I got this email from a reader a few years ago, and I saved it because it echoed a sentiment that I often hear from people who are struggling to lose weight. The email said:
Diane, I need help staying motivated. I lose a few pounds and then seem to lose all my motivation to keep going. How can I stop quitting after just getting started? I have a lot of weight to lose and I will never get there if I cannot get and stay motivated.
My heart breaks when I see these types of emails and Facebook messages because I was there. I could have written that email or said those words aloud a thousand times during the years that I struggled with obesity.
And believe me, being extremely obese is a struggle no matter how loudly a fat acceptance blogger says it isn’t true. It is a struggle to walk, to get out of bed, to perform bodily cleaning functions, to find clothes that fit, to feel good about yourself, to fasten seat belts or fit properly into chairs. In short, being extremely obese is a struggle every single day.
And it is not just extreme obesity that causes struggles. When I was “just” overweight I struggled with self esteem issues, struggled to keep from gaining more weight, saw my blood pressure start to creep up, and struggled to stay motivated on a never ending diet.
The struggle to stay motivated is real and it is a struggle that often results in you quitting your diet for a time. In some cases, you may quit your diet for a long time, gain more weight, and find yourself having to start over at a higher weight than if you had not quit in the first place. (At least that’s what happened to me over and over again.)
Motivation to lose weight is often internal and external at the same time.
External, or extrinsic, motivation can come from your doctor telling you that you must lose weight or else. External motivation can come from looking at a size 12 dress that you cannot fit into and getting motivated to fit into that dress. External motivation can also include things such as your family giving you a hard time about your weight or getting frustrated when you can’t fit into restaurant booths easily.
Internal, or intrinsic, motivation centers around those thoughts that come from within. Internal motivation for me often came in response to feeling good about something I had accomplished. I felt more motivated to stay focused on my diet after I had reached a fitness goal or made a good choice with regards to my food.
Success breeds success.
If you are struggling to stay motivated, look for external and internal motivators to help you reach your goals. Ask yourself these five questions when you find yourself struggling to stay focused on your diet.
1. Am I satisfied with where I am right now? If the answer is no, use that “no” as a motivation to stay focused on your diet. What behaviors are you not satisfied with? What physical concerns do you have? Write down your answers and keep that list where you can refer to it as future motivation when you begin to falter.
2. Am I setting realistic goals? Sometimes our goals can cause us to lose motivation because they are unrealistic. There was no way I was going to lose 150 pounds in 30 days, but I still hoped that the weight would magically fall off.
3. Am I celebrating victories along the way? Avoid getting caught up in what you haven’t accomplished and instead celebrate all that you have already accomplished.
4. Am I losing weight in a sustainable way? These fad diets that pop up every year or so are dangerous for you mentally. It is tempting to jump on the latest bandwagon, but that diet may not be sustainable for you for the long term.
5. Am I focusing on the internal as well as the external? When you struggle, make sure that you are taking the time to examine your internal struggles with your weight (ie: emotions) as well as taking the external steps necessary to succeed. Your struggles to stay motivated may have an emotional component that needs to be addressed.
What do you do when you have trouble staying motivated? How do you keep going? Diane