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As anyone who’s ever been on a diet can attest, getting motivated is one thing, but staying motivated is quite another. Marooned on a weight loss plateau? Fed up of turning down G&Ts in favour of matcha tea? Skipped your last two Zumba sessions? Went out for kale and got waylaid by Krispy Kreme? It happens to us all. But take a little time to regroup, reframe and refocus and, we promise you, you can do it. Follow our top ten tips on maintaining diet motivation and prepare to watch those pounds drop off…
1. Clarify why you’re doing it
“We don’t like to be forced to do things, even by a voice in our own head that says, ‘You’ll feel guilty if you don’t,'” says Edward Deci, co-founder of Self-Determination Theory. “Don’t do it for somebody else. Don’t do it because someone else wants you to. Do it because you think it’s really important for you. If you can get to the place in yourself that you really want to do it because it’s meaningful and valuable for you, then you’re likely to be quite successful.”
Write down all the reasons you want to lose weight. Cross out any which relate to other people. Now highlight any which include the words ‘should’ or ‘must’ or the phrases ‘have to’ or ‘got to’. Rewrite your list, replacing all those shoulds, musts, have tos and got tos with ‘want to’. Now edit your list down to the two or three reasons you find most compelling. Try to focus on how losing weight will make you feel, or what it will allow you to do, as opposed to the effects you hope it might have on other people or other areas of your life.
2. Get support
Sometimes a little encouragement (or commiseration) from someone in a similar position makes all the difference. Find your closest Slimming World or Weight Watchers meeting on NHS Choices.
3. Find virtual buddies
If the idea of a weekly weigh-in is too daunting, try an online forum like the NHS Weight Loss Forum. Following a specific plan? See if a dedicated forum exists, like this one, which allows people following the 5:2 Diet to share tips and provide each other with advice and support.
4. Try group exercise
5. Customise your plan
If avoiding your favourite foods is making you miserable, try a plan which allows treats in moderation, or builds in ‘cheat days’, such as the 5:2 Diet, which allows you to eat what you like (within reason) on 5 days out of 7! Your diet needs to work around your lifestyle, too. If you’re always on the go, make sure you choose a plan which allows for make-ahead-and-freeze meals and handbag-friendly snacks and lunches.
6. Track your progress
It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come, so make sure you keep a record of your progress. But avoid the temptation to weigh or measure yourself too often – minor day-to-day fluctuations are nothing to worry about, and often attributable to water weight, but can seriously derail motivation. If daily or weekly weigh-ins are getting you down, make them monthly, instead. And don’t forget to check measurements as well as weight – if you’re exercising, you could be building lean muscle, which weighs more than fat.
Set step-by-step goals, such as dropping one dress size, losing the next half stone or running a 5km race, and try using a tracking app, like the free SlimFast app, which can create a clever GIF (moving image) of your progress towards your goal weight when you upload pictures of yourself at different time points.
7. Reward yourself
Put a pound in a jar for every pound you lose. After a few months, you’ll be able to treat yourself to a new outfit, spa treatment or haircut – beats a Mars Bar, right?
8. Remove temptation
Managing your environment is key. Do your food shopping online so you’re not tempted by the biscuit aisle and, if you must have treats in the house, stash them on the top shelf of your most awkward cupboard.
9. Create visual motivation
Visualisation is one of the most effective motivational tools at your disposal. If you have an old picture of yourself at your goal weight, stick it on your fridge. If you’re trying to lose weight in time for a summer holiday or wedding, hang the bikini or dress you plan to wear (in the size you hope to be by then) on your wardrobe door.
10. Don’t sweat the slip-ups
Everyone falls off the wagon now and again. It’s the scrambling back on that separates the success stories from the failures. “Don’t beat yourself up for it,” Deci advises. “Acknowledge that you failed, and then recommit. Move through the little slip-ups.”