How to Stay Motivated to Lose Weight
It’s easy to get motivated to lose weight in the first place, but some days it can be hard to keep that motivation going strong — especially when you hit a weight-loss plateau or when life gets hectic. But there are a few simple tips and tricks that can help you power through those not-so-gung-ho days and stay focused on your weight-loss goals.
8 Tricks to Find Motivation to Lose Weight
1. Time it right.
There’s no wrong time to start your weight-loss journey. But if you struggle with motivation, the right timing may help set you up for success.
According to organizational behavior expert Hengchen Dai, people are more motivated to create and initiate goal pursuits at moments that feel like a fresh start — such as the beginning of the week, a new season, or right after the holidays. Around these times, she explains, people may be more open to encouragement and more willing to put aside past failures and try out new solutions.
2. Sign up for a challenge.
Matt Walrath, owner of nutrition coaching company Beyond Macros, says his most motivated clients are those with a major event — like a 5K or a triathlon — on the horizon. “You can channel more motivation by focusing on an event you can work toward, where having excess weight will cause your performance to suffer,” he says.
3. Look at how far you’ve come.
We mean this literally — when you’re stuck in a weight-loss rut, step away from the scale and look for visual cues and tangible measurements that can remind you how far you’ve come. Flip through old photos on your phone, take notice when a pair of pants fits more loosely, or look through the history on your fitness tracker to see how much your pace or endurance has improved.
“It can get extremely discouraging when you hit a plateau,” says Samantha Smitchko, a certified personal trainer and IFBB Figure Pro. “Appreciate how far you’ve come, and remember, you’ve made it this far — you can make it even further.”
4. Try visualization.
Top athletes use visualization techniques to help them get into the right mindset before a competition — and this technique may also help you stay on-track with your weight-loss goals. Visualization can train your brain to respond to temptation in a way that helps you achieve your goals faster. You can practice visualization simply by closing your eyes and picturing a more confident, energized, and healthy version of yourself. Need something more tangible? Create a vision board compiled of photos that remind you of healthy changes you’d like to make.
5. Reframe your slip-ups.
It’s easy to get discouraged after a slip-up. Maybe you missed two workouts in a row, and now you’re tempted to take the rest of the week off and restart on Monday. Or you overate at breakfast, so you figure you might as well just go on a calorie bender for the rest of the day. Researchers call this the “what the hell” effect, Dai says — but it can drive you further away from your original goals. Instead of letting a slip-up derail your weight-loss plans, shift your focus to how you’ll fix it for the future, so you can get back on-track as quickly as possible.
6. Find a weight-loss support crew.
“Enlist someone who can become your gym buddy and accountability partner,” says Walrath. “This way, you’ll have someone to share your challenges with. When you’re tempted to cheat on your diet or skip a couple of days at the gym, you’ll have someone to help get you back on-track.”
Finding a weight-loss role model online can help, too — as long as the person you pick has a lifestyle comparable to yours and is transparent about their struggles. “Look for people who offer advice and who are always very open and honest with their followers,” Smitchko says — because nothing can sap your motivation quicker than a feed filled with photoshopped people bragging about their impossibly perfect lives.
7. Go social with your weight-loss goals.
Don’t hesitate to post about your own process (and progress!) on social media or in an online community. One study found that online dieters with “high social embeddedness” — aka those who immersed themselves in an online weight-loss community — lost 8 percent more weight in six months than their less-connected peers.
“You will be creating a social contract and new social bonds to ensure you achieve your goals,” says Janis Isaman, certified Pilates instructor and owner of My Body Couture. “Even though it’s online-only, that support can be very powerful.”
8. Reevaluate your weight-loss plan.
Finally, it’s uber-important to identify the signs that the weight-loss plan you chose just isn’t working for you.
“A weight-loss plan should enhance your life,” says Isaman. “You should feel capable, accomplished, and energized by your food and fitness plans. There might be hard choices to make, but they should not feel like a punishment.”
So, how do you know if you haven’t picked the right weight-loss plan? Isaman says to watch out for these red flags:
- You feel tired or grumpy often.
- You’re sneaking into the pantry for late-night snack attacks.
- You’ve adopted an all-or-nothing mentality.
- You stop socializing or isolate yourself.
- You’re dreaming about “forbidden” foods.
- You’re obsessed with tracking devices.
- You’re frustrated to the point of anger, despair, or tears.
And, of course, there’s the classic marker: You’re not seeing results. The CDC recommends losing weight at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week. “You should also see a fat-loss trend around the hips, waist, and thighs,” says Walrath.
If you’re taking body measurements and still not seeing results, you may need to reconsider your plan. Don’t think of this as a failure, Isaman says, but as an important step in finding a weight-loss plan that’s effective and sustainable for you.