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Getting and Staying Motivated

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I’ve been asked a lot over the last few days – “how do you stay motivated?” Seems a lot of us – myself included – are in the habit of starting a diet with the best of intentions, and with all the motivation in the world… For about three days.

Then it starts to go bit wrong.

Temptation, life, a dream involving Johnny Depp and a whole load o’cookie dough… I get it. Stuff gets in the way of our good intentions, and the next thing you know, you’re feet to the ceiling in a barrel of Phish Food, praising the god of all things gooey but knowing, deep down, that tomorrow… Tomorrow, you’ll be miserable. And in your mind’s eye, you’ll weigh twice as much as you did before you started out, so you’ll be twice as naughty as you were before.

I hear ya.

I think over the course of my lifetime, I’d say I’ve started a diet at least… I’m going to go with a hundred times, but that still strikes me as a conservative estimate. So when I say I know how hard it is to stay motivated, I’m not kidding. I really do.

I need to put that out here, because I know it seems like I’ve managed to make a success story out of myself over the course of two attempts, over two years. But no – I’ve failed a LOT.

So when people say “I just don’t know how to stay motivated” or “I always start out well, and then it just falls apart…” that does not – I repeat, NOT – mean you have to stay overweight forever.

What it does mean is that when you do succeed, you’ll have earned a few things. This is your chance to identify your weaknesses, and shoot them down, so that when you’re all done, you’ll have earned the right to strut down the street knowing you beat your own personal demons, you smashed your own goals – and you defied everyone else’s expectations of you.

I’m still working towards that, because I still have work to do. I’m not done. Not even close to done. Someone’s coming to take my picture for the paper in the next few days, and MAN. I still had to motivate the living daylights out of myself to get to the gym last night, because the temptation is still to spot the pressure coming and go hide from it… Behind a stack of pizza boxes.

Because motivation isn’t just something you suddenly have and get to keep forever. You have to keep topping it up.

Imagine you’re going on a trip, say. A road trip. A road trip somewhere really, really awesome.

You start out with a full tank of petrol, and you’re off on your great adventure. But along the way, you notice you’re running low on the ol’ tank. So what do you do? Do you say to yourself ‘well, that was nice while it lasted. Now I’m just going to sit here in the middle of the road until I croak”?

Of course you don’t.

Motivation works along pretty much the same lines. You can’t just expect to have inexhaustible reserves of it to draw from whenever you need it – it’s something you have to build up, and keep adding to. Because while you might start out with what seems like an endless, overwhelming feeling of motivation, it doesn’t last forever – but if you go into it with your eyes open, knowing that it will falter, but that you can build it back up again, then you’re more likely to succeed in the long term.

There are a lot of things you can do to keep the momentum going, too – I found constantly reading weight loss blogs, browsing sites like Pinterest for inspiration, and other things I’ve listed here, have helped me to maintain my motivation when I was flagging. I still do, in fact.

It does get easier the longer you work at it – but you have to plan for the wobbles that inevitably happen when life gets in the way. Staying motivated is a continuous process, but eventually, the results are enough to keep you on the straight and narrow – plus, you’ll be happier, healthier, and safe in the knowledge that you’re living your life to the full.

And if that ain’t motivating, I don’t know what is.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Laura Jones 30 August, 2012

