If there is one thing all dieticians and obesity experts agree on, it is that personal motivation is the basis of all weight loss success. No matter how healthy the diet plan is, or what combination of calories and nutrition it contains, it won’t help anyone lose weight unless they follow it long enough. Their willingness to do so depends entirely on how motivated they are to change their eating and exercise habits to achieve their weight loss goals.
Motivation advice Difficult to find
The internet offers a mind-boggling array of diets and slimming eating plans, but advice on diet motivation is extremely scarce. Given the strong link between diet and motivation, this lack of motivational help is surprising, to say the least. It may stem from the fact that many diets are created by people who have no practical experience of helping people manage their weight. Perhaps they see weight loss as a biological rather than a human process. If so, I think it’s a mistake.
Motivate yourself to lose weight
I tell all my clients that starting a weight loss diet is just like starting a trip. And like any trip, it requires preparation. We have to look ahead and plan how to overcome the problems that arise along the way. By doing this, we take control of the process and increase our chances of success.
Unfortunately, a lot of dieters aren’t planning on it. Instead, they take things as they come, relying on two things: their initial enthusiasm, and (when this diminishes) their willpower. But enthusiasm and willpower are not enough to overcome the temptations and difficulties we face as we try to change our eating habits and lifestyle.
Stop for a moment and imagine taking your family on a camping trip. Do you rely on your enthusiasm and willpower for food and shelter? Of course not. In all probability, you will spend hours in advance carefully packing and preparing each eventuality, and the whole trip will be carefully planned.
But when you start a dietary journey, many of you leave without any form of planning or preparation. It is as if you are convinced that everything will go smoothly. But let’s face it, what diet will ever run smoothly? Answer: none! So what happens if we run into a big problem? Answer: we wobble, and stop often.
We need to plan new ways of thinking
Planning a dietary trip is not about packing equipment, but about packing “new thoughts”. We need to rehearse and adopt new ways of thinking to overcome problems during our journey. This is not psycho-babble – this is just common sense. After all, a successful diet is largely a matter of motivation and attitude. It’s about what happens between our ears!
The most common dietary problem
The most common problem we face with a diet is boredom. This usually happens when our initial enthusiasm for losing weight decreases and we get tired of watching what we eat. We become discouraged and slightly depressed by the idea that we should maintain our “sensible eating habits” while everyone else seems to be having a good time.
Loss of direction leads to boredom
We get bored when we lose our sense of direction. So to overcome it, we have to go exactly where we’re going. Remember that a diet is not a pointless process, it is a journey from A to B. Here is how we think if we lose direction:
“I’m bored with diets, it’s such pain. I don’t have freedom anymore. I can’t eat this, I can’t… I’m tired of it. I can’t share food with the girls at work, I can’t eat in my favorite restaurants, I have to keep saying no to food when visiting friends, I have to watch my family eat for me, I don’t have time to exercise properly, I never lose weight and I feel miserable. Heck! Life is too short for this…”
This kind of thinking is demoralizing. It focuses exclusively on the negative aspects of diets and signals complete aimlessness. No goal of weight loss is achievable if we think like this.
A better way of thinking
Now let me show you some better alternatives. Compare them with the example above.
“Hmm, my diet’s not going so well. But I’m not gonna make excuses. I’ve wasted enough time making excuses for myself. From now on, no matter what, to be honest, I’m gonna go to myself. Then what do I want? I want to lose weight and get myself in shape. Why do you want to do that? Because I want that beach vacation (or other very selfish goals) that I promised myself. I want it so badly that I can touch it! Okay, so I have to learn how to eat right – big deal! I can do this easily if I put my mind to it. Heck! Good food isn’t hard. What’s hard is that I’m overweight for the rest of my life. I want something better. Something much better than a fistful of nachos or a crazy fat dessert.”
“Hmm, my diet isn’t going so good. So let me remind myself why I’m dieting. All my life I’ve been eating to please other people. My mom said “eat this”, so I ate it. My school friends said “have some of this”, so I had lots. My work colleagues now say “have a slice of this”, so I have two! And my kids say “you must try this”, so I try it. And every time I make an effort to lose weight, everyone says “forget about your diet, eat some of this” so I do. Well, that’s enough! No more eating to please other people. Today I’m going to start eating to please me. And what pleases me is the idea of wearing a size (?) dress to my daughter’s wedding (or another very selfish goal).
I realize I need to eat properly, but this is a ridiculously tiny price to pay for achieving my goal. Heck! Eating good food isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is carrying my excess weight around all day. I want something better. Something a lot better than a 4-cheese pizza or a box of cookies.”
“Hmm, my diet’s not as smooth as I thought it would go. Never mind, I’m sure it’s perfectly normal. I can’t expect to change my normal eating habits without a few hiccups along the way. Besides, I’m looking for more than a few minutes of fun filling my stomach with junk. I want to have a lifetime of the fun – real fun of looking good and being taken seriously and who knows, maybe finding a great partner. I know other people see me as a fat person – goodness, sometimes I do! – but this is exactly why I want to change. I’m tired of being fat. Tired. And if this means learning how to eat good food, then let’s do it! And if it gets hard, I’m gonna log into the Anne Collins forum and get help. All I know is, I want to make it happen!”
“Hmm, my diet’s not as smooth as I thought it would go. This morning I saw my colleagues eating a whole birthday cake – it looked delicious – and I was miserable and robbed. Then I went to lunch with a friend and chose tuna salad while she ate half a pizza followed by two slices of cheesecake. It was torture! But then I started thinking to myself, “What’s more important – a few slices of cheesecake, or a thin one?” And I decided I wanted to look good. I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but if I can hold out and learn good eating habits along the way, I know I’m going to make it…”
“Hmm, my diet’s not as smooth as I thought it would go. But at least it’s not a race. So who cares if I have a few wobbly moments, as long as I get where I want to go. When I’m 26, I’m in the prime of my life, and I want to make the best of it. I’m tired of my slim friends getting the best guys. I want to turn a few heads myself. I want the attention and I want to be taken seriously, and if I have to go on a diet for 12 months – heck! I’m gonna do it. Last week I saw a friend of mine in the hospital who lost a leg in a car accident. The doctors say it’s going to take her 12 months to learn how to walk. That’s hard. By comparison, my journey is easy. And as long as I keep reminding myself of this, I’m gonna be okay.”
Points to remember
1. A diet is a journey from A to B.
2. Feeling bored is a sign that we are losing our direction.
3. When we lose direction we need to regain it, fast!
4. The way to regain direction is to remind yourself why you’re on a diet.
5. You’re on a diet because you want something better than a plate of manure food.
Help to lose weight
Changing our eating habits is much easier if we get support from other people. So make sure your online weight management plan includes forum membership. Because only people can give you the kind of encouragement you need to achieve your personal weight loss goals.
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