Thursday, 16 December 2010


Motivation is often seen as key in losing weight.  However, there are a lot of problems with having this as the driver behind weight loss and behavioural change.

Think about what motivates you to want to lose weight?  It might be a particular occasion (wanting to lose weight for a special dress, for instance), or it might be that you hate the way you look.  It could be because you know you'd be healthier if you were a bit lighter, or because people look at you a particular way at your current weight that you don't like.

The problem with all of these is that they may not be sufficient motivators for continued lifestyle and habit changes to not only lose weight, but keep it off.

For one thing, if you're losing weight for an occasion, once it's passed you no longer have any motivation to lose weight.  If you hate the way you look, or don't like how people respond to you, as soon as you feel a little better the motivation may not be sufficient to get you through weight loss plateaus or the fact of having to change your behaviour for good if you want to keep the weight off in the long term.

So, what are positive ways of motivating yourself and keeping yourself motivated?  Some suggestions from Deanne Jade include:

Calm down - this might seem strange as a motivator, but trying to balance out the emotional highs and lows that can accompany success and failure at losing weight can be important in breaking the yo-yo diet syndrome.  Even if you don't yo-yo diet, feeling calmer will help keep your continued motivation good and help with emotional highs and lows that often accompany cravings and bingeing.  At its simplest, this is about just stopping and taking a few breaths before you do something.  At a slightly more complex level, it's practising mindfulness - becoming a non-judgmental observer of your own thoughts.

Self care - if you take care of yourself all the time, no matter what your weight, you start to believe that you are worth it.  This is a really good motivator for maintaining weight loss in the long term.  To start sending those subconscious messages to yourself, do something nice for yourself every day.  Take a relaxing bath with candles, or cook something healthy and tasty for yourself even if you're eating alone, or take a nap if you're feeling tired.  Let yourself know in a myriad ways that you really do want to take care of yourself on every level.

Rest - make time for sleep.  There are plenty of studies that show that being tired causes you to eat more, and to gain weight more easily.  Also, when you're tired it's hard to keep your focus on the reasons why you want to do something positive for yourself. 

Positive self talk - tell yourself "you can do it", rather than saying "you can't" or "it's too hard".   Like using affirmations, maybe pick something every day, such as "I can stop eating when I choose" or "I like fruit and vegetables".

Visualise your positive outcome - imagine what things would be like if you achieved the weight-loss you want.  How would you look, what would you wear, where would you go, what would you do?  Try to make the image as real (and realistic) as possible.  If that feels too hard, try visualising what would happen after you achieved it.  Along the lines of, "I've been to a buffet, but not eaten too much.  I get home feeling happy, satisfied and good about myself.  I'm wearing my favourite dress and some nice earrings, and I feel content as I let myself into my front door after an enjoyable evening."  By doing this kind of visualisation, you are creating an image for your unconscious of what you want to achieve, and the feeling associated with achieving it.  Then, your unconscious can get on with actually living the bit between here and there.

Something I'd add to this is the suggestion not just of visualising your positive outcome, but using visualisation to help with cravings and loss of control when eating.  New research shows that imagining eating a food makes you better able to not overeat the real thing.  You have to literally visualise each mouthful in as much detail as possible, in fact in the study they flashed up pictures of the food while people were imagining eating it.  Also, in the study they had participants do this 30 times.  If you just do it 3 or 4 it simply gets you salivating and thinking about the food.  You have to imagine eating enough that you become "habituated" to the food - basically bored.  Then, when actually presented with the food you are likely to eat less of it.  You don't stop enjoying the food, just overeating it.

They say there's still a lot of research to be done - does it work with all foods and for all people, how can it be achieved at home, how long does the effect last?  I imagine it's like any affirmation work, best if repeated regularly.  Also, it seems that you have to do it for each particular vice separately - imagining eating a chocolate truffle won't stop you overeating chocolate biscuits.  Still, if there's a particular food that's your current downfall, why not give this a try?

I'd love to hear suggestions of other ways of maintaining motivation!

Image: Motivation from the Angel Insight Pack.

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