Have you ever wondered why it is that you have been able to lose weight at some points in your life but not at others? Maybe it was a special event or a holiday that spurred you on or maybe you just managed to get in the zone? The most likely answer is that your mind was focused on just one thing and that all the decisions you made around food and exercise centred on that one key goal.
The problem is, we often have multiple reasons for wanting to lose weight and that’s when motivation gets really tricky. Changing your eating habits is difficult enough at the best of times but if you are not clear on why you are doing it, it can feel almost impossible to stay on track. If you have ever tried to change your eating habits you will already know all about the mental tug of war that happens when you try to change how you eat. This mental battle gets much more intense when we burden ourselves with several reasons for wanting to lose weight.
So, let’s try and establish what is the most important thing that is motivating you to want to lose weight now? The main reasons fall into the categories of physical appearance, health, fitness and being able to function well.
Which of the following best describes why you want to lose weight?
To be slimmer
To look better
To fit back into my favourite clothes
To look good at my daughter/son’s wedding
To look good at my own wedding
To be able to do more activities with the kids
To be able to exercise more
To feel younger
To feel better about myself
To have more energy
To be healthier
To avoid medication
To improve my fertility rates
To reduce back ache and other weight related aches and pains or maybe a different reason entirely…
You may well be thinking that several of the above apply to you and why do you need to pick one. Well, let’s take one scenario and see how the choices you make might change depending on your primary motivation to lose weight…..
It’s 10:30am, you’re feeling tired, you’ve had a bad nights sleep, you’re feeling stressed and the draw of a coffee shop fix is getting harder and harder to resist…you’re thinking that a cappuccino and a chocolate pastry swirl would be just the thing to sort you out.
If your weight loss motivations are to be slimmer, look better, have more energy, be healthier and to have more energy….then right about now your brain will enter into a complex internal mental debate. Some of the arguments will go along the following line….”I’m too tired to care”….”a coffee and a chocolate swirl is not going to make the difference in whether I lose 2 stone or not”….”I haven’t been doing well this week so I’m not on target anyway”….”I really need something to pick me up”…”I’m having a rubbish day, it will make me feel better”…..you get the idea. I’m not judging, I have certainly been there, done that myself.
So then, what if your motivation to lose weight is to look better? I am not a big fan of calorie counting but this is where you will need to be calorie savvy. Know the calories of your favourite indulgences and make an informed choice. Know whether snacking helps you to eat less calories at your other meals or if the snacks are just additional calories. I’m not naming any names but depending on the coffee shop you go to, a medium cappuccino with semi skimmed milk and a chocolate swirl can easily come in at over 500kcal. 500kcal is a small meal, not a snack. If looking better is your motivation then first take the time to look better with the body that you already have. Don’t leave it to a diet and weight loss to fix how you feel about. Do things that make you feel better about your appearance. It’s a very personal thing, so for one person it might be painting their nails or for another it could be “de-toxing” their wardrobe to get rid of clothes that are tired/worn out/just don’t suit them. Don’t let food be the only focus on how you feel about the way you look. If you allow yourself to feel proud about how you look now then you are more likely to treat your body well and to give it the healthy food that it deserves.
So let’s now suppose that your motivation for losing weight is to have more energy…well, sure the cappuccino and sugar laden pastry will give you more energy in the short term but instead of a cappuccino and a chocolate swirl you could just have a coffee with a spoonful of sugar in it. That will still give you a boost but with a fraction of the calories. Depending on your circumstances, you could boost your energy by having a ten minute power nap or you could just sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes and take some deep breaths to re-charge your batteries.
If your motivation is to get fitter then you might think about going for a short walk to perk you up rather than having a caffeine fix.
You’re starting to get the picture. Focus on what’s really driving you. It will help you to avoid all those painful internal arguments and it will help you to see what you could do to support that goal – either through food choices or in other ways. If, in spite of being focused, you still fall off the wagon and give into temptation from time to time, you are at least making a more informed choice and it should be easier to minimise the number of times you have indulgent treats.
Get to know yourself, be kind to the person that you already are and make choices that reflect what’s truly important to you at this time in your life.