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Help! Why can't I stay motivated? 5 reasons and 5 solutions

If you’re struggling to stay motivated, you are not alone! It’s so common to feel 100% motivated at the beginning of any weight loss journey, and after a few weeks, we’re ready to give up on it! We feel frustrated that we are struggling to stick with the program, and it’s so easy to get down on ourselves during this time. There is more than one reason you might be lacking motivation, and the good news is that there are solutions to all! Read through my top 5 reasons why motivation is scarce and see if any of them resonate with you.

1. You’re doing too much at once

Sometimes when we start a new “diet” or decide to lose weight, no matter what path we take to do it, we make so many changes in our behaviors, start so many new practices, that we put our brain into overload. We adopt a whole way of eating, say goodbye to a lot of foods we like in place of a whole new variety of foods. We start exercising every day. We start counting calories, macros, and steps. We keep a log of what we eat. We make SO MANY changes that we eventually just shut down. We feel motivated to stay the course for a few weeks, but then motivation starts to twindle. Why?

A. It’s just too much too fast, and this makes it too difficult. We are easily motivated by what’s easy, and when you’re adopting 20 new things, new patterns of behavior, new menus, new everything, it’s hard! Our brains are overloaded and motivation decreases.

B. There may be little immediate gratification. Motivation is much easier to create when we experience a little immediate reward. When we’re so busy doing ALL the things and we don’t lose any weight the first two weeks, say goodbye to motivation.

The solution: Chill out. Instead of adopting 20 new changes in behavior, start with 3. Master those three and then add two more once you feel like you have the first few comfortably under your belt. If weight loss is the end game, be willing to be patient with yourself to get there. You didn’t put the weight on in one month, so give yourself at least as much time to get it off.

2. The deprivation mindset

Do you relate to any of these?

A. You are struggling to stay “compliant” with the new sorts of foods, the new meals, the new caloric goals

B.You find that you over eat or even binge on the weekends

C. You spend a lot of time every day thinking about food, what you’re going to eat next, what you’re going to eat tomorrow, what you’re going to eat this weekend, what you’re going to make for that upcoming celebration

D. You find that when you eat “a forbidden food”, you can’t move past it, you tend to dwell on it a lot longer than you should

E. You’re spending hours looking at cookbooks and food online

If you answered yes to any of these, then the odds are that you are operating in a deprivation mindset. When we are approaching weight loss from this place of deprivation and restriction, it creates so much tension in our brains, that we are compelled to eat out of sheer rebellion. There is the part of us that wants to lose weight, but it’s in a battle with the part of us that does not want to live without pizza. Which part eventually wins out? You know which. This results in rebellious overeating and in some cases binge eating. This tension also creates an internal atmosphere that all we think about is food! Show me a person that thinks about food all the time, and I will show someone who is on a diet! And when we are thinking about food all the time, we want to eat more, and then we do eat more, and we’re defeated and motivation is lost.

The solution: Eat cake! Do not restrict foods that you like from your diet. If you allow yourself to enjoy those foods you like in moderation, this will go a long way in calming that inner tension. Your mind knows that something good is coming shortly, and when we eat a little of what we love, it gives a little immediate gratification. This makes it much easier to create the motivation to do the hard work the other days.

3. Your goal is too vague.

When we lack clarity in our goal and keep our goal vague, this keeps the goal kind of fuzzy in our brains too. And where there is no clarity, it’s nearly impossible to create motivation. So if your goal is “to lose weight” or “to exercise more”, more than likely your goal is too vague to create that motivation you need to get the job done.

The solution: Get out your bifocals and focus! Create a specific goal for yourself, and if it’s a big goal, break it down into bite sized pieces. A goal of losing 30 pounds is a big goal, and that’s a long term goal that is hard to create daily motivation for. So break it down into a series of smaller goals. Use a timeline if needed. When you have a shorter term, specific, focused goal, you then know the specific daily/weekly actions you need to do to get to that goal. And when we have these daily/weekly actions we know we need to take, that can create motivation to meet that shorter term goal.

Ex: Big goal: to lose 30 lbs

1st smaller goal: To lose 5 lbs

Timeline (if needed or wanted): 6 weeks

Action plan: includes your nutritional plan, your exercise plan, etc.

2nd smaller goal: To lose 3 lbs

Timeline: 6 weeks

Action plan: includes your nutrition plan, exercise plan, etc.

3rd smaller goal: To maintain current weight through the holidays

Timeline: 6 weeks

Action plan: includes nutritional plan, exercise plan, etc.

Short term goals can go a long way in creating motivation.

4. You’re relying on motivation where you should be leaning on habits.

Here’s the truth. None of us are motivated 24/7. It’s just not possible. And anyone, whether it’s someone who achieved a huge weight loss or someone who is performing at the top of the heap in whatever she/he does, did not earn this level of achievement through sheer motivation and determination. She achieved it because she let her good habits carry her through on days when she lacked motivation.

The solution: Establish good habit patterns

Start establishing some good habits that move you toward your goal. Keep track of them, so you can hold yourself accountable until such time that the particular habit becomes second nature. In the absence of motivation, these habit patterns will stand in the gap to keep you going. Keeping with the habits will eventually bring about the level of gratification one any given day that creates that motivation you need for the day after. And the habits may eventually bring about a result that creates that long term motivation you need to keep moving the ball forward.

5. You set the wrong goal

If you set a goal of weight loss and a few weeks into it, you lack all motivation and you don’t identify with any of the previous reasons why you may be lacking motivation, consider that you named the wrong goal. I know that may be a tough pill to swallow, a difficult thing to admit to yourself. But hear me out. Just because you think you should lose weight or even if you know you need to lose weight, does not mean that weight loss is the right goal for right now. How can that be??

A. If you aren’t truly ready to lose weight

B. If you deep down have doubts that you can lose the weight

C. If you have concerns about how your life will change if you do lose weight (my husband might resent me, my friends may no longer want to spend time with me, it will create tension in my household)

One or any of things could be true for you in this stage of your life. It is nothing to be ashamed of and it’s nothing to be self-critical about. Your truth is your truth. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be the right goal at another time. It just might not be the right goal for you right now.

The solution: Get the goal right. There is no point in beating your head against the proverbial wall trying to “diet”, beating yourself up every day for your lack of motivation for a goal that is not right for you right now. Step away from that goal and try on a new goal for size and notice how you feel when you think about these goals. Does it excite you? Do you feel positive about it? Do you all of a sudden feel a burst of motivation? Then that’s the right goal!

Here are some examples:

  1. Goal: To feel better in my own skin.

Action plan: Eat healthy foods more often, walk my dog twice a week, work on the way I talk to myself

Does this feel exciting? Does this feel do-able? Do you feel positive? Do you feel motivated? If yes, then it’s the right goal!

2. Goal: To eat healthier

Action plan: Limit eating out to twice a week, only have two glasses or wine instead of 4, eat more vegetables

Does this feel exciting? Does this feel do-able? Do you feel positive? Do you feel motivated? If yes, then it’s the right goal!

If your goal is to be a better version of yourself, you can do that in ways that are not about weight loss. While weight loss is a good goal if you are ready to do it, your goal has to be a goal that is congruent with what you think and believe.

Staying motivated is hard, especially when we are embarking on a labor intensive, long term goal. Don’t think that there is something wrong with YOU if you are lacking motivation! Sometimes it’s just making a shift in your mindset and a change in your plan that make all the difference.

If you need help with your goal setting or weight loss mindset, click HERE to book a single 60 minute session with certified life coach Amy Nighbert. $25 discount for the LEAN community!

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