Whether you’re just beginning your weight-loss journey or struggling to lose those last few pounds, keeping your motivation up starts to become a struggle. “While you might think you just need to magically summon more willpower, in reality, it’s normal to sink into old habits when you’re tired, stressed or feeling deprived,” says Kim Peek, a motivational speaker and certified running coach. That’s why it’s important to have a plan. “You need to develop habits and behaviors that support your goals,” adds Amy Silver, RD.
Here, nine easy ways you can boost your motivation and lose weight:
VISUALIZE YOUR ‘WHY’
Ask yourself why you’re trying to lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle. “When health goals are linked to a deeper meaning like feeling confident enough to ask for a promotion or being able to be more active in your child’s life, you get an extra push to work toward them,” says Allison Tibbs, a certified personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach based in San Francisco. Then, envision your ideal situation and create visual reminders to keep your goal front and center, from inspirational quotes and photos to putting together a vision board. “Place notes of encouragement in your kitchen, on your computer screen and your bathroom mirror to keep yourself on track,” suggests Tibbs.
REWRITE YOUR SCRIPT
Negative self-talk can be huge motivation drain, and often, you predict your own failures when you know you have a habit of starting then quitting, explains Peek. But your behaviors begin with how you think about yourself. Adopt a perspective of positivity and fuel your weight loss with “I am” statements, she suggests. For example, when you start to think, “Yeah, sure, I’m never going to stick to this workout routine,” tell yourself: “I am the type of person who exercises.” Instead of thinking “I can’t eat that because I’m on a diet,” reframe it to: “I am someone who fuels my body with nutritious food that gives me the energy to strength train.” The more you revise your script, the more you’ll begin to believe in it and change your actions accordingly.
SET ‘SMART’ GOALS …
“Goal-setting and having measurable markers of progress is crucial to staying motivated and enjoying exercise, too,” says Nick Mitchell, certified strength and conditioning coach and global CEO of Ultimate Performance. While it’s tempting to aim high, especially when you’re feeling optimistic, unrealistic goals zap your motivation when you invariably fail to reach them. On the other hand, amorphous goals like ‘I want to lose weight and get fit,’ are impossible to track. Instead, go for SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, says Mitchell. For example: “I want to lose 20 pounds of body fat in 15 weeks so I can look great and feel good for my bachelor party.”
… AND BREAK THEM INTO MINI GOALS
Next, make your weight-loss goals even simpler: “Having a big, long-term goal that seems far away can sometimes be demotivating, so setting smaller, more achievable performance goals along the way will keep training fresh and interesting,” explains Mitchell. Start by trying to fix one habit or one area of your life that will have the greatest impact, he suggests. Think: Upping your step count by 1,000 steps per day, consistently tracking your food intake or drinking more water each day.
RECORD YOUR JOURNEY
Keeping track of the basics (like your workouts, daily step count and food intake) gives you valuable data that demonstrates your progress, and nothing is more motivating than seeing results, says Mitchell. Schedule time each day or week to log your successes and setbacks, reflect and plan ahead in a journal. Take note of how you feel after your workout or meals as well, suggests Peek. Then, when you’re feeling low on motivation, flip through to remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments so far.
CELEBRATE YOUR WINS
It’s easy to lose motivation if you never take the time to acknowledge your accomplishments along the way. If you stick to a commitment for a week, reward yourself, says Angie Fifer, PhD, a sport and exercise psychologist. For example, treat yourself to a new Netflix show, a massage, a healthy dessert or a new pair of walking shoes. “Rewards are important reminders you’re making progress, even if you can’t quite see the end goal yet,” she says.
PICK OUT A WEIGHT-LOSS OUTFIT
When the number on the scale just won’t drop, your motivation can tank — even though weight-loss plateaus are often part of the process. Rather than dwelling on the number, “find an article of clothing that is a bit snug or doesn’t fit,” says Tibbs. “As you move through your journey, try on that dress or pair of pants to see how it fits differently.” Better yet, take weekly or monthly progress photos so you can see your body composition change over time, adds Mitchell.
MEASURE MORE THAN JUST WEIGHT
If you’re feeling down about the number on the scale, there’s nothing wrong with limiting weigh-ins to once a week or adding different measurements to reboot your motivation, says Silver. For example, consider measuring your body fat percentage, waist circumference and hip circumference so you can see other numbers changing, suggests Silver.
To make weight loss sustainable, it should also be enjoyable. “Take a cooking class or stop by your neighborhood farmers market for fresh ideas to keep your taste buds happy,” suggests Silver. Similarly, if you’re bored with your normal workout routine, “change things up by trying a new group exercise class or taking a walk with a friend.”