Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
I don’t know who wrote the above quote, but I really like it. I think that thinking about the end goal is something that is really important when committing yourself to healthy eating and exercise.
I thought I would share my tips for staying motivated to exercise and work out. I’m no expert in this field (otherwise I would have my weight under control already) but I have learned some strategies over time that I thought might be helpful.
1) Recognize your mistakes, but forgive yourself
I think that this is the most important one of all. Recognize that you are not perfect. Recognize that if you go a day without exercising or you accidentally inhale a bag of chips without thinking, it is not the end of the world. Of course, you want to make good choices and to exercise and to watch your portions. But we are all human. We are allowed to slip up and make mistakes. The important thing is to realize that there is always tomorrow.
2) Don’t let failure define you
The absolute worst thing that you can do when you slip up in your routine is to throw in the towel. It is okay to fail. We all do it. So just take it as a learning experience and keep going. It reminds me of another quote that I love: “Just because you miss a step doesn’t mean that you should throw yourself down the whole flight.”
I used to make this mistake a LOT. I would put myself on a ridiculously restrictive diet and an intense exercise routine and when I (inevitably) went off the diet or missed a workout, I thought to myself “Well, I guess that’s that, I might as well just accept that I’ll be fat forever” and I would go right back to my unhealthy habits. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just keep going and learn.
3) Love the positive, don’t dwell on the negative
There will no doubt be weeks where you eat something you “shouldn’t” or you miss a workout or you don’t lose as much weight as you thought you would. That is okay. It happens to us all. But instead of thinking “I shouldn’t have had that piece of cake” or “I really wish I had lost more weight this week”, think about the positive. What did you do this week that was great? Maybe you learned to cook an awesome new healthy recipe, maybe you tried a new delicious food, maybe you finally mastered a really hard yoga pose. Find something great that you did this week and be proud of that!
4) Reach out for help and support
It can be really hard, sometimes, to admit that you need help. I consider myself to be a very independent person and it is really hard for me to admit that something is too hard and that I need help. But it’s okay to ask for help and support.
It can be embarrassing to admit that you have a weight problem, but the people who love you aren’t going to care. Trust me. Anytime that I have ever mentioned my weight to anyone or talked about how I’m on Weight Watchers and I’m trying to lose weight, everybody has been extremely supportive and encouraging. The more people you have around you that are rooting for you, the easier it is to continue with your goals, especially if some of your friends have similar goals. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like exercise, sign up for a class at the gym with a friend or go for walks. Having a support system around you is invaluable.
5) Be Realistic
Many people find themselves getting discouraged because they’re not losing as much weight as they think they should or because they eat “bad” food. But I think that a lot of that discouragement could be avoided by making more realistic goals.
I honestly do not have a specific weight goal, nor do I have a weekly weight goal. My aim is to be healthy above all else. I want my meals to consist of nutritious food, I want to feel better, I want to get myself to a healthy BMI and I want to increase my fitness level. I will decide when I get there what my “ideal weight” is, it depends on how I feel. It could be 130 or 150 or 180 lbs, who knows?
My point is that though it is great to have goals, they are not the be all, end all. If you don’t reach a goal in the time you wanted, that’s okay. Just keep trying. And don’t make your goals too far out of reach. It’s one thing to try to lose 10 lbs by March 1st, it’s quite another to want to lose 50 lbs. To be healthy and to ensure that you are losing fat, not muscle, your weight loss should max out at an average of 2lbs per week, so 50 lbs in such a short time is not a healthy goal.
I also caution against “all or nothing” diets. In my personal experience, they do not work. I need balance in my life and I need the freedom to be able to have a piece of cake or some chocolate or a margarita without feeling like I have ruined my plan. Moderation, at least for me, is the key to making realistic goals.
6) Reward Yourself
I have a workout calendar on my wall and every time that I work out, I get a sticker. Maybe it’s my inner child talking, but I love seeing those stickers. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to look at the calendar and see that it’s completely full of those little stars, it makes me feel like I have accomplished something.
I also have a list of things that I want that I made recently and I am going to draw up a reward system for myself, based on those. For example: a month of workouts means that I can get a pedicure, 25 lbs means new shoes, 75 lbs means a leather jacket etc. etc.
If you’re finding it hard to motivate yourself, maybe having something to work towards will be the kick in the pants you need.
7) Shop Smart
Firstly, don’t shop hungry. I’m serious. This one seems silly, but I find that I give in to temptation at the grocery store so much more when I am hungry and then I come back with tons of junk. If I am full or I have just exercised, I think that I make much better choices.
Secondly, make your shopping list by section and stick to the perimeter. The perimeter of most stores are where the staples are: bread, milk, meat, cheese, produce. I find it easier to shop when I make my list according to where items in the store so that I can go through the store quickly, without having to traipse back and forth through the tempting aisles.
Thirdly, it is easier to say no in the store than to say no 100 times at home. I encourage people to make the best choices they can and to stay away from nutritionally-deficient junk food, but sometimes you just need to have it, you know? I understand that, I have Doritos and Oreos in my house as we speak. But, sometimes there are foods that are best to avoid. If you know that if you are going to have serious problems controlling yourself around a certain food, then it might be a good idea to put that item back on the shelf. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have it ever again, but if you’re worried that you’ll binge on it, then putting it back or finding a smaller serving size might be a better option. If you buy it and you eat it all in one sitting, don’t beat yourself up about it, but be at least be aware that it is a problem food for you.
8) Do it for you
Weight loss and getting healthy should be for you and you alone. Yes, it might be nice to show off a new body to your partner or spouse, but at the end of the day you are the one that is putting in the effort. Do it because you deserve to be fit and healthy and happy, not because anyone told you to. The motivation is easier to find when you’re the one that is going to reap the happy, healthy benefits at the end of the day.
Whenever I am feeling frustrated or tired or overwhelmed, I just take a moment to remember these points and reflect about why I embarked on this journey. I realize that I am not perfect and that no matter that I try to make good choices and to eat the most nutritious foods that I can, some days I am going to want ice cream or potato chips and that is okay. I plan on doing this for the rest of my life and I need to know that I have some wiggle room. My goal is to be fit and healthy, but also to enjoy my life and to find a balance between healthy living and indulging on occasion. I think that recognizing patterns and bad habits, learning from mistakes and forgiving oneself are just as important on this journey as healthy eating and exercise.
If you are looking for motivation, I hope that these tips might have helped you. Cheers!