List: 10 ways to increase and stay motivated

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How to create and maintain motivation


The most difficult thing about weight loss is motivation.  Motivation changes and is one of the first things to change as you near your goal.  Maintaining motivation over time is the largest obstacle to maintain weight loss and in my book, is the number one reason for weight regain.  There are two things that are for certain when it comes to motivation.  We will all struggle to be motivated all the time.  It is just human nature to change focus and lose motivation.  

Motivation is that which we all want to have, but it is something that easily evades us.  You start with strong motivation, but motivation at the start of a new weight loss plan is natural.  You started strong with exercise every day and controlled portion sizes that are higher in protein, and then hunger and hard work stare you in the face.  You have one-quarter of football behind you, and you just ran out of gas.  You skip one 5 AM workout, and, now, you have had a cheat meal.   This splurge will make the next cheat is easier. We have all struggled to stay motivated when working towards a weight loss goal. It’s human nature to want to do what’s easiest, and face it; a weight loss goal achieving is hard. So how can you practice increasing your motivation? By doing it.  Motivation is like muscle memory – you have to do it to learn how to do it right and keep doing it right.  

To be successful long-term, it’s important to be motivated by the right goals.  When you have the right goal to focus on, you will be less likely to stray.  The wrong reasons are the enemy fo weight loss.  When you are focused on the wrong reasons such as a short-term goal of getting into a pair short for a vacation that we lose focus on what is important and weight regain occurs.  You must pick a goal that is attainable and will not change once your goal is achieved.  Sure you can focus on weight and change it later, but I suggest better long-term goals such as better health with a definition fo what better health is for you. The following ten steps to maintaining your motivation. 

woman with tape measure worried about weight
Woman with tape measure worried about weight
  1. Start with the question why?  If you have a good plan centered around the question of “why,” you are halfway to the finish line.  The “why” should be the center of your motivation and if you cannot answer the question “why,” then you will likely not be able to maintain motivation. Develop your motivation before you start, and you will be more likely to succeed.  Once you clarify your goals and motivation, you’ll find a drive from within to complete your tasks.  
  2. Set small, but measurable goals. I am not saying that you can’t hope to lose 100 pounds or run a marathon, but, woah, that is one lofty goal.  Start smaller and work toward success so that you can build your confidence.  If you want to lose a bunch of weight, focus on a goal of 5-10 pounds and work toward success.  You can set multiple small goals as you work toward the more lofty ones.   
  3. Commit to your plan and do it publicly.  I have heard this referred to going all in and using a public declaration to turn up the pressure.  Dieters who have the highest level of motivation commit themselves to a plan and stick to it.  We all tend to take it easy and lose motivation if we do not have something keeping us accountable.  
  4. Develop or plan your routine.  Developing a routine that you can stick to is one key to success.  If your routine is not maintainable or realistic, you will lose motivation.  The routine should inspire you each day to keep moving toward your goal.  I start my day with exercise, coffee, and a smoothie.  If I stick to this plan 5-6 days a week, I have met my goal, and it prevents me from straying from my diet goals.  The exercise improves my focus and calms me.  This stress reduction reduces the negative energy that induces dietary splurges for me.  
  5. Fight back those fears.  I fear failure.  Failure is a possibility, but it is not guaranteed.  Fear and pessimism are obstacles that keep you from being successful.  Fears come in many forms.  You can fear cats, dogs, heights, failure, public speaking, snakes, and just about anything you can imagine.  Fear destroys motivation.  Fear leads to failure so a fear of failure can lead to failure so, refuse to accept failure as a possibility.  Your fears should challenge you.  Instead of giving up in the face of fear, conquer fear and take each step piece by piece until they lead to success.  You have this, and you will be a success. 
  6. Visualize success.  Stress is a terrible thing so if you stop and visualize a successful attempt and think about the steps you need to complete; you will be more likely to succeed.  Like the scene in movie Caddy Shack with Ty Webb and Danny Noonan, “Be the ball.”  You need to feel successful and visualize the ball going into the cup.  Visualization of success can lead to muscle memory and success.  It is not as good as a practice session, but seeing success in your mind leads to improvement and more motivation over time.  
  7. Take a breather.  A short nap or time resting can improve focus and motivation.  I usually lay flat in my office and just meditate thinking about my breathing.  Sometimes, I fall asleep, but often I just think about my next step to relieve stress.  It helps remove obstacles to good motivation.  
  8. Be your own cheerleader.  Dieting and weight loss have peaks and valleys.  To be successful, you need to help build your own support.  Give yourself some credit when you achieve a goal or step toward success.  It will build confidence in yourself and ultimately increase your motivation.  If you do not build your own motivation, you will ultimately fail.  Optimism builds on itself.  If you acknowledge your own successes with self-celebration, you will build more and more optimism.  Pushing yourself with thoughts of positivity creates more and more motivation and inspiration. 
  9. Plan for road bumps and potholes.  Everyone has challenges that pop up.  Plan for them and developing a strategy to respond to a setback with renewed vigor.  A small slip up is not the end of the world, and you can recover.  Remain optimistic in the face of a challenge. Problem-solving, before the problem occurs, is the key to success.  This type of planning will keep you from getting off track and will help maintain motivation.  
  10. Avoid perfectionism.  Perfectionists are pessimists with better clothing.  They see less than perfect as a failure and ultimately fail in the end.  Dieting is not an “all or nothing.”  If you are less successful than you desire, there is room for improvement in the future.  Be flexible and learn from your mistakes and continue to improve.  This positivity will motivate you to improve.
beer belly gut
beer belly gut

The bottom line: Only you can defeat your weight loss goals so maintain motivation and lose weight for good.  Weight loss is dependent on you eating fewer calories. Anything you can do to maintain motivation towards that goal should be a good thing so keep motivating yourself to meet that goal.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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