You may find that you are really enthusiastic about making a particular change to your eating habits, but as time goes on, that motivation starts to fade and those goals you set seem difficult to reach. Here are 5 of my tips to help you stay motivated over the long term.
1 – Choose the right reasons for losing weight/eating healthy
There are two types of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation means the behaviour is driven by internal rewards. Extrinsic motivation is driven by outside rewards or to avoid punishment.
With weight loss goals, reasons for losing weight can often be extrinsic, like losing weight to look good for a wedding coming up. However, you may be more likely to stay motivated longer by intrinsic motivation. Examples of intrinsic motivation could be eating healthy because it helps you stay energized and focused at work, or because it allows you to have more energy to play with your kids or grandkids.
We may have both of these motivations, but try reminding yourself of the benefits healthy eating will give you internally when you feel motivation decreasing.
2 – Focus on what you can control
Attaining a certain number on the scale should not be a goal.
It can potentially be a tool for tracking progress (though there are better ways), but making it your ultimate goal to attain a certain number on the scale is not going to set you up for success because we can’t really control that number. So, when the scale doesn’t match up with what we expect, we can become frustrated, feel defeated and want to give up.
Instead, set goals around healthy habits that you can work on. An example of this type of goal is: I will pack a balanced lunch with snacks to bring to work each day. The outcome of this goal could be: a) Not buying take out and b) avoiding low energy, cravings or feeling extremely hungry by the time you get home from work. All of those outcomes can have great benefits and will support your goal of weight loss because it could help you avoid buying an unhealthy lunch, and ensure you have enough energy to make dinner or workout after work.
Setting goals around attainable nutrition habits will help to build confidence as you achieve them, allow you to progressively set more challenging goals, and know that you are doing what you can to achieve your goal of weight loss.
3 – Get some support
Having someone to connect with and support you through this change is key. Whether it be for accountability, providing words of encouragement, or to make meal prep work easier, it will help you feel like you aren’t alone. Talk to the people in your life so they can understand what changes you are trying to make and how they can support you – even if they don’t want to change yet themselves. Some examples of how you can get support from friends and family include:
- Find someone to run or workout with
- Text your workout to a friend as accountability
- Have your spouse or kids help you with the cooking or food prep
- Exchange healthy recipes or meals with friends
4 – Let go of all or none thinking
This type of thinking comes up in many areas of life, not just in healthy eating, but it makes it really easy for people to think they have fallen off track with one or two “treats,” and have a hard time getting back to their routine.
Learn to accept that healthy eating really is a lifestyle. There will be times when you can indulge in something a bit less healthy, but its about finding that right balance for you so you don’t feel deprived, but are also not giving into every treat or temptation that comes your way. Some things that can help are not putting any foods “off-limits,” and practicing mindful eating.
5 – Use visualization and be specific about your goals
Clarify your reasons for change and visualize how your life will look like when you reach your goal.
When in a situation where you can be tempted by something that can get in the way of your goals (such as choosing to skip the gym or not cook dinner because you are tired), taking a moment to pause and think about this image or long term goal in your mind can help you to resist the short lived reward or satisfaction that you may get.
I would love to hear your thoughts! Do you have any tips to share?
Written by: Andrea Docherty, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist