How to Stay Motivated to Lose Weight

Three Parts:Maintaining Your DietSticking to Your Workout PlanSetting Yourself Up for Success

You've set your weight goal, you've planned out your exercise regime and you've become a member at your local gym - now, you just have to maintain that level of enthusiasm to reach those numbers! While losing weight may seem a daunting task, a few simple techniques can keep can keep you motivated for the long haul, and allow you to have fun in the process.

Part 1
Maintaining Your Diet

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    Avoid fad or crash diets. When you put yourself on a diet of maple syrup and chili powder, it's pretty obvious that you're not going to stick with it. Even diets that are carb-free or all-protein are recipes for non-committal. When something isn't natural and do-able, it's bound to be short-lived. There's no quick fix for long-term weight loss.
    • If your diet involves severe calorie limitations, self-induced vomiting, cutting entire categories of foods (or only consuming one category), using laxatives or weight-loss medications or products, it's not healthy. You'll be better off (and more motivated) with a diet that makes you look good and feel good -- for a long, long time.
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    Never set foods off-limits. The older we get, the more we think we're not like children, but we still are. If you set three toys in front of a child and tell them they can't have the third one, which one will they want to play with? The same goes with your food. If you can't have dessert, you'll want it all the more. So instead of eliminating it, just limit it. Let yourself have a bite. Otherwise you'll just eat everything else!
    • Telling yourself you can't have something just feels terrible. It's a punishment and it starts the negative thinking train rolling down the tracks. The truth is a bite of that cake won't make you gain weight -- but three pieces will. So load up on your steamed veggies for dinner and sneak a taste of your friend's dessert while she's not looking. The massive amount of cauliflower you just ingested proves you deserve it.
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    Find alternative ways to cope with emotions. When friends gather, be it in celebration, commiseration, or just to kill time, what do they do? They eat (or drink). When we're happy, we eat. When we're sad, we eat. When we have nothing better to do, we eat. Unfortunately, that's good for no dieter. Alternative methods of feeling must be had!
    • Start thinking about when and why you eat, not just what. Maybe you always eat mindlessly when you're watching television, or maybe you go straight to the fridge when you're stressed. When you become aware of your patterns, it becomes easier to determine the cause. Start by keeping your hands busy -- knitting, reading, or doing a word puzzle can keep you from grabbing the popcorn.[1]
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    Ask for support. Everything is easier to do when you're not doing it alone. Even if all your family/friends/roommates/strangers you live with couldn't care less about their own health or weight loss, they can make your path to success a bit easier. If they know what your plan is, they'll be less likely to tempt you to the dark side with cookies.
    • A super easy way to find support from like-minded people is to join a group like Weight Watchers. If your own social network isn't fighting the weight battle (which would be hard to believe since practically everyone is), joining a group like this can be infinitely beneficial in staying on track.
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    Keep a food journal. Those who write down everything they eat are often more successful at losing weight than those who don't.[2] Concretely facing what you're eating puts it in a new light -- you'll notice patterns and be forced to look at your bad habits.
    • Get a food journaling partner if at all possible. Eating 4 Snickers bars is a lot more embarrassing when you have to tell someone else of the dirty deed. The more responsible you have to be, the more likely you'll stick to it.
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    Reassess your diet plan. As you diet and lose weight, your body gets used to your new habits and needs fewer calories with each pound you lose. You'll notice that that 1700-calorie diet you're on just isn't giving you the results you once had. Bummer. If it's not working, why stick with it, right? Because of this, you'll need to reassess and adjust your diet plan.
    • The skinnier you are, the fewer calories you need to intake. At a point, this becomes quite difficult. You could cut back the calories a bit (not too much! Just an extra hundred or so a day), but the easier way would be to add on more physical activity. Which brings us to...

