Many of us know we need to lose weight, but getting motivated to do so can be difficult. Many of us can get pretty motivated to lose weight in the short-term, especially if a significant life event such as a wedding, a beach vacation, or a high school reunion happens to be right around the corner. In these situations, we can remain vigilant about our diets and exercise routines in order to lose enough weight over a couple of weeks’ time so that we can feel better about our appearance.
Some of us may even practice extreme behaviors like giving up all carbohydrates or fitting in two workouts a day. I once met with a patient who had lost 15 pounds in two weeks (before working with me) to fit into her wedding dress by surviving nearly exclusively on cucumbers and coffee. Although this approach to weight loss can work, the problem is that after a major event like this passes, our motivation to keep up with the habits (especially the extreme habits) that lead to weight loss promptly disappears.
But what about those people who lose dozens or even hundreds of pounds over several months or years and keep it off for good? How do they stay motivated? Well, I can’t speak for everyone who has ever achieved this type of weight loss, but I can tell you what has worked for hundreds of my clients and patients.
The key to these clients’/patients’ weight loss success has been to stay motivated by; envisioning their future, figuring out why losing weight is meaningful to them, setting goals, and celebrating their accomplishments.
This article will help you understand these keys to getting motivated to lose weight by breaking them down into five necessary steps. By following these five steps, you will maintain your motivation to lose weight for months and years at a time. These five steps will instruct you to:
- Determine Your “True Why
- Create a Vision
- Set Goals
- Create an Accountability Plan
- Celebrate Your Progress
Step 1: Determine Your “True Why”
The most important thing you can do to stay motivated to lose weight is to answer this question: “why do I want to lose weight?” Seems simple enough, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t.
If your answer to this question is any form of the following responses, you need to dig deeper:
- “I’ve always wanted to weight XXX lbs.”
- “I really want to look my best for my sister’s wedding.”
- “I know I will feel happy if I just weigh XXX lbs.”
- “I want to look good in a bathing suit for a cruise I am taking this summer.”
These superficial and short-term motivators to lose weight will only yield underwhelming, temporary results. To build sustained motivation that will lead you to achieve significant and permanent weight loss results, you need to determine what is truly behind your desire to lose weight. In other words, how will achieving your weight loss goal impact what is most important to you in life? The answer to this question is considered to be your “true why.”
The most important things in life and that define who you are as a person are considered your personal values. My top three personal values are; family, health, and helping others. To determine your “true why,” first define your personal values and then reflect on how achieving your weight loss goal would impact your personal values in ways that would make your life more meaningful.
After you have defined your “true why,” the next step to solidify your motivation to lose weight is to create a future vision of yourself and your life.
Your future vision is, of course, personal to you, but it should meet one criterion; your vision should make you over the top excited about what your life would be like if you were to make this future image a reality. The more excited you are to reach this desired future vision, the greater your motivation will be to achieve your weight loss goal.
Step #2: Create Your Vision
It’s hard to stay motivated to achieve your weight loss goal if you don’t know what you’re working towards. Yes, we all know that if you initiate certain habits, we’ll lose weight, and the number on the scale will go down. But other than seeing a smaller number on the scale, what’s in it for you? By envisioning what you’ll look and feel like after achieving your weight loss goal, you will be able to answer this question and build sustainable excitement around achieving your weight loss goal.
To create your vision, ask yourself questions like:
- How do I look different now that I have achieved my weight loss goal?
- How do I feel differently now that I have reached your weight loss goal?
- What can I do now that I couldn’t do before, now that I have achieved my weight loss goal?
Your visioning should start in your head, but to maximize your motivation, I recommend writing your vision down, turning it into a visual aid, or both.
Write It Down
Putting your vision in writing helps make your desired future state feel more real to you, and writing it down will help the images of your chosen future state stick with you. Neuroscience has shown that individuals are more likely to remember the material they’ve generated themselves than the material they’ve read or heard. Therefore, when you speak your vision out loud or, even better, write it down, you’re forcing your brain to regenerate the image you created in your mind and, as a result, imprint it more firmly into your memory. Writing down your vision is an effective way to stay motivated, and so is turning your dream into a visual representation of what you are aspiring to achieve.
Vision boards have become very popular in recent years, and for a good reason. Vision boards are a visualization tool made up of words and images representing your goals and dreams. By turning the mental image of what you and your life will look like after reaching your weight loss goal into a vision board, you will equip yourself with an eye-catching reminder of what you are working towards. This visual reminder will help to keep you excited and motivated about achieving your weight loss goal.
Step #3 Set Goals
Knowing your “true why” and envisioning your future reality are essential steps for boosting your weight loss motivation, but taking these two steps can only get you so far. The best way to stay motivated to lose weight is to see results, and to achieve weight loss results; you’ll need to set goals. Setting goals will help to guide your focus, trigger new habits, and sustain your motivation.
Creating impactful goals starts with bringing the end result to mind, which in this case is your desired future vision, which you created in step two. For example, let’s imagine that your desired future vision includes details such as losing 50 lbs, running a 5K with your daughter, and eating vegetables out of your home garden. To reach this desired future state, you’ll need to create goals that target habits changes. Such goals are best set by using the S.M.A.R.T. goal formula.
