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