Part 2
Sticking to Your Workout Plan

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    Find a workout buddy. It's harder to hit the snooze button if you know there's someone waiting for you to meet them at the gym or at the start of a jogging route. When "you" isn't motivating enough, it's team to enlist the help of others! Don't wanna feel guilty, do ya?
    • Friends and family can be excellent motivators as you continue to lose weight. Not only can they offer you support along the way, they can also become participants alongside you.
    • Gyms will often post listings for fitness partnerships or classifieds for training partners. Inquire at the front desk as to how you can be paired up with someone who is at a similar level of fitness.
      • Be an equal motivator to your workout partners. Energize them, just as they energize you - the benefits should go both ways!
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    Think of being active, not just working out. Not every form of fitness geared towards weight loss is contained within a workout. Maintaining or pursuing a healthy body weight includes making physical activity a part of everyday life. Simply choosing to take the stairs over the elevator can help you reach your goals faster.
    • In addition to the benefit of your waistline, moving frequently can alleviate feelings of sluggishness, and inspire you to continue moving throughout the day. Sometimes it's the getting going that is the hardest part.
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    Get geared up. For most of us, shoveling out a chunk of change is a good way to get us feeling obligated to put that chunk of change to good use. Spending some of your hard-earned cash on workout clothes and gear can get you going in multiple ways:
    • With new stuff, you'll feel obligated to use it. Especially to get your money's worth.
    • You'll feel more entertained -- a new iPod, new music, a new water bottle -- even the smallest stuff can excite an otherwise drab workout.
    • You'll look good. New clothes can make us feel like a thousand bucks. When we feel good, we're more likely to reach for our goals.
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    Stick to what feels right. Even if what you prefer doesn't quite go along with fitness trends or expectations, do it anyway. While it's great to challenge yourself, it's also great to pursue your strengths. By allowing yourself to be flexible in the way you pursue your weight loss, you'll be more likely to hit your ideal stride. Little switch-ups can make a big difference. For example, consider basic questions like:
    • Are you more likely to work out in the morning or in the evening?
      • Do you like to work out in large groups, in smaller groups or by yourself?
      • Are you motivated by rewards, or are they easy to turn down?
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    Go slow. Once in a while -- especially when we just get started -- it's easy to think, I'm gonna run 10 miles (16 km) a day and stick to 500 calories for each meal and I'm gonna lose 30 pounds in 30 days. Well, for starters, no. Just no. That's not how things work. Go easy on yourself -- you don't want to throw up the "Closed for repairs" sign on your doors just yet.
    • Biting off more than you can chew is, aside from not good for your motivation, bad for your health. You can't run before you can walk, so don't aim for ridiculous workout (or diet) goals right off the bat. Ease your way into it. Only increase your workout by 5 or 10% each time, regardless of whether or not you feel you can do more. You may wind up hurting yourself or wearing yourself out so much you don't get back at it tomorrow.
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    Mix it up. Running 3 miles (4.8 km) a day to stay in shape and lose weight is a great idea. It will be effective and get the job done. Until you get bored out of your mind and stop. Do yourself a favor and switch up your routine. Your mind and your body is getting bored stiff.
    • Don't think of it as taking a day off, because you're not. If you trade a day at the gym for a hike or a day at the pool, great! You're still staying active. Then when you get back at the gym, it'll feel that much better having taken a break. You'll feel rejuvenated and re-energized.
    • Cross training is a great idea. It's basically the idea of doing a whole bunch of different types of workouts. Not only does it keep you mentally in the game, but it balances you out, too. Just running doesn't make you in shape, nor does just strength training. Cross training means you'll be ready for anything.[3]
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    Use pictures. Sometimes we need little reminders of why we're doing what we're doing, and pictures can do just that. Get some pictures and post them around your office, the kitchen, or on your desktop. What kind of pictures? Glad you asked. There are two ways to think of this:
    • Find old pictures of you that remind you of what you want to look like. Knowing that you had it once lets you know you can have it again!
    • Find pictures of others whose bodies you want to emulate. Being bombarded with something you want and are working toward can be great motivation.
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    Sign up. Whether it's for a class or a 5k, sign up. Having some concrete activity to do or work toward keeps you training and keeps you in line. If it's a race, you have a definite date you're working toward, literally putting a deadline on your training. Nothing is up in the air anymore, floating around in a "I'll get in shape when I get in shape" sort of way.
    • Don't know of any races coming up? The Internet is right in front of you right now. You've no excuse![4] and[5] have fairly comprehensive lists of upcoming races being held all over the place.

