The most basic of Google searches on the topic of weight loss presents us with an overwhelming array of fad diets and guaranteed techniques to lose weight. Thus, it is very easy to get lost in a fog of contradictory and sometimes misleading, information. So, how do we get motivation for weight loss?
It is easy to understand that most diets, if we could actually stick to them, are effective for both weight loss and weight control.
Throw in a bit of physical activity and in theory, you should be well on your way to your ideal weight. So, where does it go wrong? Here we will be looking at the most talked about motivational techniques to see what actually works and what doesn’t.
There are many pitfalls to weight loss, so before you resort to bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) we are going to look at the top 7 scientific techniques to improve motivation for weight loss. We will be examining if they work and exactly how to use them to achieve a healthy weight.
Have you ever tried to improve your motivation by any of the following?
Visualizing Your Ideal Self
The concept that the mind and body are connected has become increasingly acceptable over the years. Thus, it follows that you can actually use your brain and thoughts to change your body and reach your goal weight.
In an interesting, recent study from the University of Pennsylvania, two scientific researchers, Gabriele Oettingen and Thomas Waden, took an in-depth look at the impact of both expectation and fantasy (visualization) in relation to weight loss.
The group of obese women in the study were split into 4 groups and asked to visualize four different fantasy situations.
- Two of the hypothetical situations involved the selected women fantasizing about losing weight (positive).
- Two of the hypothetical situations involved the selected women thinking about risky situations, or overeating favourite foods (negative).
Now, this is where it gets really interesting. The group who actually visualized the more negative scenarios lost around 12 kilos more than those who focused on positive visualizations.
Oettingen suggests that positive expectations combined with negative fantasies produce the best results to lose pounds.
The women who fantasized about how much weight they were going to lose and visualized their ideal self were less motivated and less prepared for potential setbacks along the way.
How to Visualize successfully: The Double Think Technique
Motivational studies by Oettingen, show that the most successful method for increasing weight loss motivation is the
The double think technique involves holding two contradictory thoughts or visualizations at the same time. The technique enables a person to be optimistic in their expectations , but realistic regarding potential obstacles to the goal.
Does Willpower aid Weight Loss?
The idea that the use of will power alone will be enough to help in the weight loss challenge has been branded around for many years.
Willpower is regarded by scientists as one of the weakest of the mental processes. Furthermore studies have shown that the more it is used the more it tires.
In his books on willpower and self control, Roy Baumeister revealed that people who rely solely on willpower tend to run out of it which is not best for long term weight loss.
Basically, if you use your willpower and energy trying to resist one temptation, you’re more likely to give in to another. There is only so much willpower to go round. Studies have even shown that dieters are more likely to be unfaithful to their spouses.
Furthermore, if you have stuck to your healthy eating and exercise plan all week, for example, using willpower alone you are more likely to give in to temptation following a stressful event such as an argument. Even fatigue, hormones and blood glucose levels affect your willpower.
Make a Public Commitment to Weight Loss
Several studies have shown that dieters who make a public commitment to weight loss fare much better in their battle with the bulge than those who don’t.
What exactly do we mean when we say make a public commitment? Well, tell your friends and family your specific aims and goals for your planned weight loss. Explain in detail your chosen weight loss plan. The support and encouragement from people close to you can help reinforce your motivation and strengthen your willpower.
Combined with this, making a public commitment plays on people’s fear of failure or public embarrassment. It is harder to publicly admit that you have not achieved your goals or have given up on your plan. Furthermore, loved ones can help you overcome those inevitable setbacks.
Why not use social media sites?
Use Social Media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to update your progress and receive that much-needed encouragement.
Find a website or software that will encourage you with daily motivational quotes to cheer you up and give yourself a boost when struggling.
Join a support group on these sites whereby you can share your triumphs and your setbacks. Scientifically proven to help with weight loss is
Role Models and Motivation for Weight Loss
A study by leading psychologist Richard Wiseman regarding weight loss and motivation, showed that a mere 10% out of over 5,000 participants actually achieved their set goal.
Wiseman was able to analyze his data on weight loss and concluded that those who chose a celebrity role model, and perhaps put pictures of them around the house to encourage their efforts, did not actually achieve significant weight loss.
How surprising is this? In our celebrity obsessed, photo-shopping culture many of us aspire to our favourite slim and beautiful role model. The problem is that these images only inspire us in the short term to feel good.
In the long run when we are struggling against the obstacles of change such images actually are counter productive and can even encourage us to give up assuming that we can never achieve such bodily perfection.
