Everyone begins the new year with the best of intentions on how to better themselves. So why is it that come February or March we have already given up and gone back to the status quo? I think it can mostly be summed up in one word: Motivation.
One of the biggest challenges as a dietitian, who spends a lot of time in nutrition counseling sessions, is how to get or keep my clients motivated. Motivation is also a big reason why it is so hard to keep weight off. You start off motivated because you see a ton of results, but as the results start to dwindle so does your motivation level.
Unfortunately, slowing weight loss is a very normal part of a weight loss journey and it doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong or need to make big changes. However, it does mean that you need to be patient, consistent and thinking of ways to maintain your motivation.
So what are my secrets?
Eating nutritiously (and maintaining a healthy weight) is a journey and not a destination.
There is never a finish line or a point in time when you can STOP making healthy choices. This is why it’s so important not to fall into the trap of fad diets. Only make changes that you can maintain.
Focus on what you CAN do.
It can really drag you down to think about what you can’t have or shouldn’t eat. “I can never have ice cream, chocolate, cheeseburgers, potato chips, etc. again.” It’s more important to realize what you SHOULD be having. “I can eat all of these beautiful fruits and vegetables and try a bunch of new recipes with different whole grains and come up with new ways to prepare fish and maybe even get into making my own breakfast muffins!” It is so much more productive to focus on the positive.
If there’s a will there’s a way.
You need to narrow in on the reasons that you want to make a change, whether it’s losing weight or eating healthier. WHY do you want to lose weight? It’s not enough to just say “to feel better”; what do you want to feel better doing? Do you want to be able to ride a roller coaster again, or be more comfortable riding a bike, or complete your first 5K, or get off of your cholesterol or diabetes medications? What are you really setting out to accomplish? Identify what exactly that is and remind yourself of it daily.
Be accountable to YOU!
There’s no better way to stay motivated than to keep track of the changes you are making. It is vital to have other indicators of success besides the number on the scale. A healthy weight is a reflection of healthy eating and tracking your food choices with an app like MyFitnessPal is the best way to stay accountable. Not technologically inclined? Good old-fashioned paper and pen work just fine and even have the added benefit of acting as a journal for you to identify what you have been doing well and where you need to improve.
This could be a significant other (although they can also be the biggest enablers, so be careful!), a friend, a neighbor, an anonymous person in an online support group, a dietitian, etc. It doesn’t matter where your support is coming from, but having someone else to lean on, bounce ideas off of and remind you of your reasons for wanting to make a change in the first place, can be extremely helpful during times when you feel your motivation waning.
Staying motivated isn’t an easy fix, but it is one that deserves some time and attention devoted to it to overcome your barriers and be successful!