In the words of Olympian Jim Ryan: “Motivation gets you started. Habit keeps you going.” That said, it’s important to stay motivated, because even if you develop a strong, healthy habit, there are still events, situations and circumstances that could derail you. Here are a few tips to help keep you motivated:
Even A Few Minutes Matters: If you don’t feel like exercising, tell yourself you’ll do it for just 10 or 15 minutes. Doing a little something is better than doing nothing at all. And once you get started, you may find the energy to keep going.
Get Reinforcements: Turn to family members or friends for motivation. Inform them of your goals and ask them to help you achieve what you’re working for by being your “cheerleaders” or joining the cause themselves.
Change It Up: Change your exercise routine to prevent boredom. Once you master an exercise your muscles become more efficient and you will burn fewer calories. In addition, you will start to dread your workout. Vary the length, intensity and type.
“A” For Effort: Focus on the efforts you are making instead of the outcomes. Increased efforts will result in increased positive outcomes. Reward yourself (with non-food rewards, of course) for the effort you exert, not the number on the scale.
Create Several Workout Mixes: Mix some of your favorite upbeat songs to help keep you moving during your workout, or buy some new music and allow yourself to listen to it only when exercising.
Buy A New Outfit: To lift your spirits at the gym, buy a new exercise outfit that makes you feel energized and good about yourself.
Paradigm/Perception Shifting: If you’ve been focusing on what you CAN’T eat, change your frame of mind and focus on what you CAN eat. Filling your day with healthful foods will help you get all the nutrition you need and forget the foods you are trying to avoid/limit, which will result in fewer cravings.
Cookbooks/Cooking Classes/Cooking Websites: Buy a new healthy cookbook and try one new recipe each week. Try taking healthy cooking classes. Take a look at eatingwell.com and cookinglight.com.
Remind Yourself that Weight Loss is Quick Only at First: If your weight loss has slowed, and you’re feeling less motivated because the scale isn’t giving you the feedback you desire, remind yourself that you didn’t gain the weight overnight, and you won’t lose it overnight either.
Make Appointments to Work Out: Think of your workouts as “appointments.” Record them as you would any other appointment. To help you keep the appointment, re-visualize why you want to lose weight and how you will feel when you reach your goal.
Lower Your Goals: If for some reason you are not meeting your exercise or food goals, and you’re feeling like a failure and lacking motivation, lower your goals so that you can achieve them. Once you meet your goals and experience success you will have more self-esteem, be more confident and become motivated again.
Understand and Create Relapse Prevention Strategies: The reality is that weight loss and maintenance have lots of ups and downs, and plenty of curveballs. A key component of any program is to prepare for lapses and relapses. A slip doesn’t have to become a fall, and a lapse doesn’t have to become a relapse. To understand more about relapse prevention strategies see: http://goo.gl/LzPyqC and http://goo.gl/UHvAKJ.
Watch a few TV Commercials: TV commercials can be very inspirational. There are also some wonderful viral videos. Here are a few old TV commercials that still resonate: Nike, “If You Let Me Play” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ_XSHpIbZE and Weight Watchers’ “Stop Dieting. Start Living.” / “History of Dieting”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KSGIOin36E.
Watch a Great Food Movie: Movies can be quite inspirational; in fact, a few have the power to stimulate real change in our lives. I’ve watched several documentary films about food in the last several months, and I’ve found them to be entertaining, interesting and inspirational. Here are a few you might want to watch: Food Inc., Two Angry Moms, Super Size Me, Forks Over Knives, King Corn – and there are many more.
Take a Great Food/Nutrition Class: For instance: Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights. The online course, administered by a member of the faculty of Vanderbilt University, will help you to develop a basic understanding of nutrition, make better decisions and react more cautiously to media hype. The best part is that it’s free. See: https://www.coursera.org/course/lifenutr and check out coursera.org for more free nutrition classes.
Affirmations and Self-Talk: Give yourself a pep talk. Start by creating affirmations: strong, positive statements asserting that something desirable about yourself is, in fact, true. The idea is to use your words to help you succeed by “talking to yourself about yourself” in a positive light.
Enjoy Exercise More: Focus on the enjoyment, feelings of competence and social interaction that come from the experience. A study in the International Journal of Sports Psychology showed that a group who participated in aerobic exercise to improve their physical appearance didn’t stick with it nearly as long as a group who did martial arts because they enjoyed it.
Make It Social: There is a plethora of research demonstrating that working out (or dieting) with a group on a regular basis increases your likelihood of sticking with your routine.
Read Great Quotes: I love the idea of posting great inspirational quotes on your computer, fridge and other key locations. Here are a few to get you started: http://goo.gl/ViK8Ua.
Use a Device and/or Application: There are so many great fitness and food apps and devices out there today. There are also reminder services that will send you motivational texts. See: http://goo.gl/L8kNS5.
Fake It Until You Become It: See Dr. Amy Cuddy teach you how by watching this amazing talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en.
Dress for Success: There’s nothing like wearing nice clothes to make you feel better. Don’t wait until you lose weight. Look good now! See: http://goo.gl/Qtqm6Y.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.