When you’re trying to lose weight, get fit, and maintain a healthy lifestyle, one of the hardest things to do is keep yourself motivated to maintain the changes that you want to make.
Dieting and exercising for a few days is easy, but keeping it going for the long-term can be a challenge. This is way too many people see early success, but ultimately are unable to reach their health and fitness goals.
Although it can be difficult, there are ways to keep yourself motivated long enough to make your new lifestyle a habit. According research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, one important key to lasting fitness motivation is finding a source of intrinsic motivation; this means that instead of relying on outside factors to motivate you, you should find ways to motivate yourself. While this can be difficult, it isn’t impossible.
Try making a list of reasons why you want to improve your health and fitness, and remind yourself of those reasons whenever you need motivation. When you feel yourself slipping, remember all of the times in your life that you’ve been strong, and encourage yourself to keep pushing.
If motivation is a struggle for you, there are some strategies proven by science to give your internal motivation a leg up. Below, read about six ways to keep yourself motivated when maintaining a healthy lifestyle starts to feel like too much of a challenge.
1. Give Yourself Rewards
For most people, the intrinsic rewards of healthy behaviors will eventually become obvious. As you improve your diet and work toward your perfect fitness plan, you’ll begin to notice positive changes in your body, both internally and externally. Seeing these changes is a major source of motivation for just about everyone working toward health-related goals.
However, seeing these changes takes time. Typically, it takes at least four weeks of diet and exercise for a person to notice changes in their body. So how do you stay motivated long enough to start reaping the benefit of those intrinsic rewards?
According to some doctors, one of the best ways to make it to the four-week mark is to give yourself external rewards during the time that it takes for the changes in your body to become apparent. Many people will reward themselves whenever they are able to go an entire week without cheating on their diet or any time they do an intense workout.
One trap that many people fall into, however, is always using food as a reward. While it’s okay to give yourself a treat now and then as a reward for a job well done, it isn’t a good idea to get into the habit of only rewarding yourself with food. Try other forms of reward, like buying yourself a little gift, going out to do something fun, or even taking a relaxing bubble bath. Anything that you enjoy can be a reward for a job well done!
2. Make Sure You Have a Plan
Many studies have examined the relationship between planning and successful accomplishment of goals, and most researchers believe that there is a positive correlation between the two. What does this mean for someone trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
While spontaneity can certainly spice up your life, it isn’t the best idea for diet and exercise. There are many things that can happen throughout the course of a day that can cause you to lose your motivation to eat well and exercise. However, if you have already planned your food and workouts for the day, you are more likely to stick with the healthy choices that you made when you were feeling more motivated.
Many people use meal prepping as a way to keep their slips in motivation from derailing their diet. Cook your meals at the beginning of the week or the night before and have them ready to go in the fridge. If you have a healthy food option just waiting to be heated up, you’ll be much less likely to cave in and make a poor decision
You can apply the same principle to your workouts, also. Try signing up for fitness classes in advance or getting your workout gear ready the night before. Making these preparations will help motivate you to actually go through with the workout you planned!
3. Get Some Help
Sometimes when you’re trying to start being healthier, you have no idea where to start. Or, you may think that you know everything there is to know about diet and fitness, but you’re actually missing key pieces of information that could help you immensely.
According to one study, participants embarking on a plan to develop a healthy lifestyle were more likely to continue exhibiting healthy behaviors in the long run if they were first taught the skills necessary to make the changes in their lifestyles. Because they knew the best ways to lose weight, get fit, and improve their health as told to them by experts, they saw results quickly, giving them ample intrinsic encouragement early in their programs.
In addition, getting expert advice allowed them to create plans that were tailored to their personal needs, making the plans easier to follow for each individual participant, which encouraged long-term success.
4. Have a Support System
Attempting to make a change in your lifestyle can be stressful, and unfortunately, stress is not good for motivation. In one study of college-age women attempting to lose weight, researchers regularly interviewed participants to determine their levels of self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resilience. The research found that during the stressful time of the weight-loss program, the women who were receiving adequate support were more likely to be successful in the long term.
If you are embarking on a journey of health, fitness, and/or weight loss, having an adequate support network is crucial for your motivation. Having people who will encourage you when your resolve starts to weaken is one of the best ways to keep yourself from losing your motivation entirely. This is especially critical at the beginning of your program, before the intrinsic rewards become obvious.
Family and friends are an excellent source of support. However, you can also turn to support groups both in-person and online to find others who are also attempting to improve their health and fitness. People going through a similar process will be able to relate to your struggles and make excellent sources of motivation.
5. Make Exercise Fun!
While there are some rare individuals who really enjoy exercising, most people see it as a chore. This is one of the most difficult hurdles to get over when conquering your struggles with motivation.
According to one research project, participants who attempted to improve their level of fitness by engaging in a sport that they enjoyed saw significantly higher levels of success that those who engaged in other types of exercise. This indicates that if the physical activity you’ve chosen is one that you view as a treat instead of chore, you’re much more likely to engage in the activity regularly and put in the effort necessary to improve your fitness level.
Not everyone continues to engage in sports in adulthood, but there are still plenty of groups you can get involved in to make sports a part of your exercise routine. Try asking at your local gym or looking on social media to find groups in your area who regularly play the sport that interests you.
6. Try Some Tech
In the 21st century, there is plenty of technology that you can use to help you reach your fitness goals and stay motivated. One example is a fitness tracker. These devices are usually worn around the wrist and track your movements, heart rate, and other metrics.
According to some research, using a fitness tracker could have an impact on long-term motivation. Using a tracker allows you to see concrete data on how much you’re moving throughout the day. Just seeing this number is often enough to motivate you to move a little more. In addition, many trackers sync to apps you can use to track your food intake and connect with a community of other people using the same device. All of these features can be extremely useful in keeping you motivated.
Whatever you do to keep yourself going, focusing on the long-term benefits is key. Remember why you made the choice to start your wellness journey, and eventually, the rewards will become clear!