Motivation certainly gets the wheels turning on our weight loss journey. I’m sure you’ve been there, you think “right, this is it! I’m sick of messing around, this IS the time I’m going to stick to my diet and I will get to my goal weight!” You then start off the next day with a surge of positivity, you’re already imagining what life is going to be like when you’ve lost all of that weight and you fling your t-shirt off and everybody is in awe at the progress you’ve made. But, you might find that it never gets to that point, and the motivation we had just a few days ago has quickly been zapped out of us, and we end up throwing in the towel on our current weight loss attempt. We think “well, there’s always next time”. If this sounds like something you’ve been through before, that’s probably why you’re asking:
“How to stay motivated when dieting?”
Stop Using the Word “Diet”
I know you’ve probably heard it before, and think it’s some cheesy thing that hippies say. But, in order to achieve long-term success, the first port-of-call should ideally be to stop using the word “diet”, and consider the changes you’re going to make as long-term diet and lifestyle changes.
What do you think of when you think of “going on a diet”? Probably things like:
“It’s only temporary until I reach my goal weight”
“It’s going to be torture”
“I’m going to miss chocolate”
“Which diet should I try this time? The last 10 haven’t worked for me”
“I really can’t be bothered with all that salad”
When people use the term “going on a diet”, it implies that it’s temporary. It implies that they’re only going to be doing this for a certain period of time until they can go back to their normal way of eating (also known as the time when most people gain their weight back). That’s why SO MANY people say things like “yeah the [insert common diet like keto or meal replacement shakes] diet worked great for me, I need to get back on it“. They convince themselves that the previous wacky diet they did that made them have to change their whole dietary intake is the only thing that’s going to work for them, and they won’t be convinced otherwise.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes, NOT a “Diet”
Our diet and lifestyle habits are what gets us to the point of being overweight. Why do so many of us think that not addressing your diet and lifestyle, the root cause of the issue, could reverse that? Instead, we search the internet for the latest fancy diet that “doctors don’t want you to know about!”
If you’re using the word “diet”, whether you know it or not, you’re telling yourself this is only temporary until you reach your goal. Then, you can go back to your normal way of eating. But what happens then? Your normal way of eating was what made you need to lose weight in the first place. If you’re not addressing the root cause of your previous weight gain, what’s to stop it being the root cause again? And it more than likely will be if you haven’t made realistic and sustainable dietary and lifestyle changes.
Think about it, I’d bet my bottom dollar that you know at least one person who has done a particular diet plan, had very good success with it, perhaps lost a few stone/kg/lbs (depending on where you’re from!) and then once they’ve stopped following that plan, they gain a load of weight back, and often end up heavier than they were at the start. Maybe this even describes you.
Before we can expect ourselves to be able to maintain our weight loss success, we have to address the root cause of our weight gain, our diet and lifestyle habits.
Ask Yourself, “Can I See Myself Still doing this a Year from Now?”
One thing I always say to people is:
When you’re thinking of making a particular change, whether it’s a dietary or lifestyle change, such as cutting out snacking or increasing your activity levels, ask yourself:
“Can I see myself still doing this a year from now?”
And if the answer is no? Then that probably isn’t a realistic or sustainable change for you. I speak with so many people who say things like:
“I really struggle with snacking in the evening, so I’m going to cut it out to help me lose weight”
“I absolutely love chocolate, so I need to cut it out to lose weight”
“I’m going to aim to go for a 30-minute walk every day starting this week”
The thing all the above phrases have in common is, they can often involve people making drastic changes which are completely unrealistic for them. They might be things that can be stuck to for a couple of days, but after that first slip-up comes, or that first day you skip that exercise, it’s very easy to give up. It might seem like a really realistic goal for someone to go for a 30-minute walk every day. But often, people will set goals like this when they don’t do any exercise at the time, so they’re going from doing absolutely no exercise, to then aiming to do 30 minutes every day. In that instance, if they asked themselves “can I see myself still doing this a year from now?” the answer would almost certainly be no.
However, if this person altered their “all or nothing” thought pattern and instead said something like “I’m going to go for a 15-minute walk 3 days a week and will aim to adjust this based on my progress”, this is much more realistic, and gives them scope to either increase this or decrease this based on how they get on.
