Is your motivation starting to wane? Never fear! We asked some of the nation’s top experts – doctors, psychologists, fitness experts, life coaches – to give us 50 of their best inspirational tips for staying motivated to lose weight.
Here’s what to do when you start losing steam, not pounds:
#1: Think wellness not weight loss. Do you only make good food choices when you are trying to lose weight? This could lead to rebound weight gain if you go back to your old habits once you’ve reached your goal. “You have to eat every day, so why not eat better every day?” advises Rania Batayneh, MPH.
#2: Set reasonable goals. Ask yourself if what you are trying to accomplish is reasonable. “Trying to achieve too much in too little time can actually set you back” warns Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of Integrative Health and Healing at Miraval Resort & Spa. Losing 50 pounds in 2 months is unreasonable, but losing 10 pounds in 2 months is.
#3: LIMIT but do not ELIMINATE. “Eliminating your favorite foods will just make you want/crave them more,” says Rania Batayneh, MPH. Instead, Batayneh suggests allowing yourself those less healthy choices, but finding a way to limit your intake (in portion or frequency) to avoid feelings of deprivation.
#4: Pace yourself. Taking on too much at once is a recipe for disaster. Instead of taking on a bunch of new tasks you aren’t exactly looking forward to (a new exercise plan, new strict eating regime), why not take bite-sized action steps? “Work on a task you’ve been postponing for ten minutes and then decide whether or not to continue. If you discontinue the task, schedule another time to get it done” suggests Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of Integrative Health and Healing at Miraval Resort.
#5: Try tipping your scales with blue. Did you know that the color blue is a known appetite suppressant? Why not use a little color to help you stay on track? “Eat your dinner on a blue plate and you’ll discover that you need less to feel full,” advises color intuitive expert Elizabeth Harper.
#6: Take stock of any and all of the positive changes new eating habits have brought you. Instead of focusing only on the changes you aren’t seeing yet (i.e. a drop in your scale weight), focus on the benefits you are noticing, like saving money by not wasting it on junk food, or your increased energy level from exercising, advises Valerie Berkowitz, author of The Stubborn Fat Fix.
#7: Celebrate the small victories! “Remember that fitness is more like a marathon than a sprint,” advises certified trainer Stacy Berman. “By setting small weekly or monthly goals you will be able to track your progress which will keep you motivated to continue as you reach them and step by step” says Berman. And once you’ve achieved a goal, no matter how small, celebrate it! You don’t always want to feel like you are far away from the finish line – celebrate each milestone as you achieve it along the way.
#8: Wear red to get going! “If your energy is low and you feel lackluster about a project or event (or working out?) then wear red,” suggests color intuitive expert Elizabeth Harper. According to Harper, red energizes your system, boosts your confidence and empowers you to action.
#9: Trick out your tracksuit! “Buy yourself some stylish workout gear that makes you look good”, suggests Kate Brown, Community Director for Daily Burn. “When you look good, you’ll feel good,” says Brown. Plus, you’ll be much more likely to put on your new gym outfit on those rough days (when its cold out/you are tired/its that time of the month, etc).
#10: Drop the “perfect” mentality. Did you slip up? Have a moment of weakness? That’s OK, says Valerie Berkowitz, Director of Nutrition for The Center for Balanced Health. “Use any splurge as motivation to get yourself back on track,” recommends Berkowitz. Rather than using it as an excuse to have a donut for breakfast, as in I cheated last night, I might as well keep cheating, simply tell yourself that you will recommit, and make up for it.
#11: Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a hug once in awhile! Train hard, eat right, sleep well, but once a week, allow yourself an indulgence, says personal trainer Stephen Cooper. Enjoy your favorite dessert, get a massage, or simply take some time for yourself to relax.
#12: Nix the “all or nothing” approach. It’s critical that the changes you are making aren’t “all or nothing”, says Beth Campbell Duke of Duke Personal Branding. Use a calendar and gold stars to reward the efforts you are making. It may seem goofy, but it gives you a great snapshot of your efforts, so that next time you miss the gym or start to go back to old eating habits, you are less likely to feel like you failed at everything and give up.
#13: Have an accountability partner. Find a friend, trainer, or group (that’s what our forums are for! 🙂 that will keep you on track when you miss a workout, or feel like quitting suggests Stephen Cooper, certified personal trainer.
