How To Boost Your Weight Loss Motivation
We all know that weight loss isn’t something we can achieve with minimal effort- it requires self-control, planning, persistence, focus, consistency, patience- and motivation. Dieting can be unenjoyable, restrictive and can use up a lot of mental energy, involving deciding what to eat, and if you prefer to calorie-count, working out how many calories you’re eating and perhaps monitoring and tracking every day what you’re eating with a food diary. For success, simply wanting to lose weight isn’t enough. In order to lose weight and keep off the weight long-term, we need to be able to eat in a way that promotes not just weight loss but long-term weight management too. Weight loss also isn’t just about willpower, it’s about the whole person.
We’re constantly surrounded by an abundance of delicious food temptations, so we need to be mindful of what and how much we’re eating. A lot of people don’t trust themselves around food and feel that the only way to control their eating is to go on a diet- unfortunately most diets are restrictive and unsustainable, so we need to find another way that helps us to be in charge of food. Many people approach me saying they really want to lose weight and that they’re looking for a new approach because they’ve simply had enough of dieting.
Embarking on a successful weight loss and long-term weight management journey requires adopting a way of eating that’s sustainable- it must be enjoyable and a natural, ‘lifestyle’ type of eating. Diets often don’t feel natural- they just feel like a chore. Once we find a personalised way of eating that we’re able to consistently follow (for more than just a few weeks or months), we’re more likely to start getting weight loss results, to have more chance of long-term weight management and to escape the yo-yo dieting trap. Once we start to see ourselves succeeding, we can start to feel more hopeful and become more confident in our own ability to lose weight, which in turn can boost our motivation levels.
So how do we find a new, personalised way of eating, instead of resorting to diets? Below are some key factors.
1 Give Yourself Permission To Eat The Foods You Enjoy
Some weight loss diets might require giving up many of the foods you love. It’s really important to give yourself permission to eat the foods you enjoy, otherwise you might find that you start obsessing about them and craving them. My philosophy is that no one food is ‘bad’, it’s how often and how much of it we eat a food that counts. When we give ourselves permission to eat all foods and stop labelling foods we love as ‘bad’, we can escape the guilt and shame that happens when we give in and eat the foods we’re not supposed to be eating, according to the diet. Many clients tell me that when they’re trying to be ‘good’ with their eating but they give in and eat a ‘bad’ food, they feel guilty and feel they’ve ‘blown it’- this can then lead to writing off the rest of the day and starting the diet again tomorrow.
We’re only human, and we’re drawn to foods that have a fatty, sugary and/or salty taste. Give yourself permission to eat the foods you enjoy but just work on eating them more mindfully- learn to ‘self-regulate’ with foods. Many of us eat more than our bodies actually need, but we’re usually rushing around and eating on ‘autopilot’. It’s ok to eat your favourite type of milk chocolate, but tune into the body’s needs rather than what your head is telling you to do- don’t just consume a whole bar of chocolate because the packet’s open- slowly enjoy just one row; when we savour foods and properly taste them we’re more likely to feel satisfied- mindful eating is about learning to enjoy less food, more.
It’s also important that you don’t just eat foods because you think you ‘should’ be eating them in order to lose weight- enjoyment of food is key. Aim to be eating, most of the time, foods that are not only enjoyable but which also provide the body with the nutrients it needs.
One of the most self-limiting but very common issues is swinging from extremes- by this I mean being either ‘good’ (mindful of food intake) or ‘bad’ (overeating mindlessly). I teach clients to adopt a more ‘middle-way’ approach, which helps them to avoid being either ‘on’ or ‘off’ a diet and to be more flexible. A key component of balanced eating is the ability to be flexible, rather than rigid.
2 Understand The Nutrition: Don’t Be Fat-Phobic
When I work with clients who want to improve their eating habits and lose weight, I ask them about their nutritional knowledge. I do this to ensure that people know the basics of healthy eating and to clear up any confusion. For example, some diet plans might demonize dietary fat, and yet dietary fat is a really important part of a healthy diet. Many clients I meet have ‘fat phobia’ because diet plans told them that avocados, nuts and peanut butter were forbidden or had to be strictly limited. Dietary fat actually keeps us feeling fuller for longer and it tastes good! Including some fat in the diet is much more likely to curb appetite than carbohydrates and low-fat foods. If you’re concerned about the calorie content of fats, that’s where being mindful of portion size comes in.
An understanding of blood sugar balance is a key component of weight management as it influences appetite, food cravings, energy levels and the body’s ability to burn, rather than store, fat. I help clients to gain a good understanding of which foods and food combinations work best for them, enabling them to find a personalised way of eating. Once clients understand blood sugar management they tend to be much more motivated to make better food choices because they want to feel more satiated for longer and they understand what’s going on at a physiological level, rather than eating foods they’re being told to eat by a specific diet plan.
3 Improve Your Relationship With Food
If a person is regularly overeating or making poor food choices and struggling to either lose weight or keep off weight long-term, developing self-awareness is a really key part of addressing and improving a person’s relationship with food. Unlike following a diet, the mindful eating approach I teach clients is about the whole person- it offers so much more than diets. Using mindful eating approaches we can feel more empowered and more in charge of food.
How we think influences how we feel and behave, so I encourage clients to explore their internal world. Going on a diet is just too simplistic- what a person needs to do, if they’re looking for a long-term weight management and healthy eating solution is to go on a journey of self-exploration. Identifying and exploring our feelings, desires and needs is an important part of self-awareness, because how we think and feel influences our behaviours, including eating behaviour.
