Lately in groups, and among friends, I've heard this question come up a lot. How do you find motivation to get healthy? How do you stay motivated?
In my years of yo-yo dieting, watching my weight go up and down on the scale, and having an overall dislike for my body, I've had these same questions over and over as well. I mean, WHY can't I just stay motivated? WHY do I keep quitting and starting and quitting again? WHY is this so hard?
In the last 11 months, I feel like I have finally found what works for me and for the first time in my entire life, I have not lost my motivation. I have gusto. I have energy. I am excited. It's so new but feels very natural. Like this is how it should be.
Here are some of the things I have found to help me FIND motivation and STAY motivated (for months and months!)
1. Set small, realistic goals.This is first because I think this one is the hardest to do. If your overall goal is to lose 50 lbs, run a marathon, wear a size 6, etc., then break that goal into small, achievable, realistic goals. Too many times I set out with just my overall goal in mind, and when I didn't hit it in what I thought was an acceptable amount of time, I gave up, feeling defeated. Smaller goals give you the satisfaction of achievement while keeping you motivated to hit your overall goal.
My most recent large goal was to lose the baby weight (ahem...55lbs). I cut this goal into chunks that worked for me. Three months after having Brooke, when I started at CrossFitRVA, I had lost 20lbs. My small goals were to lose 4lbs each month until I hit 55lbs. Some months I'd lose 3, some I'd lose 6, but it all averaged out, and 1 pound a week for me was doable. I ended up down 70lbs before getting pregnant again.
2. Write your goals down.Along with #1, write your goals down. Whether it is in a journal, on your fitness app/run keeper, wherever. Write them down. This makes them more concrete than if you just think about them every so often, and if you are a list person, you can check off the small goals as you hit them, which for me is really satisfying!
I use MyFitnessPal and have my goals set in there (in the settings), and I also have this blog where I let everyone in the world know my plans. I told everyone I knew, and also keep track of my weight and measurements using MFP.
3. Celebrate your successes.Celebrating your achievements and giving yourself acknowledgment of the awesome job you've done is extremely important. When you set your goals, give yourself a reward for each time you hit one. They can be small or big, it's totally up to you! Some ideas are a new workout outfit (or a new outfit in general), mani/pedi, massage, new exercise equipment (a new machine or even just a fun water bottle), new make-up. Whatever it takes to help you stay on track.
My favorite treat is a new workout outfit or pair of workout shoes. Recently I've been looking into some workout equipment to make working out at home easier. Or sweets. Sweets always work too.
4. Take note of your failures (without letting them stop you).For all of the times your will succeed in your journey, you will fail as many or more times. You'll have that donut or handful of M&Ms, you'll skip a day at the gym, you'll only run 2 slow miles instead of 4 fast miles, you'll have a crazy night out full of wine and drunk pizza. It happens. The best thing to do is to understand that it happens. And it won't stop happening. Failure is part of the battle. My best advice is that when you fail (and you will), to brush it off and pick up where you left off. It happened (you can't erase it). Today is a new day. Don't let one bad day throw you off your goals.
I struggle with this still and all the time. I'm just a lot better now at brushing it off and keeping on, because I know one bad day or bad decision won't ruin all of my progress or knock me off my path.
after finally hitting that box jump!
5. Don't be so strict.
I think this goes hand-in-hand with #4. Restricting yourself from too many things or maintaining that you have to do something will almost always lead to failure. That means excuses like this: "I can not have my favorite chocolate chip cookies ever again" or "I will go to the gym every single day". These are extreme, but I know people that set these limits, and I have been one of them, and I caved every time and felt like a huge failure (ugh, why can't I stay away from the damn cookies?). Cutting yourself some slack is healthy. Having a cheat meal every day? Maybe not. But have a cookie every so often if you want. Go to the gym 5 days a week. These are more within reach. Know your limits and what you can do. Don't set yourself up to fail.
I have lots of vices. I allow myself to indulge just a little bit. I don't set limits I know I can't hit. I KNOW I can make it to the gym at least 3 days a week, so that is my goal. Anything over and above that is icing on the cake.
6. Find a workout buddy.A friend, co-worker, acquaintance, whoever. Find someone who wants to do the workouts that you want to do, and set up a time to meet them to do said workout. Find a running buddy, lifting buddy, whatever-buddy. They will hold you accountable. Can't trust yourself to get up to run at 5am? Schedule a run with a friend at 5am, I bet you'll go then! No one wants to get stood up at 5 in the morning. I have several folks I have met and gotten to know at my gym and when someone says "okay, see you tomorrow!" you can bet I am there tomorrow, because it was kind of a verbal agreement. It holds us accountable. Sure, things come up and stuff happens, but 9 times out of 10, you won't ever want to stand up your workout buddy.
Between friends that I run with (er...used to run with) and the awesome people I've met at CrossFit RVA, there is always someone I want to see or have promised to meet for a workout. Even if it's the coaches. There are always people I know and asking how I'm doing - it's so awesome and I love the social part of it, as well as the physical part too.
7. Surround yourself with people who will keep you on track.This one is so important. Tell the people in your life your goals. Tell them what you want to accomplish and how you plan to do it. Most of the people who truly care about you will hold you to what you are saying you want to do. Even when it is super irritating, those people will call you out if you don't do something you said you would. ASK them to do that. Because you won't want to tell them you didn't do whatever that thing was. Find people who are supportive and helpful and optimistic, because you will need that on days when you don't feel that yourself.
I have so many people holding me accountable, my family and close friends, and especially the people I mentioned above. They don't want to see me fail at anything and that is exactly what I need. Robert is great at pestering me about working out or eating right :) sometimes I hate it but it always helps me.
From the 2012 Richmond Marathon/Half Marathon - some of my accountability people!
8. Find something you truly enjoy doing.So this one might be a bit more time consuming, but if it means trying it all, then try it all! There is not a lack of things out there to do, food-wise or fitness-wise. There's CrossFit, Yoga, Pilates, Running, Walking, Biking, Hiking, Swimming, Group classes, Workout Videos, Spinning, etc etc etc. I could go on for days. Food wise, find what works! Paleo, "Clean eating", IIFYM, Low-carb, counting calories, etc. Whatever you can maintain, is 'easy', and makes you happy. It is out there, I swear it is, it just takes a bit of trial and error to find it.
There are a TON of things I enjoy - obviously the main one being CrossFit - but it took me 29 years to find it :) I also love BodyPump, Hiking, Biking, Walking, Jogging (kind of - with the right people!)...so much! It just took trying it once or twice to determine if I loved it (I'm not a yoga or pilates girl - but I have tried them!)
9. Stop throwing in the towel.
It's so easy to get frustrated and just say "UGH! I quit! I give up!" - I know because I've said those exact words. Whether it was because I let myself down, I failed at something, I ate something I shouldn't have, or it was just one of those days. One of the biggest advances I've made in my journey has been to accept these things and STOP giving up. Shrug off the bad and push on with the good. This ties into a lot of the other points I've already made, but it's one of those umbrella categories. If you stop giving up, you won't have to start over. Just keep on keeping on and great things will happen.
10. Remember: It's not easy!
If it were easy, we wouldn't have an obesity problem. Staying motivated and keeping your motivation is HARD. But it is getting through the hard parts that make us even stronger in the end. So no matter what your goal, keep your eye on the prize. Know what you want and never stop working to get there. You will surprise yourself with how much will-power you actually have, how strong you really are, and how far you can go.