The same thought process can be applied to pretty much every goal people set themselves. If someone says they absolutely love chocolate, but then tell themselves they need to cut it out, when asking themselves “can I see myself still doing this a year from now?” the answer is going to be “Hell NO, I love chocolate!”
In this instance, this person could instead set a goal of “I’m going to reduce my chocolate intake from 2 bars per day to one”, or they could try to opt for a lower-calorie alternative, such as a 99-calorie chocolate bar. This is something they can realistically expect to be able to maintain for a long time as opposed to the extreme of cutting it out completely. And why deny yourself of something you love?
So, remember to ask yourself:
“Can I see myself still doing this a year from now?”
Stop relying on motivation which fizzles away after a few days, and start focusing on realistic and sustainable changes and goals. Seeing yourself making progress through doing so will be motivation in and of itself.
You CAN’T Rush the Process, but you CAN Make it Easier
How long has it taken you to get to the weight you’re at today? I guarantee you it hasn’t taken you weeks or months, it’s taken you years. So, if it’s taken you years to get to this point, what makes you think you can reverse this in weeks, or just a few short months?
We now live in a society where delayed gratification is a completely foreign concept. Instant gratification is given to us on a daily basis through endless scrolling, our little notification symbols lighting up, or a ‘like’ on our recent social media post. We get a little rush of ‘feel-good’ from this, and we want more of that. Every. Single. Day.
Because we’re so used to this, the thought of chipping away at something each and every day, but knowing we’re not going to see the results for weeks or maybe months, is often something people can’t get their heads around.
People understandably want to lose weight as quick as possible, it can have a huge impact on your life in so many ways. As such, people try to lose weight through weird and wonderful diets, or by dropping their calorie intake really low. These things will work for a week or two (if you’re able to keep it up for that long!), but soon after, you won’t be able to ignore the hunger, or the cravings for those foods you’ve completely denied yourself. The first slip-up will rear its ugly head, and before you know it, you’ve gained back any weight you’ve lost (and probably a bit more) and further convince yourself that “diets just don’t work for me”.
If we focused on making improvements to our current diet and lifestyle, and trying to adopt realistic and sustainable changes that we can see ourselves still doing a year from now, then you’re already on a good path towards repairing your relationship with food, and addressing the real reasons why you can’t lose weight and keep it off.
Focusing on making small, realistic, sustainable changes will make the process significantly easier. Stop trying to rush the process. Embrace the fact that this will take time, and let your dietary and lifestyle changes reflect that.
FORGET Motivation, Aim for Consistency and Sustainability
While motivation can get the wheels turning, it certainly doesn’t keep them turning. Consistency and sustainability keep them wheels turning, nice and steadily. Stop waiting for motivation to hit you, because it never will. Motivation comes through seeing positive progress as a result of the positive changes you’re making. Stepping on that scale and seeing it moving in the right direction because you’ve become much more in tune with your hunger cues, you’ve made a few simply dietary changes and you may have increased your activity levels, is motivation in and of itself. This motivation fills you with confidence that you can make long-term change, and that the changes you have been making are having a real impact.
Weight Loss doesn’t Have to be Complex. Stop Making it so.
Funnily enough, one of the difficult parts of helping people with weight loss is trying to convince them to keep it as simple as possible.
“But, I need to cut out bread, don’t I?”
“I’m not very fit, I can’t walk very far”
“My mate did keto and lost loads of weight, so I need to do that”
Weight loss comes about through being in a calorie deficit (where we consume fewer calories than our body needs each day). If we’re not in a calorie deficit, we will not lose weight. Simple, basic changes can help you achieve this, such as reducing portion sizes, a bit of walking each day, reducing snacking and opting for more nutritious foods at meal times to help manage hunger are all extremely simple examples of dietary and lifestyle changes pretty much anyone can make to help with weight loss. Let’s stop over-complicating things.
The phrase “less is more” can certainly apply to weight loss. Keep it simple.The boring stuff works.
Motivation exists for a very short period of time. In order to be successful with our weight loss attempts, instead of relying on motivation, which fizzles away after a few short days, we would be better off aiming to alter the very dietary and lifestyle habits that have got us to this point in the first place. Addressing the root cause of the weight gain is key to long-term success, otherwise, when we eventually come off that temporary “diet” we’re on and go back to our old ways of eating, the weight often comes straight back, and we’re left back at square one all over again, Googling the next diet we can have a go at.