Q: First I want to say that I enjoy your Facebook page and posts. I recently heard you being interviewed on the podcast “Hey Sis” where you spoke about your journey to weight loss success and becoming a trainer and expert in nutrition. I have a question about maintaining motivation, especially when faced with a big weight loss goal. I have well over 100 pounds to lose (probably closer to 150) but the thing I find hardest is maintaining motivation over the long haul. I can cook (although it isn’t my favourite past time) and I am comfortable with the theory of clean eating and calorie counting. I will confess that I am not a huge fan of exercise, although I can often talk myself into doing something for a limited period of time. However, after a few weeks of eating healthy and perhaps including some exercise, I find it hard to maintain motivation, and even falling off the wagon for a few days can reverse what little ground I have gained in the weeks before. When I eventually get back to the routine, I am starting from scratch again. Any tips on how to maintain motivation for the long haul when faced with a big goal and results are slow in coming?
I think at least half of all the e-mails I receive are about motivation.
So many people are lured in by the excitement of the honeymoon phase that comes from starting a new exercise routine, and then find themselves dejected, frustrated and, ultimately, disappointed with their results.
I think, above all else, we have to be honest about why people lose their “motivation.” More often than not, it’s because the weight loss slows to a crawl, eventually plateauing altogether. The numbers aren’t the remarkable “lose 14lbs in 7 days!” numbers we see on the covers of magazines that use outlandish claims to convince us to buy as we stand in the checkout aisle, so we wonder if our failure to accomplish those crazy large numbers is because we’re doing something wrong or we’re simply meant to stay at our current size forever.
I think that the current fitness-crazed climate (lol, when is it not) has set up unreasonable expectations for what an exercise routine looks and feels like. Everything is so goal oriented, and that’s okay, but what are the goals? There’s more to movement than weight loss, and because we don’t talk about the importance of those other benefits of regular activity, weight loss ultimately becomes the only metric many people have to measure the effectiveness of their workouts. When that weight loss fails to come the way we think it should, our “motivation” wanes.
I also think that part of why our motivation slowly fades is the fact that exercise isn’t as immediately gratifying as so many other ways to spend our time. (This also ties into my last point—because the primary way we determine the effectiveness of exercise has to do with weight loss, we don’t know how to value the other benefits of it, which makes it hard to include those benefits in the reasons why we should work out instead of, say, watch TV.) You can be taken on an instant emotional roller coaster ride with great television, you can be immersed in the social interaction of hitting a networking event or a bar, and you can also go right back to your old habits. You know, the ones that always felt good and comfortable, but the ones that also resulted in you being where you are with your body.
We talk about exercise in ways that actually make it hard for people to find something that brings them lifelong joy. We talk about lifting weights and pounding the pavement, endless hours on a treadmill each week, and climbing an endless staircase as if people should enjoy these things just for the sake of enjoying them.
Let me put you on game. They’re not. They’re not enjoyable. I hate the treadmill, and the stairmaster f’ing sucks.
However, you know what I truly enjoy? My yoga practice. For the past three months, every day, I go to my gym, after the last class in the yoga room ends, I take my mat and my headphones in that room, turn down the lights, and let my emotions and my body guide my practice. I breathe deeply. I exhale the stresses of my day, and inhale hope for a better tomorrow. I push my body beyond what I originally saw as its limits, and I leave my practice proud—proud of what my body can now do, proud of how I pushed myself, and proud that I now look forward to my tomorrows instead of worrying that I might not have one.
And, because I have an activity that I love and want to get better at, I know I need to train in order to be better. That includes losing weight, which includes doing the occasional cardio. That includes getting stronger, which means lifting weights (which, to be honest, I love anyway just because I love feeling powerful enough to pick up heavy things and throw them to the ground like a superhero.) And, because none of these will be successful without my eating being above par, I make sure to stay consistent with my eating routine.
You have to find an activity that you love, and loves you back. When you love what you do, and have reasons to value it outside of what it can do for your body (because, I can tell you, that 7lbs in 7 days thing is not reality), it makes it easier to commit to it. It makes it easier to train like you’re serious about your chosen activity—which can and frequently does include weight loss—and that makes it easier to eat like you want to recover and repair properly.
It’s all connected. Find out how the dots connect for you, and take your chosen sport seriously. Trust me—your body will thank you for it!