It’s the fuel that drives success but sometimes you might be running on empty: motivation. By focusing on the circumference of your waist and manhandling your love handles in despair, you’re ignoring one aspect of your body that will make or break your weight loss success. Your brain.
Your attitude to weight loss is so important, in fact, that scientists have pegged your internal motivation to lose weight as one of the predicting factors for long-term weight maintenance.
Even after a successful stint with weight loss, it’s common to see results grind to a halt. This often leads to demotivation, closely followed by weight gain that counteracts your previous success. Studies have consistently reported that incorporating behavioural techniques and counselling will give you the best chance of maintaining weight loss.
So, before you focus on the number on the scales, start by reframing your core behaviour and attitude to weight success. If it isn’t coming to you naturally (we don’t blame you), then read our 9 tips and tricks for staying motivated…
1. Remember your incentive for losing weight
When motivation levels are low, remember why you decided to lose weight in the first place. A lot of the dangerous risks that come with being obese or overweight aren’t visible which makes it easy to put off a healthy diet until tomorrow. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that those health risks don’t exist.
Obese and overweight people are more at risk of mortality and associated morbidities or diseases including hypertension (extremely high blood pressure), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Strong evidence shows that your risk of all of the above will be reduced as a result of weight loss.
If you’re struggling to remember the reasons why weight loss is so important to your health, then it might be worth taking a blood test. The test will flag weight-related health issues including high cholesterol and diabetes. You can also add these health concerns to your list of goals. For example, aim to see lower levels of cholesterol in a follow-up blood test 6 months later.
2. Keep a journal
Evidence suggests that, in general, people are terrible at guessing the number of calories they’ve burned and consumed. This comes as no surprise when many of the nutritional labels on food products are misleading and confusing.
But if you want to lose weight, it’s critical to achieve a calorie deficit (we recommend a 500 - 600 calorie deficit per day). This means that you need to brush up on your understanding of how many calories you consume and burn throughout the day.
Keeping a food diary is the best way to track if you’re achieving a calorie deficit and has been shown to lead to greater weight loss results. You should note down everything you’ve eaten and drunk throughout the day as well as your exercise regime. If you’ve hit a wall with weight loss, keeping a journal might help you to decipher where you’re going wrong.
3. Don’t give up after one indulgence
Have you ever had a healthy day of eating and then, bam! One giant slice of chocolate cake comes to ruin the day. What do you do next now your healthy day is compromised? Eat pizza? Chocolate? Sweets?
It’s very common to feel the need to further indulge once your diet has been broken but this particular attitude is what hinders your weight loss results, rather than the slice of chocolate cake itself.
You gain weight when you consistently consume more calories than you burn. If you’ve been following a healthy routine but eat one slice of chocolate cake, then your success won’t be compromised.
A study on attitudes toward indulging in foods found that people who felt guilty about eating a slice of chocolate cake were less likely to lose weight compared to people who celebrated the treat. That’s why it’s so important to have a healthy attitude towards unhealthy snacking and celebrate indulging in the odd chocolatey treat.
4. Incorporate exercise into your routine
Even if you live a busy lifestyle, it’s critical to incorporate exercise into your routine. People tend to overestimate how intense their exercise should be to see results but, in fact, simple exercises are a great part of a healthy routine. This includes walking, cycling, or swimming.
A study on long-term weight-loss maintenance found that participants who exercised were significantly more likely to see successful results. This is backed by another study that listed a physically active lifestyle as a predictor for long-term weight maintenance.
5. Reward yourself for your successes
Along your weight loss journey, make sure you take the time to celebrate your successes and treat yourself for sticking to your routine. Rewards should be non-food related such as a fun outing with loved ones.
6. Set realistic, achievable and frequent goals
Goal-setting is a useful tool when it comes to weight loss success, but it’s important that you get it right. If you’re aiming to lose a significant amount of weight, then only setting yourself an end goal can be demotivating and overwhelming. Create realistic and achievable goals along your journey. This can include doing some form of exercise at least 5 times a week or sticking to your diet plan every day of the week.
7. Control stress and emotional eating
A study that looked at long-term weight success found that people who had a greater ability to handle life stress were more likely to achieve and stick to their goals.
It’s well known that stress and negative emotions are linked to binge eating. Stress not only triggers food cravings as a way of activating the reward centres of the brain but it’s also thought to induce metabolic changes that promote body fat mass. This can be a major roadblock in your journey to success. If binge eating is a problem for you, you might need to take a more behavioural approach to your diet. Counselling and behavioural therapy can help to challenge your internal links with emotions and eating.
8. Tell your friends and family about your motivation to lose weight
A problem shared is a problem halved. A study on self-reinforcement found that having a public goal sets you up for a greater chance of success. Having shared your motivations, you’ll feel there is more to lose if you don’t succeed. Plus, with support from friends and family, you’re less likely to fall into situations that tempt you away from your diet plan.
9. Get professional help
Long-term weight maintenance is extremely challenging but you’re much more likely to succeed if you have professional support as guidance and seek positive motivation.
The bottom line
With a sharp focus on diet and exercise, people often forget the most important element when it comes to success with weight loss: motivation. Losing weight isn’t easy and keeping the weight off is even more of a challenge, so it’s normal to lose your drive at some point along the journey. But there are ways of combating demotivation such as remembering your incentives, incorporating exercise, rewarding yourself for successes and setting manageable goals.