You know you want to shed pounds and you’re pretty clear on the changes you need to make to reach that magic number on the scale. But you also know that getting—and staying—on track can be super-daunting, especially if you’re running low in the motivation department.
Fear not, dear grasshopper. We went to the experts for the inside scoop on how to reach your weight-loss goals no matter how unmotivated you are.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to get amped.
“Sometimes people can feel unmotivated because they lose sight of why they’re making changes in the first place,” says Edwina Clark, R.D., head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly. The reason why you’re losing weight should be as specific and unique to you as possible. Not only will having a mission statement on tap help you build momentum in the beginning, it will help you refocus after any setbacks you experience along the way.
“Lack of motivation can be a symptom of other factors, such as fatigue, high stress levels, and feeling overwhelmed,” says Clark. Explore why you’re feeling unmotivated and create strategies to help you fight back. For example, you can use what’s holding you back to define the parameters of your goals. If you’re terrified of failure, for example, you might start with changes that take five minutes or less, like making a smoothie or meditating. By the time you start talking yourself out of it, you’ll have already checked it off your to-do list (and boosted your confidence in the process).
Creating a game plan can be overwhelming, especially if you have no idea where you’re starting. Enter, food journaling. Tracking your intake can make you feel more in control of your eating habits, and in turn, motivated to make small changes to your current diet. “Because you’re making small modifications to your current behaviors, as opposed to trying to adhere to a new diet altogether, many find it more sustainable, as well as educational,” says San Diego-based culinary dietitian Nancy Snyder, R.D. In time, you’ll have proof of the legit progress you’re making, which can help you stay motivated over the long haul.
Just make sure you approach the process with an opportunistic mindset for setting goals, not as a forced recalling of “good” and “bad” behavior, says Snyder. That will make you lose sight of the big picture.
No, but seriously. “Focusing on numbers can only result in frustration if there’s a plateau or if the degree of weight loss isn’t what’s expected or desired,” says Adrienne Youdim, M.D., director of the Center for Weight Loss and Nutrition in Beverly Hills. “In the long run, this results in sabotage.” Instead, set small goals that aren’t weight-related—such as swapping out your usual 2 p.m. soda with sparkling water, going for a walk after dinner, or adding a side of veggies to your meals. To prevent feeling overwhelmed, focus on one goal at a time. “Trying to overhaul your entire lifestyle at once is incredibly difficult and ultimately leads to disappointment,” says Clark. “Knocking off goals one by one builds confidence and self-efficacy.”
Fails are inevitable—so instead of letting them defeat you, use them as a learning experience. “Many of the behaviors you’re trying to change have been with you for a long time,” says Bowerman. “Try to figure out what leads you to slip up, and figure out how you can prevent it from happening again.” Then, you can try to make it up to yourself by balancing the scales. If you went overboard on birthday cake at your friend’s shindig, for example, then eat an extra serving of veggies the next day.