#14: Each day write down how your weight loss is making you feel healthier. Focus on the feelings of better health, and not on thinness, suggests exercise physiologist Dr. Michele Olson. You may find yourself more motivated to continue working towards your goal, especially on days when the scale isn’t budging.
#15: When you fall down, get right back up and try again. You can’t control everything, so why beat yourself up about a missed workout or diet slip up? It’s even OK to miss a workout once in a while says fitness expert Tony Horton. “It doesn’t erase all of the hard work you’ve accomplished up until now, or mean that you have to start over,” says Horton, “just pick up where you left off when you were able to.”
#16: Focus on what is going right. “Too often we become discouraged because we’ve missed a workout or two,” says Sport Psychology Professor Dr. Rob Bell. Instead of beating yourself up over the things you haven’t done (like eat perfectly or workout every single day), take a moment to acknowledge the actions you are taking towards your goals (such as cooking a healthy dinner, walking during your lunch break, etc) – while you are doing them.
#17: Stop focusing only on physical changes. Switch from vanity-based fitness or weight loss goals to those that are activity, time or frequency-based, recommends fitness instructor Kelly Gray. For instance, instead of vowing to have a 6-pack in 6 weeks (which can be quite a feat to accomplish) aim to be able to run for 45 min 2-3 times a week. You won’t see results instantly from working out, but you can FEEL them instantly.
#18: Use your social network! Post it, tweet it, blog about it, whatever you like, but put it out there! “If you tell others that you are striving for a major goal, you will find support that keeps you accountable and makes your steps to success less overwhelming” says Shelagh Braley of My Life List. By sharing your goals online, you may find someone else who shares your goals and can add to your support system (just like we do here on JESSICASMITHTV!).
#19: Schedule all your workouts at least a month ahead of time. Creating workout “dates” on your calendar really gives your plan priority and structure says fitness expert Tony Horton, author of Bring It: The Revolutionary Fitness Plan for All Levels That Burns Fat, Builds Muscle, and Shreds Inches. Plug it into your iphone, Blackberry, or Outlook calendar or write them down on an old-fashioned wall calendar.
#20: Choose one or two new, healthy habits to take on – not 10 or 20. Small, simple changes can help you reap large results says aging and longevity specialist Sukie Baxter. Decide to do one or two small things each day, such as drinking a smoothie first thing in the morning or carrying a water bottle during the day to stay hydrated. A few small daily steps can help you stick with new changes, avoid overwhelm.
#21: Take a cue from your local coffee house and set the mood for your mind. Many of us visit these high end coffee chains daily and happily plunk down $4 for a cup of coffee (which if you think about it, is insane); but their job is to make you feel good in the store, so you don’t mind spending it. And that’s the key to making good nutrition and exercise a permanent part of your life says Kate Galliett, Personal Trainer for Barone Spinal Care. Get yourself pumped up for your new workout plan in as many ways as you can – just like the photos of the delicious drinks, upbeat music and tantalizing aromas that surround you in the coffee shop – so you don’t mind ‘spending’ the time and effort on it.
#22: Change the scenery around you. “Behavior is often shaped by our environment rather than pure willpower, says Catherine Kruppa, MS, RD of The Houstonian Club in Houston. For example, deciding to eat your favorite frozen yogurt only while you are at the yogurt shop, rather than taking it home and eat it out of the carton while watching TV. You’ll still enjoy your favorite treat, but will likely end up eating much less of it.
#23: Sleep on it. According to Feng Shui, everything has energy. “Write down your goal and sleep with it under your pillow” recommends Feng Shui expert Donna Stellhorn. Literally ‘sleeping on it’ (your goals) will help incorporate that energy into you, and may help you manifest them sooner.
#24: Turn off the negative self-talk. Choose to avoid negative thoughts. And when you do start to think negatively, have an “out” that will quickly take you away from the negative thoughts suggests personal trainer Kate Galliet, “I ask myself, “What’s the payoff?” If the pay-off of the brownie that I want to eat is not something that makes me leaner, fitter, happier in the long-run – I reconsider my decision.”
#25: Have a Plan B ready. Setbacks will happen, but its how you deal with them that matters most, says Catherine Kruppa, MS, RD. “Successful goal getters use setbacks as motivation to re-commit,” says Kruppa, “identify what caused your slip up and use it as a learning opportunity”. Have a few different options ready if your plan doesn’t work, and use obstacles as learning tools to try new things.
