How to Stay Motivated to Lose Weight

The uphill battle that is losing weight.

Motivation & Weight Loss

Motivation comes from our inner, emotional world and not our thinking brain as it is often portrayed in movies.

Motivation, Weight Loss & Emotions

We all want to be slim and trim, and have a nice body. We really do. If you surveyed hundred people almost all of them would say that they really really do desire to lose some weight and look good in their clothes.

So our motivation is already there, and if that’s the case then why don’t we lose any weight? Why are we unsuccessful more often than we are successful. The reason is because we are not motivated enough to follow through with the diet that we planned out for ourselves.

As I’ve said motivation is emotional as opposed to a life hack. We can go to every motivational seminar, read every book on health and gather all of the relevant data and logic we need to convince ourselves or motivate ourselves, to change our lives.

And it’ll work for a while. Then when the excitement dies down we’re back to square one.

Unless we are willing to look into the depths of our emotions and psychology, where motivation lives, we won’t be able to get to the place where we can consistently sustain that motivation for the long haul so that we can create positive and permanent change in our lives.

Strong forces pulling in opposite directions.

Competing Motivation

COMPETING MOTIVATIONS

So we know we want to lose weight and therefore we have some motivation to change. But we also want to keep eating the foods that we love, in the amounts that we want. We eat three times a day and sometimes more, with most of the food being tasty and satisfying.

If we wanted to lose weight then we would have to give up much of that pleasure and satisfaction which isn’t very appealing. So there is a motivation to NOT change, to keep doing the same things we always have as well.

But then you look at yourself in the mirror and are not happy with what’s reflected back at you. You get dressed in the morning and find that some of your clothes don’t fit as well as they used to, and that you feel increasingly tired after you walk up the stairs.

All of this upsets you and you once again feel motivated to go on a diet or do what’s necessary to lose weight, and you are sure you can do it this time.

That very same day your sister calls to invite you to a potluck barbecue. You’ve been to one of her family’s barbecues before and know that people are gonna bring some of the best food you’ve ever eaten, and that it’s almost a crime to miss out on THE barbecue of the year.

Your vacation is coming up as well and you know there will be tempting restaurants, buffets and melt in your mouth food vendors on every corner, and you say to yourself that there is no way that you are going to deprive yourself of all of that.

What’s the point of life if you can’t live and really enjoy it? A perfectly valid point.

So you can see that there are lots of motivational forces for and against your goal of losing weight and whichever side has more strength or pull ends up winning.

Strong woman motivated to lose weight

Wedding Dress Motivation

WEDDING DRESS MOTIVATION

To lose weight you’ll need what I call “wedding dress motivation”. If ever there was a time when women were more successful at losing weight it was for their weddings. Why?

Well before their wedding they still wanted to lose weight as we talked about above, but they also wanted to stay the same. Now things are different. They know that in a few months that they are going to be the center of attention at a party that will have over 100 people, most of whom are very important to them.

And it’s not like they’ll just be giving a talk like they would at work or at some conference. They’ll be wearing a spectacular dress that is designed to show off their body. In other words their physical beauty will be on display nonstop for hours.

There will be an expectation for them to look a certain way. To look much much better and grander than at any other time in their life. They are expected to be the peacock, to wow and dazzle the crowd and look better than every other person there.

On top of that they know that that day will live forever. Hundreds of guests will take thousands of photos. Professional photographers and videographers will immortalize them so that those pictures will be looked at for decades if not generations to come.

So it’s no wonder that a woman wants to look her absolute best on that day. Motivational forces that go both ways (pain and pleasure) are working for her in this case. On the one hand she is pulled by the desire to look good for herself and to enjoy that important today.

On the other hand she doesn’t want to let herself down, knowing she could have looked better in the dress she wanted but now has to settle for a different one. She doesn’t want to feel self-conscious or embarrassed in front of all those guests, and she certainly doesn’t want to have people looking at her pictures for the next 50 years if she wasn’t happy with the way she looked.

So in the case of a wedding, all motivational forces align to override any small (in comparison) motivation to eat fudge brownies every night after dinner, and the result is that she loses weight.

Then the wedding ends, powerful motivations disappear and she slowly slips back to her old habits and her old ways.

A woman shows her before and after weight loss photos.

New Motivation

FINDING NEW MOTIVATION

So how do we get that wedding dress motivation to be permanent?

We need to start looking within and taking stock of the motivations that are already at play inside us.

We know that we REALLY don’t want to be fat anymore. That we are sick of it and that we beat ourselves up over it every day. And yet surprisingly that isn’t enough motivation to change.

That would mean that as sick and tired as we are of being this way, that there is another part of us that is even more powerful keeping us where we are and preventing us from being able to stick to a diet or exercise program.

Most of the time we are not aware of these darker motivations but we do know that they are rooted in emotion which is why we call ourselves emotional eaters.

Some people feel very vulnerable and use food and their weight to unconsciously keep others away. Part of them wants to be slim and to have close, intimate relationships, but a deeper part that has likely experienced some trauma, can’t tolerate the vulnerability that comes with closeness and so finds a way to keep people at bay.

These people need to look at their wounds and process them with a therapist or in a group setting, so that they can resolve them over time, and slowly take the power away from that negative motivation.

Other people are not getting their needs met in life. Perhaps they’re codependent and have always lived for others, doing whatever other people want, or that they think other people would want instead of doing what they themselves really want to do.

Or maybe they don’t know what they want and are just living their lives according to what they think society defines a good life is. In any case what these people need to do is to learn to get in touch with their own wants and needs and start expressing them in their everyday life.

Reflection of who you are Emotionally

Managing your Emotions

But, the number one reason why we tend to over eat or eat emotionally is to regulate our anxiety. In other words to soothe or calm ourselves down from that uncomfortable feeling we find very difficult to tolerate. We also don’t know what to do about it and so we look for anything we can, food, TV,  any distraction to help us manage it.

A lot of this is unconscious once again. We know that we are eating to help us soothe or cope with our issues and we are generally unaware of exactly how our anxiety is affecting us. We don’t really feel it or try to figure out what’s underneath our  over eating.

It’s not an easy task so it’s no wonder we turn away from it. But turning away from it only makes it stronger until it turns into a monster that we can’t ignore anymore. That’s usually when we seek help.

Which isn’t a bad thing. It means we’re at the point where we are ready to deal with what’s been plaguing us for years, or decades even.

Going to a therapist or attending free, online group therapy is a great place to start. You can also read the blog posts here at EatingLove on anxiety here and here for more information.

Unfortunately as you’ve surmised by now there is no quick fix to get and sustain motivation to lose weight. The negative motivational forces are powerful and will take time to resolve. But that doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight in the meantime – check out the guide on the main page of this website to see how you can lose weight while working on the underlying emotions.

Yes it’s work, and nobody wants to hear that but the good news, the great news actually, is that working on your anxiety or underlying issue will make every other aspect of your life better and set you up so that the rest of your life will be more fulfilling and satisfying than the life you’ve lived so far.

When you’ve done the work and you look back you’ll regret not doing it sooner.

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