Finding True Motivation to Stick to a Diet/Fitness Routine

Michelle Rebecca's picture

From personal experience, I know that if I wait too long to adjust my diet and/or get back into a solid exercise routine, the pounds will begin to accumulate fast. And with age it becomes even harder to get them off.

To begin with, you have to be motivated, or even the best regimen in the world won’t work. Motivation begins with setting realistic, achievable goals. Telling yourself that you have to lose 20 pounds before next week isn’t going to help. You’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment, not to mention it’s not healthy to lose that much weight in that short amount of time. Start with a smaller, more realistic goal to get you started; maybe two pounds a week.

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But here’s the catch: if you don’t have a goal that has a real emotional basis to it (e.g., I’m losing weight to look sexy for my significant other; My doctor told me get healthy or I will get diabetes within the next year), it won’t work. You probably know exactly what you have to do: but how do you get started? And what will make you want to stick with it?

Find Your Motivational Strategy: Positive or Negative

There are two ways to look at this. Do you want to find a positive result: being able to compete in a Spartan Race, or feel confident walking on the beach in a two-piece. Or are you more motivated by the negative results of not being fit: humiliation in front of peers; impending illness; losing out on opportunities.

Whatever works best for you, start creating a solid picture in your mind (or even in a scrapbook) of how your life will be better if you stick to the diet/exercise routine – or worse, if you don’t.

Positive Motivation: ‘When I get fit…’

Grab a notebook or poster board and cut out magazine pictures or make lists of where you might go, what you might do, or what you might look like if you follow the plan. Will you finally wear that dress that’s been hanging in your closet for years? Will you be able to run around the yard with your kids for hours? You might even want to include a photo of a significant other, or your children or grandchildren, to remind you how happy it would make them, and how proud they would be to see you fit and healthy, looking and feeling your best.

Negative Motivation: ‘If I don’t get fit…’

If you’re motivated by negativity, grab a notebook or poster board and make a list of things that could result of you don’t stick to the plan. Will you embarrass yourself at your high school/college reunion? Not be able to put on a seatbelt? Be on insulin for the rest of your life? You could include unflattering photos of yourself that make you think, ‘I don’t want to look like that anymore,’ or print out pictures that represent diseases associated with being unhealthy.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, though. The point of your collage or journal is to motivate you and empower you to improve your health, not depress you.

Daily Reminders

Place index cards or Post-its with some of the payoffs or costs from your motivational journals around your house in strategic places that will encourage you to be healthy and active: on the mirror in bathroom; on the fridge; on your nightstand; on the front door (so you might walk instead of drive when you’re going out).

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Moral Support

Next, you have to get some kind of support in your efforts. Joining Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, or simply reporting to a friend once a week, for example, would force you to track what you are doing and make a public statement about it. Taking progress photos is real help, as well.

There are also a large variety of smartphone apps that will make tracking your diet, fitness routines, and weight loss progress easy and convenient. The Nike Training Club mobile app rewards you with bonus celebrity workouts and reward badges for completing a certain amount of workouts. You can also share your completed workouts via Twitter and Facebook to share your success with friends via social media.

Reward Yourself

Don’t forget to reward yourself (but NOT with food!) by doing some of those things on your list when you start moving toward your target weight. Take that vacation you’ve been putting off. Buy a new swimsuit that flatters your emerging figure. Buy a new pair of sneakers, or some nice workout clothes so you’ll feel good while you’re working out.

Remember, you're not perfect. You will have off days where you skip a workout or binge on junk food -- you're only human! Think of what drug addiction rehab centers teach their patients. If you fall off the wagon, that's okay. Dust yourself off, and climb back on. Would you tell an alcoholic who took a sip of alcohol to go ahead and finish the bottle? No. So if you eat one slise of pizza don't tell yourself, "Well, my diet's ruined. Might as well have two more pieces." Stay positive, and stay strong! Don't lose your motivation just because you slipped up. 

Return to your goals and start afresh. There’s no bad or good here: just keep up the good work! 

Michelle is a blogger and feelancer. She’s written about almost every topic under the sun, and loves constantly learning about new subjects and industries while she’s writing. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs. Follow her on Google+.

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