How to use role models to help with weight loss
In a series of three studies, scientists found that each individual is motivated by a role model that fits their particular type of thinking. The different thinkers are:-
These types of thinkers are inspired by following a weight loss strategy that fits with their desired outcomes. They will be most inspired by positive role models and the promise of success.
Techniques for Promotion-Focused Thinkers
The best role model to help you lose weight is not an image of a celebrity, but rather somebody who has achieved what you are setting out to do.
You need to be able to both relate and identify with them.
Choose a friend who has lost a lot of weight and spend time listening to how they actually achieved it. Whilst on your on-line support group choose a person who has lost a weight and follow their blog, read all their posts and aspire to adopt some of their techniques.
Furthermore, avoid stories of failure or negative images.
These thinkers favour a motivational strategy of avoiding undesirable outcomes and will be more inspired by negative role models and will be most inspired by avoiding failure.
Techniques for Prevention-Focused Role models
If you are a prevention-focused thinker then find a realistic person who possibly has given up on their diet and gained more weight to encourage you not to go down that path.
If you do fit into this category, an image of a body perfect celebrity will only hinder your progress.
Prevention-focused thinkers should try and avoid success stories and stay focused on the very real possibility of failure.
How to effectively Set Goals for your Weight Loss
When planning your goals for weight loss the suggestions that you write down and say to yourself should be very specific. Many of us, when faced with a seemingly insurmountable hurdle have a tendency to become overwhelmed and give up.
This is why you need to break down your plan into effective bite-sized portions, no pun intended! Do not aim for quick weight loss, but do set short-term goals whilst aiming for a long term healthy lifestyle. Forget any weight loss aids such as slimming pills, appetite suppressants or supplements, just focus on fat loss over the long term.
When making a plan you need to set out your long-term weight loss goals very clearly. You should write down the goals that you wish to achieve in a manageable plan.
‘I want to lose a lot of weight’ for example, is just not going to do it. It is too general a statement and leaves one with the overall goal, but no real plan.
The 3 keys to successful weight loss statements
The statements that you write and say to yourself need to be:-
(i) Positive: Always keep your statements positive and try and avoid the word not.
- For example say ‘I will choose the lovely fish and salad option at lunch’
- rather than ‘I will not eat the chocolate cake.’
Set out very clearly the main behaviours that you wish to address this will help enormously with successful weight loss.
(ii) Specific and measurable: Keep your goals both specific and measurable. When writing down what you wish to achieve try and avoid generalized statements such as:-
- ‘I will try and control my eating’ this is too general. Always avoid the word try too. You wouldn’t like it if your doctor said he’s going to try and do an operation, would you?
- Rather use statements like, ‘I will eat three healthy meals a day and absolutely nothing else.’
- Do not say ‘I’m going to take a lot more exercise,’ say ‘between 5 and 5:30 each evening I am going to walk briskly for half an hour’
The more specific your statements, the more measurable your success will be.
(iii) Beneficial and empowering: When writing your statements and indulging in self-talk make your statements beneficial and empowering to you. So say:
- ‘I enjoy taking a walk now and I choose to take longer walks.’
Expect a few Setbacks along the way and mentally rehearse managing them
Anybody trying to change an entrenched daily habit is inevitably going to have to face a setback from time to time.
Picture this, you’re healthy eating plan is going really well, you’re on the tenth day and feeling fairly good about yourself. Suddenly, you receive a telephone call and hear some news that makes you feel really stressed and slip back into those old bad habits.
Whilst on the phone, you have opened the fridge and snacked on a couple of pieces of chocolate. Not too serious, but a bit of a set-back. The next thing you’re thinking, ‘what the hell’ and you’ve munched your way through half the unhealthy snack foods in your house.
This ‘oh, I’ve done it now so I might as well continue’ attitude is a major problem for some. There are people who over indulge in the Christmas vacations and carry on eating in the same way for the rest of the year.
How to use guilt and regret effectively
The answer is not to be too harsh on yourself. Be prepared for temptation and setbacks by using the double think techniques discussed earlier.
Most importantly, know that there will be times, or even whole days where you don’t stick to your plan. At the earliest opportunity, give yourself a break, allow a little indulgence, forgive yourself immediately and begin again the next day. Do NOT feel guilty
Studies have shown that feeling bad about yourself and feeling guilty after the event leads to a decrease in motivation.
The Guilty Study
In a very interesting experiment, Claire Adams and Mark Leary, two psychologists, studied a group of women who were trying to lose weight.
The women were split into two groups and encouraged to eat donuts and candy. Firstly all the women were given a large donut and a glass of water to make them feel full. They were encouraged to eat the whole donut.