#26: Be Your Own Cheerleader. Place post-it notes all around your house with motivational reminders such as, “I feel great!” or “food is fuel, I eat when needed,” suggests certified personal trainer and chef Ursula Rafer.
#27: Keep your motivation (and goals) evolving. “I find my motivation around me – whether it is staying healthy to be around for my daughter, strong enough to carry her or fit enough to keep up with her,” says health and fitness blogger Maria Garofalo Mccauley. “When my motivation wanes after reaching a specific goal, it’s time to set a new one! Goals are evolving and dynamic I love always having something new to shoot for”.
#28: Cross train your habits. Mixing things up isn’t just good for your fitness plan, but it also works with your daily choices as well says personal trainer PJ Stahl. For example, instead of eating out on Friday night, and potentially consuming back all the calories you worked off all week in one sitting, why not have host a healthy potluck dinner for you and your friends? Trading one old not so healthy habit for another healthy habit that you’ll look forward to just as much can help you make lasting changes.
#29: 3-Step your goal. Having a large goal (such as losing 50 pounds) can be pretty overwhelming and easy to lose motivation with since it takes some time to achieve. Break down your goal into three, smaller, mini goals or steps suggests fitness expert PJ Stahl . Creating a 3-step goal process can also help you gradually build healthy choices into your life, rather than trying to overhaul everything all at once.
#30: Evaluate your goal. How much do you really want to achieve it? If your goal isn’t valuable or important enough to you, you’ll lose interest fast says life coach Ronald Kaufman. Take a moment to re-evaluate what you are working towards – if its not something that is very important to you right now, this may not be the time to try to achieve it, or you may need to create a revised goal, one that does excite you and motivate you.
#31: List the painful consequences of not achieving your goal. Sure, it’s nice to think about all the great things you’ll have/feel once you’ve achieved your goal, but it can also be motivating to list all the possible negatives that may come about if you DON’T achieve it. “Write out all the negative consequences of not exercising (poor health, pain, limited abilities, medical costs, lack of socializing, low self-esteem)” recommends Ronald Kaufman, author of Anatomy of Success. And with each negative consequence, asks yourself: “What’s the consequence of? and “What’s the consequence of …?” – writing down all of your answers until you’ve finished your full list, and then refer back to it anytime you need a dose of motivation.
#32: Use You Tube for Inspiration. Some of the best motivational speakers are all available right at your fingertips! Why not download a few of your favorite video clips from You Tube suggests Danielle Miller of One Smart Cookie LLC. Get started with Miller’s picks: Will Smith on Success and Richard St. John’s TED talk.
#33: Stay away from bad influences. Are there certain stores, foods or even friends that lead you to make unhealthy choices? Try to stay away from triggers that may tempt you back into the unhealthy habits you are trying to break suggests personal trainer Nicole Palacios. Instead, find people, places and things that will have a more positive influence on your lifestyle, and will help facilitate your goals.
#34: Keep a success journal. Documenting your successes in a journal can help build your confidence in your abilities to accomplish your goal suggests body image and success coach Stephanie Mansour. Keep a success journal next to your bed and write down each day’s successes (which can be as seemingly insignificant as – fought through a sluggish day and still went to the gym).
#35: Name one reason why losing weight is bad for you. List as many reasons as you can about why losing weight is bad for you. Can you think of any? Now, write down all the reasons you can think about why losing weight is good for you, and make a nice long, positive list for reinforcement recommends Dr. Michele Olson, Exercise Physiologist at Auburn University Montgomery.
#36: Do some constructive venting. Research shows that “venting” actually helps us transition from “stuck mode” to “solution mode”. But instead of just complaining about why you can’t have what you want, list the three main things that are draining your energy from achieving your goal. “Take one of them and write down what you feel about that ‘drainer’ – what expectations aren’t being met? What are you tolerating as a result of the drainer? What values are being compromised? Are you beating yourself up with ‘shoulds’ or other guilt? Once you’ve finished unpacking your energy drained, ask yourself what you really want,” suggests Julie Lynch Principal of Uncommon Consulting.
#37: Take it one ½ day at a time. Sometimes you just have to focus on one half day at a time, says life coach Diana Fletcher. Instead of focusing on the miles and miles ahead of you on your journey, simply focus on what is immediately in front of you, such as the first half of your day. You can do anything for a 1/2 day! Once you make it past the first half, focus on the next to stay motivated rather than overwhelmed.
