This chapter on willpower and motivation is possibly the single most important section in this guide, and is something everyone who wants to lose weight should read and apply. Sadly, it’s also the one area almost everyone skips over.
The truth is, losing weight – as a concept on paper, at least – is not difficult. All you really have to do is track your foods, eat the right amount of calories, make smarter food choices, and follow an effective exercise plan. Obviously, there’s a bit more to it than that, but the point is, the methodology isn’t the area where most people fail – the failure comes from a lack of consistency and perseverance.
It’s nothing to be ashamed about – it’s just human nature. Most of us are not emotionless robots. We crave foods, we slack off from our diets, we miss days at the gym, we get discouraged when the scale isn’t moving, and sometimes we just give up.
That’s why this chapter is so critical to read and understand. As long as you understand how to make an effective meal and exercise plan (which, if you read all of this guide, you will), it all boils down to finding the discipline and motivation to follow it religiously every single day.
This much-needed willpower doesn’t always come easy, so let’s look at a few techniques that can make it much easier to stay on track.
Fuel vs. Pleasure
Ask yourself this question – and be completely honest: How do you view food?
Is eating simply something you do because you must refuel your body, or do you often decide your eating habits and food choices based on how eating those foods makes you feel – the pleasure behind the food?
There are always exceptions, but if you’re being completely honest, most people will relate most to the enjoyment behind eating. It’s the “norm” in our modern society to associate eating with pleasure, and to make our food choices accordingly. Both social factors and a constant bombardment of visually intense advertisements only help to reinforce this concept.
Taking the initiative to start thinking of food as a simple fuel source instead is the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to losing weight. It may seem like a challenging proposition at first, but with some commitment and the right techniques, you can actually rewire your brain to no longer want to eat foods just because they “taste good”. When you flip off this eating trigger, your life becomes much easier. You no longer have to constantly struggle to eat healthy. Instead, you just do it without even thinking about it.
The main reason you need to make this change is because it’s the best kept secret to no longer worrying about your weight again. One of the biggest problems with most diets is they are designed to help you lose weight, not to help you maintain your ideal weight for the rest of your life. That’s the biggest contributing factor towards many people gaining their weight back after their diet is over. They hit their goal, so they gradually go back to their old ways, and boom – the pounds are back.
Emotional Eating and You
If you find it difficult to view food as fuel instead of something to indulge in, it’s possible you might have issues with emotional eating. Ask yourself these questions to help identify any underlying problems:
- Do you turn to food when you feel stressed, lonely, sad, nervous, or upset?
- Do you eat to cure boredom?
- Does the act of eating make you feel better overall – even when you weren’t hungry?
- Does food comfort you or make you feel safe or secure?
- Do you often eat past the point of feeling satisfied, until you feel stuffed?
- Does the simple idea of eating less (such as going on a diet) make you feel uneasy?
If this sounds like you, spend the time to read my emotional eating guide – with 5 easy techniques to help solve this issue. It’s worth the read, because your weight loss efforts become so much easier when you change your emotionally-driven mindset.
When Results Are Slow or Discouraging: 5 Things to Remember
It’s one of the most discouraging problems you can face – you’re doing everything right, yet you step on the scale time-after-time, and the pounds just aren’t shedding.
This might happen from the start of your weight loss routine, but it more-commonly occurs as a perceived “plateau” following a brief period of successful results.
1. When You Achieve Immediate Weight Loss – Followed by No Results
A substantial burst of weight loss, followed by diminished results is reported surprisingly often among those starting a new routine. In reality, it’s quite possible that you’re still losing weight.
That burst of “weight loss” in the beginning is mostly water weight and material in your digestive tract being cleared. Very little of it is actual fat. In less than a week you’ll “slow down”. Your body is just reaching a new equilibrium, and will continue to drop pounds at a reduced rate (only now, it will mostly be actual fat that’s lost). Be patient through this process, and don’t let that first burst of results trick you into believing that this won’t be a long-term process.
Before you decide anything from your scale readings though, also remember my next tip:
2. Time Your Weigh-Ins
Your weight will bounce around from one day to the next. It’s quite possible to step on the scale and notice it’s shot up five pounds from the day before. Relax, and ignore these inconsistencies. You’d have to eat roughly 17,500 extra calories to gain five pounds in a day – which I’m sure you haven’t done!
That’s why it’s so important not to weigh yourself every day. The roller coaster of results is very misleading. Opt instead to do a weigh-in no more than once per week, and ideally just every other week. If you want more accurate results, you can weigh yourself a couple of days in a row and accept the lowest reading as your result.
3. Weight Loss Isn’t Always Linear
As confusing as it can be, your results might not always make a lot of sense. For example, when I personally lost weight before starting this site, I remember feeling frustrated trying to drop below 190 pounds (after already losing a bunch of weight).
I was weighing myself routinely (too routinely!), and despite trying my hardest, the scale read 190 every time for what felt like forever. Then, one day I stepped on and got a 185, and I never again weighed more than that.
The point is – even if you’re losing weight consistently, the scale just isn’t a perfect tool. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t seem to be working, because your results could be right around the corner.
4. Are You Working Out?
Keep in mind the effects that exercise can have on your muscle mass (and this applies to cardio as well). Upon freshly taking up an exercise, your muscles will go through an adaption period. Even simple jogging can build several pounds of leg muscle during the first several weeks – causing the scale to climb, even if you’re still burning fat.
As explained in the Goal Planning Chapter, it’s important to take baseline measurements before you start losing weight for comparison purposes. If the scale isn’t moving, but the inches are coming off, then all is well. You’re still losing fat, but you also put on some muscle!