    It’s taken me a while but whenever I have a bad day, skip the gym (on a non-rest day) or get off track with my food, I just let it go and start again. People often overcompensate, burn out or get fed up because they punish themselves for what they did yesterday. Just forget it and do what you planned before the bad day. I start each day as a new day and aim to get through that day without getting off track. It’s the sum of small efforts. Thinking about going to the gym x amount of times a week and not eating x & y for a months or a year or longer is just so overwhelming.
    Over time you come to learn your weaknesses and develop strategies to overcome them. You learn about how your body works. For example, a womans metabolic rate and temperature go up a week or two before her period. This makes cardio in the gym harder because you’re hotter but you do burn more calories..but you also want to eat more. Plus you crave sweet things. I always keep dark chocolate and strawberries handy because they satisfy my sweet tooth in this time. Pain tolerance and tenacity is higher after your period but you should be eating less as your metabolism will have dropped. You learn to recognise bloating from fat and learn what foods your body likes and doesn’t. I drink so much more water now and drink whenever I feel hungry to check it isn’t thirst I’m really feeling.
    The easiest way for me is not to think of what I eat as a ‘diet’ in the popular sense but in the literal way. My diet is just what I eat every day, eating healthily is my lifestyle. I have cheat meals every so often to replenish my body after working it hard in the gym and some people find that a cheat meal makes them want more foods the same but for me I feel rubbish afterwards and can’t wait to get back to eating clean and training dirty. Once your body is used to being regularly fed great fuel i.e. clean and nutritious food it hates being fed rubbish. Your body is the only one you have, why not give it the best and treat it as it deserves?!
    You have to schedule for motivation time. The most successful people will learn about nutrition and exercise and come up with their own ideas and really understand how they’re changing themselves. I listen to new music to seek out good workout tunes for my gym playlist while looking at motivational pictures and articles on websites.
    I make a huge collage of quotes and photos of people who inspire me and don’t even consider the bad things I can do to my body as an option. I don’t have to choose between eating or drinking rubbish or good stuff. The bad stuff just isn’t an option.
    “Whenever you want to do or eat something think: will this take me closer or further away from where I want to be? If it’s closer, do it. If its further away..why do it? It will just hold you back” Take control of your body! It makes you feel so powerful and strong and peaceful not being a slave to cravings, ignorance or low confidence.
    Go girls! And well done you, Katie! You’re really inspirational!

    • comment avatar Sophia Gillingham 30 August, 2012

      Hi Laura

      I do think that you make some good points and I admire your determination. However, I think that you may have missed the point of Katie’s blog somewhat. Not every girl struggles with their weight because they are a ‘slave to cravings, ignorance or low confidence’. We are all normal women. The bad stuff IS an option for us and it’s all about managing that and just feeling better generally about ourselves.

      Also, remember that we are here for a good time, not a long time!! ;) As Katie said, it is still about living life to the full. :)

      • comment avatar fatgirlphd 30 August, 2012

        Both of you make excellent points!

        I think that the idea of ‘thinking about going to the gym x amount of times a week and not eating x & y for a months or a year or longer’ being overwhelming (as mentioned by Laura) is an interesting one – only because I have to ask… If you have rest days, and “bad stuff just isn’t an option” – isn’t that a fairly structured programme in itself?

        Personally, I think it depends on the individual – I’m fairly structured in the fact that I do my treadmill work and my resistance training three or four times a week, and I *generally* eat well, but I think the 80/20 rule applies in both diet and exercise. You’re absolutely right, Laura, that you have to let the bad days go and move on – but at the same time, I think there’s something to be said for appreciating the bad days in themselves. Because while I agree that my body is happier eating a nice nutritious meal and getting plenty of exercise, I also know that my overall wellbeing is better for being able to go out for a meal, or have a bit of chocolate, or a couple of glasses of wine if I fancy it.

        It’s taken me a long time to get out of the wholly restrictive mindset myself – even since I first started this blog, I’ve learned more about moderation over restriction – but it depends on the individual. If, as Sandy Sue said below, you need that kind of structure, then you absolutely should do that – I know when I’m at a low ebb, or I’m stressed, I’m better off with cupboards that are a bit more bare on the chocolate front, because I will lean on them, but most of the time it’s about balance and understanding moderation.

        And yes, Sophia – I love the idea of a good time, not a long time! I think I need that on a t-shirt, hehe :) Thanks for commenting though guys – all ideas appreciated!

