When you’re trying to lose weight, keeping your motivation up can be a tall order. You might be trudging through the same-old workout routine, cutting too many calories (and zapping your energy and metabolism in the process), stressed out and low on sleep or surrounded by friends and family who don’t understand the struggle. Whatever your challenge is, it can become even harder to stay focused on your weight-loss goals, says Mariah Heller, certified strength and conditioning specialist and creator of Pain-Free Fitness.
The good news is you’re not alone. “We all get into ruts,” says Angelica Ventrice, a certified personal trainer, health coach and creator of Fit for Life. “Let’s be real here: You aren’t always going to jump out of bed and want to hit the gym or spend your Sunday meal prepping. Even as a coach, I have days when I simply don’t feel like doing these things.” That’s why it’s important to have strategies on-hand to help get you across any hurdles or plateaus — and to always remember to be kind to yourself in the process.
Ask anyone how often you should weigh yourself, and you’ll hear all sorts of advice, from “everyday” to “not right now.” If you’re low on motivation, it might be time to reframe what progress looks like. If weighing yourself causes stress and anxiety, take a break from it. “This may sound counterintuitive, but stop focusing solely on weight loss and the number itself,” says Ventrice. To make your weight-loss journey more pleasant, step away from the scale and focus on other measures of success like non-scale victories you can celebrate more often, such as strength gains at the gym, more energy and looser-fitting clothes, she says. Similarly, if you’re not enjoying the gym, try something else like walking on nearby trails.
“The biggest challenge to motivation for anyone looking to lose weight is not seeing results,” says Aroosha Nekonam, a certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance. If you’re not keeping track of your progress or you’re setting unrealistic goals, though, you may feel as if you’re struggling, when in fact you’re taking strides forward. Give yourself a motivation boost with SMART goals (meaning specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). For example, instead of a general “losing weight” goal, aim to lose 10 pounds in three months for a special occasion, like your friend’s wedding or a high school reunion. “Having a hard and fast deadline will give you an endpoint to focus on and keep you progressing even when the going gets tough,” says Nekonam.
Now that you’ve got your big-picture goal, break it up into smaller goals so you can see your improvements and celebrate wins along the way, says Nekonam. Try increasing your step count, lifting heavier on certain exercises in the gym, or drinking fewer high-calorie beverages like alcohol and soda, with a clear goal set for each week. This is where checking off to-do’s on an exercise log or keeping track of your meals on an app like MyFitnessPal can help you see your progress and increase your motivation for the long haul.
“If you’re going it alone (or you’ve got friends and family who insist you can have that unhealthy meal with them), staying focused on weight loss can become even harder,” says Morgan Rees, a LA-based certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist and health coach. What to do: Spend time around loved ones who are active, make healthy choices and support your weight-loss goals. Make it a point to schedule hikes, workouts and evenings out at healthy eating spots together, she says. You can also work with a coach or personal trainer who can help you shape your weight-loss plan and stick to it, sign up for a group fitness class or link up with an online support group to keep yourself accountable.
“At times when you don’t feel like working out, eating healthy or even moving, podcasts can take you back to the right path,” says Rees. “Listen to inspiring podcasts about fitness and healthy living while you’re walking or even doing chores around the house.”
“Fad diets, highly restrictive eating and a desire for perfection can make staying focused on weight loss a gargantuan task and set you up for failure,” says Ventrice. Her suggestion: Follow an 80% clean eating, 20% indulgences plan with a healthy balance of macronutrients including lean proteins, healthy fats and high-quality carbs. This way, you won’t feel guilty when your eating plan isn’t 100% perfect (and no one’s is), plus you’ll make overall progress a habit rather than striving for impossible-to-reach perfection, which will surely wear you out.
Chances are, you’re struggling because trying to lose weight hasn’t been fun. Shedding pounds can be a difficult process that requires a long-term commitment, regardless of the many ups and downs. To keep your weight-loss efforts consistent, find a type of exercise you enjoy and a system that works for you, says Heller. Naturally, this looks different for everyone, but trying new healthy recipes, picking workouts that suit your personality and even going on active dates with your significant other are a few ways you can make the weight-loss process much more enjoyable and, in turn, easier to stick with.