The key to weight-loss motivation is similar to the [amount of] fuel in a car—you don’t need the motivation tank to be full to drive, you just need to prevent it from running empty,” says Joshua C. Klapow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and author of Living SMART: 5 Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever.
Need an instant dose of weight-loss motivation? Take this quick, healthy-habit quiz. (We’ve used diet as an example, but you can plug in any behaviour that you’re trying to maintain). “Answering these questions often helps to boost motivation just enough to remind you of why you started the diet in the first place,” says Klapow.
- If I stop my diet, how will I feel in six months or one year from now?
- If I stop my diet, what will my health be like?
- If I stop my diet, how will my family and friends be affected?
Choose an Attainable Goal
“Studies show that most dieters expect to lose as much as four times what they really can in a six-month period,” says Daniel C. Stettner, Ph.D., a behavioural medicine specialist at Northpointe Health Center in Berkley, Michigan.
Think smaller: Count on losing just 10 percent of your weight within six months, and focus on keeping it off for more than a year.
But be careful about relying solely on figures. “A number on the scale isn’t a goal; it’s a measurement of success,” says Bonnie Goodman, a psychotherapist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who specializes in behavioural therapy. Instead, focus on behaviours you wish to change: to reduce your daily fat intake to below 35 percent, or to cut out your afternoon soda or vending-machine snack. Also, consider setting non-weight-related goals, such as entering a 5K race. The pounds you’ll automatically lose in the process will seem like a bonus.
Design Your Own Plan
Rather than trying every new diet fad, create your own plan that will fit your lifestyle. You need to cut out only 150 calories a day to lose 15 pounds in a year, so start small to have a better chance at maintaining your weight loss motivation.
“Little changes to your current eating style, like downsizing portions or preparing foods differently, can add up to big results,” says Stettner.
Think about the foods you can—and can’t—live without (ahem, tasty chocolate recipes), then try to work your diet around them. If you’re a born snacker, divide your daily calories into six or seven mini meals so you always feel like you’re having a nibble. Whatever you do, don’t give up your favourite foods. You’ll inevitably feel deprived, which will only make your cravings stronger—and your willpower weaker.
Clean Out Your Closet
If you’re struggling to stick with your weight-loss motivation, practice integrity in other areas of your life, suggests Andre Farnell, a certified strength and conditioning coach and owner of Better Body Expert. Clean out your closet, pay off your debts, make good on your promises to friends, family, or co-workers. Practice sticking with promises or commitments you’ve made in other areas of your life in order to strengthen your own subconscious belief that you are able to uphold the promise to lose weight that you’ve made to yourself, Farnell says.
Steer Clear of Super-Skinny Models
Pinning and posting pictures of super thin models may seem like good weight-loss motivation, but according to research, it’s more likely to hurt your progress.
Instead of comparing yourself to unrealistic fashion models, stay inspired by posting images of you at your healthiest weight for inspiration.
Focus on a Feeling
Too often we get frustrated by focusing on a specific number on the scale, or even a task we must do to reach our goal (like working out), which is a pretty quick way to zap your zest.
Concentrate on your mood after you’ve eaten a healthy meal or how you feel after a great workout—weight-loss motivation doesn’t always have to come before an activity, says Rego. “If you focus on how you feel each time you exercise, you’ll get all the benefits of burning calories, plus the reinforcement of remembering how good it felt to do it, which should increase your motivation to do more.”
Act “As If”
Don’t wait “until you lose the weight” to take that vacation, visit that old friend, or try that dance class; live out your goals now, and enjoy them along the way. Schedule it now and shift your mindset from “punishment mode” to a rewarding and empowering one to maintain weight-loss motivation, she says.
Hang Your Motivation By the Mirror
Putting a special piece of your wardrobe on display is a great daily inspiration. Pick something you’ll look forward to wearing and hang it close to your mirror. Since it’s an item you already own or plan to wear, it’s much less likely to be an unrealistic goal and will help spike your weight-loss motivation to keep hitting the gym.