Part 3
Setting Yourself Up for Success

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    Set reasonable goals. Some of the main deterrents to following through with weight loss are unreasonable expectations. If you set goals which are unrealistic or unattainable, you'll more likely be frustrated than motivated.
    • Talk with your doctor or a professional (like a trainer) before you begin your journey to find a realistic and healthy weight for your height and age.
    • You can expect to safely lose up to 2 pounds a week. Though it may not seem like much at first, it adds up over time. Safe and healthy weight loss happens over a longer period of time, and a realistic schedule will help you to spread out your goals accordingly.
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    Make allowances and rewards for yourself. Limit treats, but don't eliminate them entirely. If you deprive yourself of some of your favorite things, you might overindulge later. Learn to live with the foods you love, rather than avoid them entirely.
    • And as for rewards, don't just think big picture. You need rewards for those check points, too. Have you exercised every weekday for two weeks? Great -- reward! Lost that first 10 pounds? Awesome -- reward. It can be a nap, a day of shopping -- whatever would motivate you to keep going.
      • There's always punishments, too. If you miss a workout, that's $5 put in the jar that's going toward your husband's/son's/best friend's beer fund. No thanks!
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    Log your progress so you can see how far you've come. If your weight loss is necessary for your health, it can be useful and motivating to compare your stats as you go along. Write down your diet and workout goals to come face to face with the hard work you've put forth. It'll feel really, really satisfying.
    • Your daily weight can fluctuate due to water retention. Instead of basing your progress on daily weigh-ins, pick a set day and time each week to log your weight. Then, add the cumulative numbers of your weigh-ins and average them at the end of the month. This will offer you a more realistic showcase of your progress.
    • Muscle weighs more than fat, so a scale may not always reflect the progress in your level of fitness. If you feel comfortable doing so, take photos of yourself on a monthly basis. Pictures can provide a great visual motivator as you consider your progress.
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    Start a blog. Whether it's just for you or you actually have readers, starting a success blog can give you a feeling of commitment -- heck, you have an entire blog dedicated to the thing, so you better not slip up! And if people do read it, it's a great forum for support!
    • What's more, read the blogs of others! There are dozens of great success stories floating around on the web to keep you going. By dozens, we mean hundreds and they have great names like "Feed Me, I'm Cranky," and "The World According to Egg face."[6] Maybe yours will be the next great one!
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    Expect and accept setbacks. Being a perfectionist when it comes to weight loss is definitely not ideal. You're human -- we all are -- and setbacks are going to happen. The Cheesecake Factory is going to have free samples eventually, work will make you stay late and miss that workout, and Tina will come over with a gallon of Ben & Jerry's after her boyfriend breaks up with her. These things are normal (apart from the Cheesecake Factory giving out samples, but maybe that's for the best); they will happen. Know it and accept it. It's fine.
    • Setbacks aren't the problem -- it's getting back on the horse that is. Missing a workout is fine; it's when you end up missing a week when it becomes an issue. So when a setback happens, do yourself a favor and make a point to get right back up. Stay conscious of what you're up against so you can fight back.
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    Remember that numbers aren't everything -- weight loss is only the beginning! Though it's tempting to base success entirely on your actual weight loss, feeling positive about the changes you've made overall, rather than just your changes in weight, can be a huge motivating factor.
    • Don't be too hard on yourself. Whether you fall behind in your workout schedule, or indulge in an unplanned ice cream cone, little hiccups along the way are natural and to be expected. If you feel you've slipped up, accept the fact and continue as planned with your weight loss routine.
    • Keep in mind that your health, physical and mental, are the most important motivating factor in the process. Losing weight is one benefit of a fit and healthy lifestyle but so is a more energetic outlook!
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    Be proud of your accomplishments. Tell your friends and family when you've reached your goals, or completed a task that you're particularly proud of. As you share your milestones, you'll be more more likely to set new ones. And you'll get to celebrate openly!
    • Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small. Losing that last 5 pounds is an incredible feat thousands are failing at as we speak. And remember -- just improving your fitness is great for your health, your quality of life, and the quality of the lives of those who care about you.


  • Ask for help whenever you need it. You have to be a beginner before you can become an expert. Take the time to learn properly as you experiment with different modes of exercise.
  • Base your success on your own needs, rather than comparing to others. Everybody is different!
  • Don't stare at yourself in the mirror everyday; especially at first. You probably won't see a drastic difference once you've lost your first 5 lbs., and focusing too much on your outward appearance will crush some of your motivation. Instead, focus on your progress and your successes, and how much healthier you feel. Don't worry, very soon you will see and feel the difference. Every pound counts.
  • As you are losing weight, think of someone you admire who is fit and healthy, or even just someone who has the body you want to achieve. This could even be a fictional character. The more you think of them, the more it should motivate you to keep striving towards your goal.


  • Allow time to rest in between workouts, and don't overexert yourself.
  • Remember to hydrate properly, regardless of the activity.
  • Take a moment to rest or recover if you begin to feel lightheaded or faint.
  • Before you begin using unfamiliar equipment, make sure you take the proper precautions to learn the correct procedure.
  • Ease into activities, and ask the instructor for modifications if you ever find yourself in physical pain or pushed past your physical limits. Always inform the instructor of any injuries you might have.

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Categories: Motivation to Exercise