Published on February 1, 2016
It would come as no surprise that one of the questions I am often asked is, “What are some of the motivational tips you provide to clients to stay motivated and focused in order to achieve their weight loss goals?” Well, of course, there are many, but the best way I can answer this question is to say there’s a WHY, HOW and WHEN as relates to weight loss motivation.
As far as I’m concerned, the #1 tip — and, really, the only tip that matters — that I give to everyone to stay motivated on their weight loss journey is: Ask yourself why you began? What was the catalyst to begin in the first place? Was it that you are tired of feeling ashamed or embarrassed of how you look? Was it that you don’t like to go out and, therefore, feel socially isolated? Was it that you hate going shopping being able to only buy clothes that cover you up instead of clothes you’d like to wear? Is it problems in intimacy with a spouse or partner? Is it to set an example for your children who are also overweight and you want to instill some new habits in the household? Is it because you refuse to be in photographs because you hate the way you look and there are special events coming up — a wedding, a prom, a milestone birthday, etc. — and you won’t be able to avoid being in photos? Is it because you were diagnosed with diabetes? Had a bout with cancer? Started to snore and have to wear a CPAP? Having problems with infertility? Lack of mobility preventing you from playing with grandchildren? From traveling? From enjoying activities you used to be able to do? . . . and on and on and on.
For most people, the answer would be Yes to many of these questions. I encourage people to write down on a piece of paper all the reasons they need to lose weight to get slim and healthy; to keep that paper in their wallet, adding to the list if necessary, and to look at it whenever they feel they’re about to go off track. Weight loss motivation is about desire (the why), not willpower.
Tip #2: How are you going to get through each day without a plan? The answer: You can’t.
Planning + Portioning + Packing + Pacing = Perfect day
When you do this, you will never have to look anywhere else or worry about where you’re going to get what you need. It’s with you.
Goal + Plan + Follow-through = Success
Tip #3: For most people, especially those with excessive amounts of weight and a longer journey to the finish line, it’s not a matter of if they will go “off;” it’s a matter of when. I encourage my clients to set benchmarks: to plan dates in advance (one date at a time) where they will purposely plan to indulge instead of cheat—and there’s a very big difference between the two. Why do I do this?
People who have weight to lose aren’t going to go from overweight or obese to a healthy slim in a straight line. Most overweight/obese people have tried countless times to lose weight, and when we meet them in our offices for the first time they are anxious about another word: NEVER — that they’ll never be able to have a drink; that they’ll never be able to have a slice of pizza or a piece of chocolate cake, and so forth. Not true. It would be wonderful if someone had the strength, the fortitude, the stick-to-itiveness to get to a healthy weight loss goal in a perfectly straight line, but it’s not reality!
Let’s face it: The word “cheat” can never be used in a positive way (for example, cheating on a spouse, cheating on an exam, cheating on your taxes), and so it is with weight loss as well.
So, first, a “cheat” scenario: A cheat meal is when, after making all kinds of excuses and rationalizing a bunch of bullshit as to why you should, you allow yourself something that you would normally abstain from while dieting . . . basically, all the things that got you fat in the first place! You let your short-term urge take precedence over a longer-term goal. You give in, and for the few seconds of chewing, as soon as that cheat food or liquid gets out of your mouth and into your stomach, you feel like crap. Guilt. Remorse. You think, Why did I do that? You may feel bloated, clothes a little tighter. When that happens, most often that one mistake takes you off course for the entire rest of the day or evening, and you try to convince yourself you’ll get back on track in the morning. Instead, you wake up the next morning still feeling badly about what you did the day before, and you find it hard to get back on track and in the zone. This is the result of cheating.
On the other hand, planning to indulge is the when of your weight loss goals.
The “planned indulgence” scenario: I encourage clients to pick a date on the calendar (a special event, an anniversary dinner, a wedding, a college reunion), for an on-purpose planned indulgence of some sort (not a total pig-out): a couple of drinks; a slice of cheesecake, perhaps with two forks to share with a spouse or friend; a slice of pizza. With a date in the near distance to target and look forward to, the word ‘never’ is removed. They are even more mindful in their planning and eating leading up to that targeted date. In so doing, and in almost all cases, they have very nice weight loss in between these planned indulgence intervals.
The targeted event comes. They follow through with the plan to indulge, and they enjoy every minute of it, knowing they worked towards it, they earned it. They had a great time. They were in control, had a plan, from the moment they put that planned indulgence date on the calendar. They have zero guilt or remorse. They get up in the morning in a great state of mind and are ready to put another ‘starred date’ on the calendar for a month or so out. Then, they get right back on track.
Tip #1: Keep a list of why you want/need to lose weight. Keep it with you, and look it at as often as necessary, and add to it as often as is necessary, as a reminder of what you’re shooting for. (The WHY)
Tip #2: If you fail to plan, you’ll plan to fail. Simple as that. You’ll get the results from the actions you take. (The HOW)
Tip #3: Don’t cheat. Plan to indulge, but remember: Not every event is a special event. Pick and choose your battles. (The WHEN)