Some people really want to lose weight, yet they struggle with motivation. Whether that is motivation to start, motivation to avoid foods that are bad for them, motivation to stick with a diet, or motivation to get up and move a little here and there. Lack of motivation is something we all struggle with from time to time, and I’ve given it a lot of thought over the years. While running last night, I had a thought: when people lack motivation to do something, it’s because they are unable to visualize the goal they are working toward.
I was running at a good clip and I was on my second to last lap. As I thought of the fact that I was almost done, I had an overwhelming desire to stop running. I could have stopped, really. I had run 2 and 3/4 miles at that point, but I have a goal of 3 miles minimum. As soon as I pictured me finishing the 3 miles, the desire to stop went away. My legs became more energized, and I felt an inner-strength well up inside me to get it done. As I neared my goal, the energy was enough to propel me past my goal and into another 1/10th of a mile. I could have gone on further, but I didn’t want to keep Sherry waiting too much longer for us to have dinner, so I stopped. But I learned something: visualizing my success gave me motivation and energy to finish.
When people can’t find the motivation to start a healthy diet, it’s likely because they can’t visualize themselves being happy on the diet. They can’t see themselves being successful. The more diets overweight people try to lose weight and fail, the harder it is to adopt successive diets. I get that; I have lived it. That’s why it’s important to set realistic goals and to set phases, or checkpoints. That’s what I did, and it’s how I became successful. I had monthly goals that were loose enough for me to be able to succeed even if I didn’t quite meet a certain number.
That brings me to another point about goals; don’t make goals scale-based. Weighing yourself on a scale is an easy measure of weight loss (duh!) but it’s not the only measure of your success in attaining good health. How your clothes fit, results from blood tests and physicals, mobility, flexibility, and improved ability to perform physical tasks are all things that are greatly improved once you start a healthy lifestyle with a clean diet and some exercise.
Exercise: the hardest of all things to be motivated about. In my experience, it’s hardest to get motivated about exercise because we have all been in programs where you work out, run, or ride a bike, and the next day, you feel tired, worn out, and sore. Sometimes, so sore, that just doing normal, every day things are difficult. Nobody likes that (well, some people thrive on that feeling; I’ve never been one of them). I have found that taking things easy and slow makes attaining fitness far easier and it requires even less motivation. My plan is simple: walk for 30 minutes. Then have a rest day. Then, walk for 30 minutes followed by another rest day. See the pattern? Walk every other day. After about two or three weeks of walking, my legs felt like they just weren’t getting enough, so I began to jog. It was a ridiculously slow jog, but I did it for 20 minutes straight without quitting and I walked the last 10 minutes. I increased my jog time to 30 minutes and then worked on increasing pace once I could run 30 minutes straight without walking.
I added push ups to my routine early on, and started with 10. That’s all I could do, but I didn’t care. I could do 10 comfortably, and I stopped when my arms started feeling struggle. I did my push ups every other day, and if I felt I could do 2 or 3 more, I would do them. If I felt I could do less, I would. I never pushed myself past my comfort. Now, I am up to 100+ push ups every other day and I run 3+ miles every other day at an 8:30/mile average or faster. It took me 8 months to get there, but I wasn’t in any hurry to reach those numbers, and I just do what I can. My goal each and every time I did push ups was to have an increase each week and not every day. If I did 10 for three days and then was able to do 15 the following week, that was a win. It allowed me to stay motivated as I was seeing progress which mean I was achieving success.
Motivation to avoid foods that aren’t clean, whole, or good for us is tricky because it’s hard to measure success against failure. Coupled with the fact that each temptation is a test of one’s fortitude, failing and succumbing to temptation hits us harder than missing a push up or run time goal. It feels like a personal failure. Going into a new diet, it’s important to know that you will not be perfect. It’s impossible. But what is well within your power is to keep trying. The difference between a successful person and a failure is that the successful person didn’t let failure stop them. That’s all it is; literally, just getting back on the horse. Now, it’s important to eat clean, and to do that for as often as you can, but if you are defeated by a temptation to eat a donut when there is a stack of them in the office, don’t beat yourself up. Dust yourself off, and make sure the rest of your meals that day are good for you. It literally is that easy.
Motivation is an energy to harness, and it’s something you have done before. Apply it to your health, visualize your attainable goals, and for a final goal, visualize yourself as the healthy, thinner, and fit person you want to be. Don’t let anything get in your way of being the best you that you can possibly be. In this race, you are your own worst enemy, and the only person who can defeat you.