A question I often get from clients is “How do I stay motivated once I start this lifestyle?” I used to say that if only I could figure out how to answer this question, I could solve all the dietary problems of the world. Well, I’ve figured out how to answer the question, and it doesn’t solve all the worlds dietary problems, but it can be helpful.
Of course, staying motivated on the wrong type of diet or exercise plan can do more harm than good for your progress, so make sure you’ve got that part right first!
Progress itself, whether in weight loss or fitness or overall health, can be very motivating, so simply getting started can sometimes start the snowball effect and encourage motivation.
If you have recently made some lifestyle changes to improve your health and want to stay motivated, these seven steps can help you stay motivated:
1. Know Your Motivation and Have a Clear Vision of Your Goal
This seems very common sense but rarely is. Know the exact reason you are making changes to your life and have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish in the end.
Note, I didn’t say, “how you want to look in the end” because aesthetic goals alone rarely are enough to keep someone motivated. Eventually, the cheesecake, or pasta, or soda or whatever your weakness is will look really good and you’ll decide that you hate dieting more than you hate being fat and give in.
Figure out a health related goal, which may include aesthetic aspects, and write it down. Focus on long term health benefits and make a clear plan of how you will get there.
2. Make It Specific
Goals must be measurable and specific to be accomplished. Once you figure out the clear goal, you need a specific and measurable plan to get there. If you want to improve your diet for health reasons… start meal planning.
If you are trying to improve health and weight… measure yourself and take before pictures.
If you need to improve insulin sensitivity… monitor glucose.
The more specific and measurable your goal, the easier it will be to track your progress and stick to it. If you need to lower carbs or eat more vegggies, consider using a site like fitday.com to track your food intake and measure results.
No matter what your goal, consider meal planning. This will save time, money and mental energy in the long run and help stick to the goal.
3. Have Checkpoints
This is an idea that Martin at LeanGains suggest and I think it is a great one (he also recommends intermittent fasting, which is another great idea!).
The basic idea is that instead of having weekly weigh ins or daily monitoring of variables, which is likely to make you get hung up on details, you have “checkpoints” every 8 weeks or so with the goal of improving on the previous “checkpoint.”
This encourages a sense of internal competitiveness and keeps you from getting focused on details. It is also gives you a long enough time to see measurable results.
For instance, if you are trying to lose weight and improve physique or strength, your checkpoint could be weighing yourself and testing your ability in a few basic exercises (pushups, sprints, etc).
If working on improving insulin sensitivity, it could be your fasting blood glucose levels.
If working on allergies or eczema, it could be your frequency of symptoms for each one.
The other advantage to checkpoints- it acknowledges that lasting health changes take time (like multiple increments of 8 weeks) and keeps you from becoming discouraged when you aren’t running triathlons or fitting into size 4 jeans after your first week of training.
4. Get Educated
To keep your motivation on a goal, it is often helpful to remember why you formed the goal in the first place. Continue your education on health, nutrition and fitness and you will also help keep your motivation.
Some great resources I’d suggest for this are:
-Anything by Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It or Good Calories, Bad Calories, are both great options.
-The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
-Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso
-The Primal Blueprint and The Primal Blueprint Cookbook by Mark Sisson
-Protein Power by The Drs Eades
- Fat Head
Any resources I’m forgetting? Please add them in the comments!
5. Buddy Up
If possible, have your spouse or a friend make these changes with you. Not only will you have the benefit of some company along the way, but this has been shown to improve long-term compliance to a plan.
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page on what the goal is and how to get there so you don’t derail each other by debating the small details along the way!
If you don’t have someone locally who can help keep you accountable, consider finding someone on the forum to help keep you focused on your goals.
6. Give Yourself Short Term Goals
This goes hand in hand with the idea of checkpoints. If you can’t jump in to a new diet, fitness plan and natural living lifestyle all at once, figure out some smaller goals and put them on paper. Once you reach one goal, start on another.
To help, consider giving yourself non-food related rewards when you accomplish a goal. Looking forward to a new pair of pants in a smaller size, an evening out with your spouse or a relaxing day of some kind might help you focus on the long term benefits of your goal rather than the short term struggle.
7. Make a Habit
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, and I’d say it takes less than that if you have a system and a routine in place. As with most aspects of life, healthy living is much easier if it is part of a normal and regular routine.
This will also help remove the mindset of “dieting” which implies an end point once a goal is reached” and encourage a mindset of a permanent and healthy lifestyle change. Sugar will not be healthy now or when you weigh your goal weight… neither will grains, or vegetable oils, or commercial deodorant… you get the idea.
How do you stay motivated? Have you struggled with this in the past? Weigh in below!