Half of the test group were then given messages to alleviate any feelings of guilt and the other half were left alone. Both groups of women were then invited to ‘taste test’ the candy and eat as much as they desired to come up with their conclusions.
The group that had received guilt-alleviating messages and felt better about the donut eating ate 28 grams of the candy whilst the group who were left to feel guilty ate nearly 70 grams.
There have been similar studies that have affirmed the theory that:-
Feeling guilty always leads to indulging more.
Find the Right Diet for you
Basically if you eat fewer calories; less fats and carbohydrates, plenty of fruit and vegetables and lean meat you will lose weight. Most people are aware of this but the diet itself isn’t always the problem, it’s sticking to it that is the real issue for many of us.
In a ‘Horizon Special’ television programme medical and nutritional experts tested 75 people, looking at their hormones, genes and attitudes towards eating. The test groups were then split into the following three categories :-
- Constant Cravers: The people in this group felt hungry all the time and the cause of this was found to have a genetic base.
- Feasters: The people in this group were found to have a gut hormone that misfired leading to overeating and an inability to know when they are full.
- Emotional Eaters: Simply eat more as a direct result of stress.
The three groups were given a specifically tailored diet that matched their eating style. The cravers had an intermittent restricted eating plan (the 5:2 diet), the Feasters were given a high protein, low glycaemic index diet to keep them feeling as full as possible and the Emotional eaters joined a main stream slimming club.
Keep a Weight Loss Diary
Right, so you’ve carefully selected and started a healthy diet and exercise regime. As mentioned earlier, most diets do work if you stick to them, but it is probably easier in the long run to choose a healthy eating plan that you can stick to for life, rather than a fad diet that you just can’t maintain indefinitely.
However, despite your most valiant attempts, the weight is just not coming off, or even worse, you continue to gain weight. How can this be?
The questions to ask yourself!
Lose twice as much weight: The science
How can you lose twice as much weight? According to a 2008 year long study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine of obese women, it has been proven that keeping an accurate weight loss diary can help you lose up to twice as much weight and increase your weight-loss motivation.
It is essential that you carry your weight loss journal with you at all times. An old fashioned journal and pen will do the job, or alternatively, there are apps for your smart phones, i-pads or tablets.
So the weight loss diary must be accessible to you at all times and you must record everything that you eat and drink. Let me repeat myself, that is everything, including that random mouthful of chips or cake.
Many of us, with our busy lifestyles get distracted and are not aware of just how much we are eating during an average day.
Studiously recording everything you eat can highlight problem areas and help you be more mindful of exactly how many calories you are eating; you may find a few surprises too. Keeping a weight loss diary may also help you achieve your long-term weight loss goals.
Although keeping a food journal may be time consuming and laborious at first it will soon become a useful habit and tool for weight loss.
A Food Diary can help you detect emotional triggers for Eating
Women in the study, who kept a weight loss diary found themselves more accountable for their choices. It can also be useful to record your emotional state each day. This helps you identify when you’re particularly stressed and unhappy and what triggers binging on unhealthy foods.
If you are aware of your triggers it is easier to avoid your habitual reaction to them. Emotional eating is often associated with intrinsic motivation. This is a behavior that has often been learnt in childhood and is associated with internal rewards.
Questions and Answers
I started off with great motivation but now I seem to have lost it and I’m regaining weight. How do I get my motivation back?
The problem is that it is easier to maintain higher levels of motivation when we first begin a weight loss program. The weight begins to drop off and we are encouraged to continue. Invariably though, over time, as the weight loss goals are more within reach many find themselves losing motivation and slipping back into old, bad habits. The key is to change your whole mental attitude towards eating and exercising, so that healthy choices become a way of life, rather than a constant struggle.
It is important to differentiate between a minor lapse which is simply a small slip in motivation (see Motivational Tips #4 and #5) and a complete relapse which is returning to previous, unhealthy eating and life style choices.
Top 2 tips to help regain your motivation to lose weight:-
I’m quite motivated to lose weight but I find the exercising part really difficult. What can I do to maintain my weight loss motivation?
We will offer you the best two proven motivational tips to help you maintain your exercise regime and therefore, your weight loss success.
#1: Choose your exercise wisely
#2: Sounds help you lose pounds
Diana’s personal tale: A weight loss motivation story.
Hi, I would like to share my personal weight loss journey. Ever since childhood I have battled with my weight, I was always the chubby child at school and this continued into university and beyond. However, following the birth of my two children, my weight issue became a major problem for me. At 1.62 metres in height I weighed just under 210 lbs in the summer of 2015.