5. Deciding When to Make Adjustments
Okay, let’s assume you’ve given it several weeks (at least three), you’ve been faithful to your routine, and you’re still noticing a lack of results as confirmed by multiple scale readings and body measurements. What now?!
The important thing is to stay rational, even when you aren’t seeing results. The only people who fail are those who give up. If you aren’t getting results, the solution is to troubleshoot your routine and make the appropriate adjustments to get you back on track – not to abandon your efforts!
Reevaluate your numbers set in the Goal Planning Chapter, and make sure you’ve been consistent in sticking with them. If you’re sure these numbers haven’t produced results, then you’re going to have to increase your net deficit of daily calories.
You can either add more exercise (or increase the intensity), or further reduce your calorie intake. With some modifications, you’ll be back on track before you know it!
Always Keep Realistic Expectations
This one’s harder than it sounds. We all want fast results, but remember you can’t change human biology, even if you want to really, really bad. Most people will realistically only be able to sustain weight loss of one to two pounds per week, and even that takes dedication and effort.
To keep your motivation and dedication strong, aim to lose weight more slowly than you believe is possible. By managing expectations from the start, you’re prepared for the journey ahead. Realism maximizes your odds of success – and if you do manage to hit the goal you really wanted to aim for, then that’s just even more motivation to keep going!
Recognize Your Limitations
The most rapid fat loss will always come from the plan you’ll actually follow. If you calculate your goal numbers and decide to set your daily calorie goal at 1,600 calories, then have trouble sticking to your diet, you might be pushing yourself beyond your limits.
In this case, you may be hesitant to raise your calories from your “ideal” 1,600 to a more realistic number like 1,850. Don’t be – slower results that you can actually enjoy are far better than an abandoned diet.
Rewards are a great way to sustain your motivation. Set these ahead of time, and try not to make them related to food – unless that’s what it takes to keep you on track. Ideally, we want to work on rewiring your thought process to no longer associate food with reward-seeing behavior.
Instead, try to set goals like allowing yourself to go shopping for new clothes when you hit a certain weight, or giving yourself a spa day after you’ve faithfully followed your weight loss plan for a period of time.
For best results, set up these rewards far in advance. It gives you something to look forward to, and helps avoid the temptation of eating a large meal as an impromptu “reward”.
Make Your Plans Public
If you need a push to stay on track, consider announcing your plans to the world – preferably to people you personally know, and you should genuinely care about what these people think of you and your successes/failures.
Facebook is easy way to do this. Share your goals with your friend’s list, and ask for a couple friends that will let you “report” to them to help keep you on track. Commit to doing a regular update weather you feel like sharing your results or not .
If the Facebook route is a bit too public for you, consider starting a blog journaling your progress. You don’t have to use your actual name, and you can choose who you want to share it with. Even if you don’t share it, having a blog to post your progress and techniques is a great way to stay excited about your journey.
Why Do it Alone? Get Support!
It’s much easier to stay on track when you’re losing weight with someone else. For starters, you’re both counting on each other – if you give up, you’re now not only letting yourself down, you’re letting your weight loss partner down as well. Just make sure your partner is equally devoted. If they are likely to give up, that will only discourage you when the time comes!
Have any of your friends talked about wanting to lose weight? Ask them to join you! In-person partners have the advantage of being workout buddies to help keep gym excuses at bay. Otherwise, you can always find someone online. Weight loss forums are a decent place to look – or you can even post in the comments (below this article) to meet other readers who would like a weight loss partner.
When Others Aren’t Supportive
Here’s an unfortunate secret: Not everyone is going to fully support your weight loss efforts. Most people aren’t intentionally trying to sabotage your results (although you’d be surprised how often that happens), but you should expect plenty of unintentional actions that will only impede your results.
Be ready for:
- Dinner hosts who lay down the guilt on anyone who doesn’t eat plenty of their cooking.
- The over-concerned friends and family that don’t fully grasp the concept of healthy portion control. Be ready for their uneducated concern over your diet and their persuasive attempts to get you to eat more food. (Of course, your diet should be a healthy amount of food!)
- Those who don’t understand why you can’t always hang out over dinner and drinks. There’s always a guilt-tripper or two!
- The friends who are “too nice to admit” that your goals for improved health are great ideas, and try to convince you not to lose weight out of sheer politeness.
- People who don’t notice your results. You may get lucky on this one, but too often you’ll find little credit in the form of compliments – and that can easily leave a person discouraged. Surprisingly, the majority of people don’t usually say much when they notice someone losing weight (it seems to be an awkward comment for many) – but trust me, they do notice!
- Finally, beware of the worst form of sabotage – the actions of those who, rather than being proud and supportive of your weight loss, instead express jealousy and envy. This certainly isn’t common, but it does happen! Use caution when dealing with those who have nothing but passive aggressive distaste for your efforts, and don’t let their comments bring you down.
What to Do If You Mess Up
It happens. You’re only human, and we all mess up. Make your plan now to deal with any future shortcomings. One slip doesn’t ruin your results – it’s failing to get back up that does!
It’s not what you do some of the time that counts, it’s what you do all of the time that counts. – Jack LaLanne
Focus on Recognizing Your Successes – Not On Your Failures
Staying positive is paramount to success. Lingering on your failures only instills negativity, which will ruin your motivation faster than anything. Forgive yourself for slip-ups, applaud yourself for what you’ve done right, and you’ll be on the right track to a healthy, positive outlook on weight loss.
Let’s move on to the next chapter, where we’ll take a look at The BEST Exercise for Weight Loss!