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Mastering Motivation

What is motivation?

Motivation is the desire to achieve a goal, combined with the energy and drive to continually take action towards achieving that goal. People who are highly motivated to make changes to their lifestyle (like improving their diet and increasing their exercise) are much more likely to succeed. Being motivated keeps you in a more positive state of mind, making it easier to avoid distractions and to stay focused on achieving your goals.

Why motivation is important

Motivation is very important for weight loss and weight management. It is the feeling of wanting to do something (motivated), compared to feeling like you have to do something (unmotivated).

The different types of motivation

To get a better understanding of the things that motivate us, it helps to look at two different types of motivation. These are extrinsic (external) motivation, and intrinsic (internal) motivation.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic factors are things that motivate you for external reasons. These can be strong motivators when you are start out at losing weight, but they lose their impact over time. Some examples include:

  • To get back into an item of clothing
  • To look good for a wedding
  • Or to please your partner

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from within, such as to improve diet and exercise for self satisfaction or the sheer enjoyment of it. This gives you a long-lasting, life time approach to health instead of looking for a quick fix. People who are intrinsically motivated are much more likely to stick with a healthy lifestyle. By working on some simple motivation strategies, and being patient, your sources of motivation can evolve from external to internal.

Some examples of intrinsic motivators include:

  • I want to feel healthier.
  • I look forward to gaining more energy and enthusiasm for life.
  • I have set some goals and I want to prove to myself that I can achieve them.

5 strategies to help you get motivated

To help you stay motivated, let’s look at some practical, popular and successful motivation strategies.

1. Set yourself a challenge

A great way to maintain your enthusiasm for healthy changes to your lifestyle is to set yourself a challenge. It’s a great excuse to re-examine your goals and stretch out beyond your comfort zone. For example:

  • Plan to take part in a physical activity such as a fun run, a hike or a cycling trip and train for it
  • Make one healthy lifestyle change every day for a month, eg walking to work, or cutting out alcohol

2. Use the buddy system

By involving your partner, family, friends, neighbours and co-workers in your healthy lifestyle, you can find a new level of motivation, support and encouragement. For example, making a commitment to exercise with someone keeps you accountable, and you’ll be more likely to stay on track. You’ll also have someone to chat with and share the journey, which can help make exercise much more enjoyable.

3. Include variety in your routine

A great way to keep your exercise routine fresh is to modify your favourite activity, and regularly add different and new activities. If you have a favourite activity that is the foundation of your exercise program, such as walking, add variety by changing the scenery, the time of day, the duration, intensity and frequency of your walks, or even carry a back pack to burn extra kilojoules. You can also add different and new activities at least once or twice a week, such as golf, strength training, swimming, gardening and yoga.

4. Use technology

Using devices such as a pedometer or portable music players (walkman, radio or mp3 player) can make exercise more enjoyable. Listening to music is proven to help you exercise for longer before feeling exhausted. You may even enjoy listening to talk back radio, as long as you find something you enjoy listening to. Pedometers are also great, because they not only measure your planned walks, but they also track your incidental activity - the little random bits of extra movement you can include in your day to boost weight loss.

5. Reward yourself

Reward yourself along the way by celebrating your achievements, and acknowledging your success. This helps to reinforce your healthy behaviour, and gives you something tangible to aim for. Make sure you use non-food related rewards that don't undo all your hard work, such as a massage, book or item of clothing. You can even choose rewards that bring you closer to your goal, such as a new pair of walking shoes, or a personal training session.

When to use motivational strategies

While the motivational strategies mentioned above will be helpful at all times, there are some unique circumstances when they can be particularly beneficial. This includes when you have suffered a setback on your weight loss journey, or if you are stuck on a weight loss plateau.

Dealing with setbacks - It’s more than likely that you will face a few setbacks along your journey towards better health. This could include holiday weight gain, pressure from work or family, injury or unsupportive friends. These are the sorts of things that make you exhausted, uninspired and unmotivated. But it’s how you respond to these setbacks that’s important. Try to stay focused on your goals, and use other motivational strategies to get back on track as soon as possible.

Weight loss plateaus - A plateau is a period of stabilisation in weight loss when your results level out as your body adapts to a healthier lifestyle. Whilst these are a normal part of any weight loss program, it can be a frustrating and de-motivating time when you don’t seem to be losing weight. This is a good time to use some motivation strategies to keep you moving forward instead of reverting back to your old ways.

What motivates you?

The key to staying motivated is to try a variety of strategies to see what works for you. Don’t be afraid to try new types of exercise, and make sure you include activities that are more about fun than exercise, such as ballroom dancing or golf. Finally, always keep at the front of your mind the major reasons why you wanted to lose weight in the first place.