Like a lot of people out there with ongoing weight issues, the final straw came for me when I saw a photograph of myself at a family wedding. I didn’t even recognise that large, sad, self conscious woman as myself and I decided then and there to tackle this life long issue, for my health, for my esteem, for my family but most of all for myself.
I did a lot of research on weight loss and much of this reflected the motivational tips in this post. The diet that I chose was the right one for my way of eating, or should I say, over-eating. I constantly craved food and would also use food as a comfort to cover most emotional states. If I was happy I rewarded myself with food, if I was sad, I comforted myself with food, if I was angry, I ate more… well, you get the picture. The 5:2 diet suited me and the weight started dropping off. It was amazing at first and I had little problem sticking to the regime.
The first hurdle with Motivation
However, after I had lost the first 20 pounds my motivation started to wane. The weight loss pleased me but I began to struggle on the diet days and my weight began to plateau. More internet research followed and I then put into place the following motivational techniques:-
Motivational Techniques that worked for me
- Because I am a prevention focused thinker I set the wallpaper on my computer to a weight loss motivation photo of an extremely obese woman. In addition, I put a different weight loss motivation poster on the fridge so that every time I am tempted to graze, I have to think again.
- Every day I looked at a weight loss motivation quotes on Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest. Some are a little cheesy, but if you scroll through you may hit upon one that really resonates with you. If you do, write it down and put it somewhere where you can see it during the day.
- As suggested in this post, I used the internet a lot to gain support and motivation for weight loss. Firstly, I went on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram for weight loss motivation quotes and stories to spur me on.
- In addition, I found weight loss motivation blogs that I related to so that I would remember that many others are fighting the same battle. I even got a weight loss motivation app for my i-phone. Furthermore, there are some great weight loss motivation podcasts out there too. If your new to the idea of podcasts I really suggest you look into them.
- I used all the old fashioned resources too. In the evenings I often read weight loss motivation books and watched videos and movies.
Back on Track
After a few months I had started an exercise regime and the constant bombardment of weight loss motivation that I had surrounded myself with started to have an effect. I settled back into the 5:2 diet plan and I found that with that little bit of extra encouragement, sticking to the eating and exercise was fairly easy.
It is almost 18 months since I first saw the photo of myself at the wedding and it has been a rocky road with lots of ups and downs. I am a few pounds off my ideal target weight, although my mind sometimes has problems catching up with my new body size.
Healthy eating and exercise are just a normal part of my daily routine now … and that for me, is the simple key to success.
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Motivation Quotes For Weight Loss
Have you ever been on your Facebook or Twitter account and stumbled across a motivation quote that has really resonated with you and your situation? Our expert panel has chosen a list of motivational quotes and inspirational quotes to keep you motivated for weight loss for the whole of your day.
Scroll down and choose the one that you most relate to and use it as your personal mantra – write it down somewhere big and repeat it to yourself throughout the day. When you need a change, simply come back and choose another.
You must begin to think of yourself as becoming the person you want to be
What you do today can improve all your tomorrows
You have to fight through the bad days in order to earn the best days
Always do what you are afraid to do. Ralph Waldo-Emerson
Change of any sort requires courage. Mary Anne Radmacher
- Oettingen G, Pak H, Schnetter K. (2001) Self-regulation of goal setting: turning free fantasies about the future into binding goals. J Pers Soc Psychol. May;80(5):736-53. PubMed PMID: 11374746.(Retrieved October 8th 2015)
- Baumeister RF, John Tierney J (2012) Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength Penguin books
- Nyer PU, Dellande S. (2010).Public commitment as a motivator for weight loss. Psychology & Marketing: Volume 27, Issue 1, pages 1–12, January 2010 (Retrieved October 9th 2015)
- O’Rahilly S, Farooqi, IS.(2006) Genetics of Obesity. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. Jul 29; 361(1471): 1095–1105.(Retrieved October 6th 2015)
- Torres SJ, Nowson CA. (2007) Relationship between stress, eating behavior and obesity. Nutrition.Nov-Dec;23(11-12):887-94. Epub 2007 Sep 17.(Retrieved October 6th 2015)
- Hollis JF, Gullion CM, Stevens VJ, et al. (2008) Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial.(Retrieved October 7th 2015)
- Pearson ES.(2012) Goal setting as a health behavior change strategy in overweight and obese adults: a systematic literature review examining intervention components.Patient Educ Couns. 2012 Apr;87(1):32-42. (Retrieved October 8th 2015)
- Adams CE, Leary M. (2007) Promoting Self-Compassionate Attitudes toward Eating Among Restrictive and Guilty Eaters. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 10, pp. 1120–1144 (Retrieved October 8th 2015)
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