Dieting is as much mind over matter as it is eating better and exercising more. Personalise your weight loss journey, set achievable targets, move more, allow yourself some treats, and get people to support you.
So Good Luck – You can do it!