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In the previous post about motivation, you learnt how to get motivated – now find out how to stay motivated. With sustained motivation, you are far more likely to reach your weight loss goals.

(This is part two of a two-part article. Click here for Part One: How to get motivated).

Five ways to stay motivated

When you’re motivated, you feel ready for anything. You’re fired up, ready to lose those kilos, and ready to take on the world!

But what about a few weeks down the track? Will you feel the same? Probably not. Motivation is like a fire that constantly needs refuelling and stoking, otherwise it is quickly extinguished. Reminding yourself again and again of what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and what you’ll do to get there is one way to keep your motivation burning (see part one of this article).

Try these five other motivation strategies to further fan the flame.

1. Face the phases

To stay motivated, you need to recognise and prepare for the different phases of motivation.

The first phase of motivation is one of enthusiasm and strong vision, and it’s great for getting you started. But rule number one is this: don’t expect your initial motivation “high” to last.

The second phase of motivation is all about trial and error. You need to test different avenues for achieving your goals to determine what works for you and what doesn’t. During this phase, you’ll experience successes and failures. Make sure you acknowledge the successes and learn from the “failures.” Bouncing back from perceived failure is crucial.

In phase three, your motivation starts to ebb. You find yourself remembering how, when your motivation levels were high, you felt like you could overcome huge obstacles. Now that they’re low, everything seems too difficult, too frustrating, and not worth the struggle. This is a high-risk phase. Signals you’ve entered this stage can be anything from slipping back into old habits, finding excuses for not exercising, or doing and thinking things to sabotage your success. When you feel your motivation slipping, don’t delay; enlist the aid of family and friends for support and encouragement, and log onto our online Community for support and advice in our forums, chats and meetings.

2. Praise the pros, and can the cons

There are always going to be pros and cons to weight loss.

To keep yourself motivated, you need to constantly reinforce the pros by focussing on them, writing them down, and imagining them occurring. Equally, you need to challenge the cons to prevent them from sabotaging your efforts. Let’s work through a couple of typical examples:

  • “Diets have never worked for me before, so why should one work now?”
    That may be true, but why didn’t they work previously? Maybe the timing wasn’t right. Perhaps the diet was too restrictive, or you had lifestyle issues that took precedence. Give yourself a break from negative criticism and think like Thomas Edison. He didn’t see his countless attempts at inventing the light bulb as failures – he saw them as part of a process; all leading to a “bright idea” in the end.
  • “Diets mean boring food. I won’t be able to eat out and I’ll miss my favourite foods.”
    While it’s true that you can’t eat exactly as you may have previously, there are wide varieties of delicious and nutritious options you can enjoy at home and at restaurants. You just have to find things that satisfy you, and be open minded to trying new things – you might be surprised by how nice these healthy options can be! This con, like most cons, is really an excuse in disguise!

3. Use mini-motivators

Setting reasonable, specific, and measurable milestone goals is a great way to keep you motivated. Each goal achieved is a mini-motivator, supporting and sustaining you along the path to your final goal.

Make sure you record and reward each success along the way, no matter how small it may seem. For example, you might say that: “By January 21st, I will be eating 40 grams of fat per day.” If you eat 90 grams of fat per day now and by January 21st you’re eating 60 grams, you can still acknowledge your progress. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t quite hit your goal of 40 grams!

Acknowledge and revel in all achievements. The more successful you feel, the more successful you will be, and the more you’ll feel motivated to continue pursuing your goals!

4. Remember people power

Very few people can achieve something as difficult as sustained weight loss without the encouragement and motivation of others.

Enlist the support of family and friends, share your goals with them, and talk to them when you’re facing obstacles or feeling unmotivated. Don’t forget to share and celebrate your successes with them as well. However, avoid discussing your weight loss goals with anyone who is likely to dismiss, deride, or derail your efforts.

A good role model is also a great motivator. Is there someone in your life whom you admire for overcoming the odds and achieving what they set out to do? Talk to them about how they reached their goals.

And don’t forget your Food.com.au community. You’ll find great support, discussion, encouragement, role models, inspiration, and friendship in the forums, chats, and meetings.

5. Positive reinforcement works

A great way to stay motivated is by keeping track of your progress and rewarding yourself. Keep a journal of your goals and achievements and set up a system of non-food rewards for when you reach certain goals. Think of these rewards as bonuses, prizes, or incentives for a job well done.

The key here is that the goals you set have to be meaningful, not something you do on a regular basis or that you do too easily. It’s no use rewarding yourself for not eating donuts if donuts have never been a problem for you! Rewards for things you struggle with, however, are a great way to keep motivation levels up.

The reward doesn’t have to be material either. It can be something as simple as giving yourself a day off from domestic jobs, going to a movie, taking a nice long bubble bath – whatever rings your motivational bell. In fact, research suggests that non-material rewards may be more effective in conditioning behaviour, as material rewards lack impact over time.

Whatever rewards you choose, don’t forget the biggest reward of all for staying motivated is achieving your final goal! It’s hard work, but it’s worth it in the end.

Calorie King
CalorieKing's mission is to provide the best information, tools and education to Australians to help them conquer their weight.

CalorieKing is the brainchild of Allan Borushek, registered dietitian, co-found here at food.com.au and author of "Allan Borushek's Pocket Calorie & Fat Counter", Australia's best-selling calorie counter for over 30 years.
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