When working with clients, factors I explore with them include:-
- Their self-concept (such as whether that person actually likes themselves, whether they have a harsh inner critic, their body image)- binge-eating, for example, can be a form of self-harm
- Their history (how childhood might have positively or negatively impacted their relationship with food and how they feel about themselves now)
- Their lifestyle (whether they experience a lot of stress in their lives or struggle to sleep, which can impact on eating and drinking habits)
- Extent of emotional eating- how much they rely on food to ‘cope’
- Their personality (for example, how good they are at planning, whether they set overly high standards for themselves, whether they’re spontaneous, a perfectionist, a people-pleaser, open to trying new things, good at boundary setting with others, whether they have a rigid or flexible in mindset, etc)
- Any unfulfilled needs they might have (they might be lonely, not pursuing the career they want, not feeling appreciated or valued by others, in a toxic relationship etc)
- Any mental health problems, for example, anxiety or depression
- Whether they’re in touch with their feelings and whether they have an emotional outlet
- What specific things trigger them to overeat or make poor food choices.
Looking at the above and other factors, I’m able to see whether a person is in the right frame of mind to embark on a weight loss goal at the current time, and whether they need to initially address their overall relationship with food, and then weight loss can be a positive by-product. There’s little point in trying to lose weight if a person has a poor relationship with food. Tackle your relationship first, to make weight loss and long-term weight management possible.
Self-care is a crucial part of successful weight management, and links with lifestyle management. If you’re highly stressed or not sleeping well, this can have a knock-on effect on your eating habits. Through acts of self-care such as giving yourself more rest time, responding to your needs and talking to yourself kindly, we can start to feel better. When we’re looking after ourselves we’re more likely to feel inclined to make better food choices because we have the mental and physical capacity to do so, rather than ’self-medicating’ with food or alcohol- the latter can make any weight loss attempts impossible and can keep people trapped in yo-yo dieting.
Self-care is about making things easier for yourself in terms of daily routine too. Identify which meals and snacks work well for you and get into a rhythm with them so that you don’t have to put too much thought or effort into what to eat- this can free up your mind for other things and help you to stay motivated.
5 Take The Pressure Off Weight Loss
Some people put constant pressure on themselves to lose weight because they’re fearful that if they don’t lose weight, they’ll gain weight- then when they’re not losing weight they feel guilty. Fear can drive lots of negative thoughts and behaviours. I’ve met many people who are obsessed with the weighing scales, to the point that they’re weighing themselves daily; and if they’re not losing weight or they’re not losing weight as quickly as they want to, their motivation levels plummet.
If you put too much pressure on yourself to lose weight and eat in a restrictive way rather than aiming for long-term mindful, enjoyable, healthy eating behaviours, you’re unlikely to stay motivated and achieve long-term results. This is why people get trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting.
If we don’t trust ourselves around food, it’s really important to explore why. Addressing your relationship with food needs to be your top priority, and then weight loss can be a positive by-product- understanding what, why and how you eat is more important than what the weighing scales says. For just a few weeks, aim to ‘maintain not gain’- work on simply being more mindful of how much you’re eating. Stop the weight loss pressure and you’re likely to feel psychologically a lot lighter because for once, that pressure will be off you.
6 Build Self-Belief
Self-belief is important, as it’s very much linked to motivation levels. If we don’t believe we can do something, we’re more likely to not attempt it and have a ‘What’s the point?’ attitude. I’ve worked with many people who lack self-belief- they’ve started diets but then given them up a few days or weeks later, or if they’ve stuck to a diet and lost weight they’ve put it all back on. Based on their experience of dieting, they simply don’t believe they’ll lose weight and if they think they can, they think that they’ll just put all the weight back on. For this reason they might find it hard to feel motivated about losing weight because of their past experiences. Improving your relationship with food can put you in a much better position to feel more in charge of food, rather than feeling that food is a fight, or that you have a love/hate relationship with food. Knowledge is power, and once you have a better understanding of yourself, your motivations to overeat or make poor food choices, you’ll have a better foundation on which to lose weight. As you see yourself becoming a more mindful eater, you’ll hopefully feel more inspired, more hopeful, and you’ll have better self-belief.
7 Accountability: Goal Setting
When you’re trying to make positive, long-term changes, don’t try to do too many things all at once- some people prefer to focus on just one or two things at a time. Writing down your goal, reviewing it regularly and being accountable to someone who knows you have a goal can significantly increase the probability of you achieving your goal.
To achieve goals, we also need to remove negative, self-limiting beliefs. At the end of each day, have a think about two or three things you’ve accomplished that day, or 2 or 3 food temptations you overcame. We’ve all had more successes than failures in life- how about listing all of your successes? It’s all too easy to focus on what went wrong or what didn’t work out. The more you can get into a habit of focusing on what you’re good at, your skills, your positive attributes and your achievements, the more you can start replacing any negative self-talk (which can affect motivation levels) with positive thoughts, and start cultivating self-belief and hope. You need to be your own cheerleader!
In order to boost your weight loss motivation, it’s so important to have the right approach towards weight loss. It’s crucial to think beyond simply a weight loss goal and to work towards building a healthier relationship with food. Develop good self-awareness, ensure that you understand the nutritional aspects of weight management and adopt self-care strategies to support your physical and mental well-being. Being kind to yourself by not putting relentless pressure on yourself to lose weight before you’ve tackled your overall relationship with food will put you in a much better position to embark on a weight loss journey. Don’t make things too difficult for yourself and formulate a personalised strategy that’s enjoyable and achievable. Give yourself permission to eat the foods you love, alongside developing more mindful eating practises. Once you feel more empowered, you’ll feel more motivated. Believe in yourself and be patient with yourself- positive long-term change doesn’t happen overnight.
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