#38: Share your weight loss goals with friends and loved ones. Create a support team – that will cheer you on and help keep you accountable along your weight loss journey, recommends Dr. Michele Olson.
#39: Get a taste of what you want. Sometimes losing just that first pound can be the biggest motivator, says fitness expert Cari Shoemate. If you haven’t lost anything yet, think back to a time when you have lost those first few pounds – and let that feeling carry you through that tough workout that you are struggling with.
#40: Recognize how far you’ve come. “I keep myself motivated by setting new goals when I’ve reached one,” says weight loss success story blogger Lindsey Warren Gambles, “I figure I can always add on a few more minutes of exercise, push myself just a little harder, do a few more crunches, pick up heavier dumbbells, eat a little healthier.” Gambles also likes to take a look at past achievements and acknowledge just how far she’s come – a strategy that has been proven successful for long term weight loss.
#41: Pick up on visual cues. We are visual creatures, so use that to your advantage! Flip through a new fitness magazine or scroll through a website, or watch some fitness shows on TV to get inspired. “Use the cute workout clothes you see, great bodies and also workouts all as new motivational tools” recommends Exercise TV trainer Cari Shoemate.
#42: Take note of your options and actions. Research shows that making specific movements forward, no matter how small, gives us more motivation to keep going. “Take 5 minutes to brainstorm all the options you have for breaking through what’s holding you back and for making progress toward your goal (write down every option you can think of – including things like changing or tossing out the goal)” recommends Julie Lynch Principal. Review the list and pick out one option and then turn it into an action: decide what will you do, with whom, and by when.
#43: Know Yourself. Understanding who you are as an individual, and why you make the choices you make, is so important. Don’t work against your natural tendencies- work with them! If you are a walker, don’t try to force yourself into becoming a marathon runner. If you are a social butterfly, take a new fitness class with a friend, or if you prefer solo exercise, try out a new Pilates DVD at home.
#44: Reward your Righteousness. When you know you have been good to your body, treat yourself! Find a reward that inspires you- a new pair of sneakers or workout outfit, a new music CD for your walk or pamper your feet with a pedicure for all of your efforts. You might be surprised – that gold-star, pat-on-the-back goes a long way towards helping you stay motivated.
#45: Bliss Out. We all need a boost now and then, and sometimes the best way to get it is by doing LESS, not MORE. Resist the urge to push yourself to your limits, and try going the other way. Try out a yoga class, treat yourself to a massage or simply sit still and just focus on your breath for 10 minutes today.
#46: Create a vision. If your goal is to lose weight, create a mental picture of yourself having already achieved it. What will you look like, feel like, and move like when you have accomplished that goal? Living as if you are already there makes realizing your vision something you focus on daily.
#47: Stay simple. Avoid the lure of quick fixes like cleanses, sweat suits or extreme diets. Instead of overhauling everything, keep it simple. Substitute half of your usual morning OJ with sparkling water or try your usual sandwich with one less slice of bread and more lettuce instead today. Swap out your favorite TV show for a half hour with a book that you have been waiting to read. Offer to take your friend’s kids for the afternoon so that she has a few hours of “me” time, and then she can return the favor. Over time, these tiny steps can produce major, lasting, easier to maintain, results.
#48: Get a theme song. Rocky had a theme song, so why shouldn’t you? It sounds corny, but playing it (even singing and dancing along to it) can really boost your spirits when you are feeling uninspired and help you check back in with your motivation. (One of our favs? Spaceman by The Killers – we love the line “It’s All in Your Mind”).
#49: Stay sane by cheating – once in awhile. “Planning a cheat, whether it’s a snack, a meal, a weekend or a week vacation, can make all the difference in the world, says Valerie Berkowitz, M.S., R.D., C.D.E. By allowing yourself a little “controlled” wiggle room, you can avoid falling off the wagon big time. And once your “cheat” is done, go right back to your plan.
#50: Donate your “fat” clothes. Instead of holding onto your ‘heavy’ clothes –visualize yourself in your new wardrobe, recommends fat loss boot camp Stephen Cooper. Better yet, picture how great you’ll feel in your new body and clothes and get rid of the possibility of going back to your unhealthy habits.