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” —Earl Nightingale
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for specific, meseasurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Using this method can also improve your ability to reach your goals by encouraging you to define your objectives and set a completion date. Let’s turn part of the sample vision, run a 5K with your daughter, into a set of S.M.A.R.T., to provide an example:
- Run the Turkey Trot 5 K on Thanksgiving morning.
Behavioral Goals (the actions you will take to achieve your outcome goal):
- Purchase a new pair of running sneakers by Friday.
- Design a running playlist with at least 30 songs by Saturday
- Run for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, starting two weeks from today until the week of Thanksgiving.
Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you create a road map that will lead you towards your desired future vision. Since reaching your vision can take months or years, creating incremental S.M.A.R.T. goals will allow you to experience the joy of periodic goal achievement along the way, which will be sure to keep you excited and motivated. Adding an accountability plan to your goals is a great way to increase your success rate, which will help you stay on track and motivated.
Step #4: Create An Accountability Plan
Goal setting is essential but creating goals without an accompanying accountability plan is like driving without lane makers; it becomes way too easy to swerve off the road or even crash. To help you stay the course and stay motivated, it is wise to pair an accountability plan with your goals.
Accountability can come in various forms, and each individual will require different levels of accountability to support the achievement of their weight loss goal. The most common forms of accountability are intrinsic or self-accountability and extrinsic or outside accountability.
The simplest form of accountability is holding yourself accountable for your actions. The most straightforward way to hold yourself accountable to your goals is to write them down and then set a date to check in on your progress. However, with the busy lives that most of us lead, it can be challenging to keep our goals at the forefront of our minds. For this reason, you may want to consider using calendar reminders, goal tracking apps, or visual cues to help hold yourself accountable for reaching your goals.
My client and co-author of Weight Lost: 5 Steps To Achieving Your Ideal Weight and Gaining The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Katy Cabbage, came up with the idea of sticking post-it notes to her bathroom mirror as a weight-loss countdown tracker. Each post-it note had a weight written on it, and as she passed that weight, she would rip off the post-it note, displaying the next weight she planned to reach. The form of self-accountability helped her track her progress and stay motivated.
For many of us, achieving our weight loss goals and staying motivated to do so can be challenging. In these moments, it can be useful to have an extra layer of accountability provided by someone beyond ourselves. In these instances, calling on family or friends to provide this accountability can be extremely beneficial.
When considering asking family members to help provide you with external accountability, I’d recommend that you avoid your significant other or parent. These relationships are lovely and complicated, which is why it’s best to consider asking a sibling, cousin, or another close family member to help hold you accountable to your goals. Since these relationships are different from that of a spouse or parent, it can be more comfortable for them to be honest with you and provide push-back without fear of damaging your relationship. The same is true for your friends.
Friends are a great source of accountability because they’re invested in your life, their opinions matter to you, and they can provide you with honest feedback without the limitations that are naturally built into the relationship you have with your spouse and parents. When thinking about what friends to choose, try to identify a friend who is likely to connect with you about the incremental behavioral efforts you are making rather than someone more likely to give you praise for your innate abilities.
Holding yourself accountable or finding a family member or friend to provide external accountability can undoubtedly help you to maintain motivation as you work towards your weight loss goal. Another way to keep your motivation levels high is to celebrate your progress.
Step #5: Celebrate Your Progress
Yes, it will feel amazing when you reach your ideal future vision and your long-term weight loss goal but don’t wait until you achieve this goal to celebrate your accomplishments. Taking time to celebrate mini-milestones and the achievement of benchmarks along the way to achieving your long-term goal is essential to keeping yourself motivated. Now, these celebrations don’t have to be literal celebratory parties; although they could be, they should be a meaningful way to reward yourself for your hard work.
How you celebrate your progress is, of course, personal to you. Just make sure that the reward you pick is meaningful and provides you with extra motivation to keep working. True rewards are often things you want or enjoy doing, but you usually wouldn’t invest money and/or time on for yourself. Here are some rewards to consider:
- A date night with our significant other.
- Time free of disruptions to take a bath or read quietly.
- A trip to a particular place with your children (zoo, aquarium, sporting event).
- A trip to the spa.
- A new set of workout clothes.
This list could go on forever since I don’t know what would feel like a reward to you. But I’m guessing that you could come up with a pretty exciting list for yourself in no time flat.
So go on, celebrate your accomplishments, and reward yourself when you hit those mini-milestones. You deserve it!
Finding the motivation to lose weight can be challenging. Suppose there is a significant life event on the horizon. In this case, we can often generate the motivation to achieve short-term weight loss, but our motivation to keep losing weight usually fades away after the event passes.
However, you now understand the five steps you can take today to help you get motivated to lose weight. To summarize, these steps are to; determine your “true why,” create your vision, set goals, create an accountability plan, and celebrate your progress.
If you have follow-up questions about these steps or would like to share with me how you’ve had success staying motivated to lose weight, please send me an email.
If you like to explore how you can become and stay motivated to lose weight in more detail, you can do so by reading WeightLost: 5 Steps to Achieving Your Ideal Weight and Gaining the Life You’ve Always Wanted.