      • comment avatar Laura Jones 31 August, 2012

        Hi Sophie,
        Perhaps I have. I thought it was a blog about trying to stay motivated? That suggested to me that Katie was advising people on how to deal with and overcome their psychological, societal and environmental related weaknesses and creating a manageable lifestyle : “Stuff gets in the way of our good intentions… Tomorrow, you’ll be miserable. And in your mind’s eye, you’ll weigh twice as much as you did before you started out, so you’ll be twice as naughty as you were before”. I believed she celebrates whatever you class as “normal” women but this blog seemed to me to actually be about when it’s tough for “normal” women. I should add that don’t know what “normal” is and I don’t really aspire to be normal in anything I do because thats the kind of person I am so maybe that’s where I differ but I don’t particularly think that as an academic, young, female with an interest in nutrition and fitness who is about to submit her PhD and works, like Katie is, that I am not “normal”.
        I also didn’t say all girls are slaves to cravings (although I think you are taking an extreme version of craving whereas I take it as a “I really fancy some chocolate today”, and which are normally linked to hormone fluxuations related to a number of things despite you thinking they may just be thoughts or fancies in your head, they’re almost certainly chemical or psychological) but I was responding to what Katie said about temptations and about not being able to manage them (see back to the article and what I quoted above). If you see something and you crave it but feel guilty about it and don’t let yourself have it and feel down about it then its a negative craving, by definition. I was arguing that if you choose to allow yourself a treat you should just do it and not feel guilty about it and embrace it in your lifestyle not see it as a demon. Food isn’t the enemy. I eat stuff which I enjoy and which doesn’t send me nuts afterwards and have for a long time. If I feel like my body is run down and I need a night off to have whatever I like then I do it. At the moment I’m stricter because I’m working towards something but if I wasn’t I wouldn’t say “I am only allowed to have a good time on Friday nights”, “I will go on a three week detox” because you’re classifying things into good and bad and, by definition, will turn bad things into temptations. Why can you not just have things your allowed and balance them and just not even consider the other stuff that you can’t handle.
        Also, if you know everything about nutrition and also your body then well done. I certainly don’t. I don’t know why sometimes I really have low energy or am bloated or am dehydrated when my diet seems to be contradictory to it. It’s then that I mess up. Which I think is what Katie was talking about, not being in control sometimes or not really wanting to stick to the “straight and narrow” … but then I may have interpreted “wrong”..my field is literature so I would be a traitor to my students if I argued that interpretation was objective and language fixed.

        • comment avatar Sophia 31 August, 2012

          Hi Laura
          I may have taken some of your comments too literally. I thought that when you stated that “The bad stuff isn’t an option” I thought that you were saying that you never gave in to the odd dessert or drinks night with your friends. I just felt like it sounded slightly extreme.
          I have didn’t say that I know everything about nutrition, i certainly don’t! You clearly know a lot more than me from all the information in you initial blog.
          I am sorry if my post got your back up a little bit, I just felt like naughty things, in moderation, can only help our general enjoyment of life. Like I said though, i really admire your determination and drive..
          I would like to add that I think that Susan’s comment is way off the mark – another internet troll, I’m afraid!! Don’t let her put you off engaging in the blog. :) xxx

  • comment avatar Sandy Sue 30 August, 2012

    Because compulsive eating is part of my bipolar disorder symptoms, I’ve learned some of the things that trigger it. Watching TV is something I rarely do now, because it is *always* tied to eating. And since I know an episode will send me on a frantic tour of the kitchen, I never stock “rubbish” as you call it. I can’t stop the compulsion, but I can remove all the sharp object, so to speak.

    Motivation for me is exactly what Laura said above, let it go and start over. It’s how I manage my mental illness and how I’m starting to lose the weight.

  • comment avatar michelle smith 30 August, 2012

    What an inspirational piece of writing!! this didnt just give me that extra detirmination to succeed but also given me back the lost motivation from all my failed attempts at ditching the spare tyre around my waist! I usually switch off within a few sentences of the usual boring gym drone!
    You really are a great example to everyone wanting to know how to do this sensibly and in a healthy way too! Also you’re obviously not a woman possessed – your humour still shines through and I know its a happy woman writing this! The proof is obviously in the “low fat” pudding because you look great! Well done you!

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 30 August, 2012

      Thank you! x

  • comment avatar fatgirlphd 30 August, 2012

    Susan – this comment is flying a tad close to the wire… Let’s be nice, shall we?

    I’m letting it go only because you make an interesting point about training to extremes – I think training to excess and severely limiting your intake isn’t a good move, and you’re absolutely right that it’s personal preference.

    Each to their own!

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