Keeping up your motivation while dieting

by Ali on August 22, 2008

I’ve been working on a few different projects recently – things which I’m keen to do, but which are at the early stages with a lot of work ahead! I find that my enthusiasm tends to go up and down, following a pattern like this:

  • I think of a new idea or project to pursue, and I’m excited!
  • I begin to plan, think about what it’ll be like to complete this goal, etc.
  • I make a start, still feeling enthusiastic.
  • I start to realise just how much work lies ahead… and my motivation plummets.

Does that sound familiar? I suspect most of us follow similar patterns, and when working on a long-term goal like losing weight, it can seem that there’s a huge mountain ahead to climb. There’ll be days, even weeks, when you feel discouraged and wonder why you ever started trying to eat more healthily.
Here’s how to stay motivated for the long haul:

Have your end goal in sight

Write down what you’re going to achieve, or draw/find an image that represents this. Maybe you’ll be at a certain weight, or maybe you’ll be fit enough to run for twenty minutes on the treadmill. Perhaps you want to buy clothes that are several sizes smaller than your current ones. Having a vague or woolly goal like “I want to lose some weight” means you won’t know when you get there – be clear about what exactly you want to achieve.

Make the journey enjoyable

Don’t just think about the jeans you’ll be able to fit into next year, gritting your teeth through every step it takes to get there – make sure you enjoy the journey too. Never see your diet as a punishment or a deprivation: see it as an opportunity to eat more healthily and to get creative with meals! How about:

  • Trying a new exotic fruit every week
  • Enjoying some favourite low-fat treats (prawns are one of mine)
  • Getting together with some like-minded friends for a “healthy dinner party”
  • Making your exercise sociable and fun (ice-skating, Frisbee, country walks)

Build up good habits

One of my favourite sayings, by Jim Ryun, is:

Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.

There will be days when you feel like ditching the diet and eating three doughnuts for lunch. But the habit of going for a lunchtime walk and enjoying your packed lunch in the park can keep you on the straight and narrow during those times. Similarly, if you always stock the cupboards and fridge with healthy ingredients at the weekend, you won’t be so tempted to pick up a Chinese on your way home.

Realise that motivation naturally wavers

You’ll have days when you feel really positive and enthusiastic about your diet, days when you’re certain you’re going to succeed. Take advantage of these times to fit in some extra exercise, to try out a healthy recipe that you’ve never attempted before, or to write yourself a “motivation note” (put it in a sealed envelope with your name on).

There’ll also be days when you just don’t care any more, when you feel like there’s so far to go that you may as well give up. Days when you crave a king-sized chocolate bar. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is what it’ll be like from now on: ride out the motivation slump, and you’ll soon be feeling enthusiastic again. This is a great time to take out that “motivation note” that you wrote when you were at a high point, read it over, and plough onwards…

(Image above by vikapproved)

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