9 Effective Weight Loss Motivation Tips to Keep You on Track

April 25, 2024
A woman looking at her reflection in the mirror

Losing weight is a challenge that many people face again and again throughout their lifetime. While it requires commitment, discipline, and a strong sense of weight loss motivation, weight loss is not as straightforward as it may seem.

If you exceed the body mass index (BMI) cut-offs for overweight or obesity, explore all your weight-loss treatment options. Obesity has many contributing causes, and it is a risk factor for almost 200 other diseases.1 Obesity is a chronic disease. It requires treatment and management to reap health benefits. Learn how to stay motivated to reach your weight-loss goals.

Why am I so unmotivated to lose weight?

If weight gain were as simple as calories in and calories out, it would be much simpler to stay motivated to lose weight. Calories in minus calories out is how the energy balance model describes weight gain.

If energy balance alone explained weight gain, then you would lose one pound for every 3,500 kcal you burn over what you consume.2 Using the energy balance model, you could consume 500 fewer calories per day than your body burns, and by the end of each week, you should have lost a pound (7 days x 500 kcal = 3,500 kcal).

Most people who have tried low-calorie diets can attest to the fact that they don’t consistently lose a pound per week, even when they are carefully tracking their calories.

Your body has complex physiologic processes in place to maintain your body weight. These processes involve your brain, fat tissue, gut, liver, pancreas, and other organs.3

For several weeks, when following a weight-loss plan, you may lose a pound a week or even more. But you may also hit a plateau or even gain a few pounds as your body works to hold on to fat, muscle, and water.

However, diet and exercise are key components of weight loss. You need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. But expecting that tracking calories in and calories out will lead to predictable weight loss can kill your weight loss motivation.

How do I get motivated to lose weight?

First, examine your reasons for wanting to lose weight. Trying to lose weight with motivation that comes from outside your control is probably not going to be successful. Having a friend or partner who encourages you to lose weight can be supportive, but it won’t keep you going for the long haul.

What motivates you to lose weight can look very different from what motivates someone else. Everyone has different reasons for wanting to lose weight. Start by identifying your reasons. Then, set reasonable weight-loss expectations and goals. Find support from others, whether locally or online.

1. Consider why you want to lose weight

Before embarking on any weight-loss journey, it is important to identify your purpose and the reasons behind your desire to lose weight. Understanding your weight loss motivations will help you stay focused and committed when faced with challenges along the way.

Your purpose should be personal and meaningful to you, whether it is to improve your health, increase your energy levels, or enhance your self-confidence.

List your reasons and keep them accessible. They can help you stay committed and motivated. You may find yourself adding to them as you see more benefits from losing weight. For example, losing weight and gaining strength may uncover a desire to compete in a sport or run a 5K race.

SMART goals

2. Set Realistic and SMART Goals

For most people, once they decide to lose weight, they hope it happens as quickly as possible. This can trigger unhealthy eating behaviors and excessive exercise.

Most healthcare professionals recommend a steady weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week. Set reasonable weight-loss goals. You will reap health benefits much sooner than you might expect. Research suggests that just a 5% to 10% weight loss can have the following health benefits:4

  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Improve your insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
  • Improve your cholesterol and lipid levels.
  • Lower your blood pressure.

The biggest difference between wanting something to happen and a goal is a timeline. The SMART acronym can help you set weight-loss goals that you can track.

SMART goals include:

  • Specific: How much weight do you want to lose?
  • Measurable: How will you track your weight loss, and what will you do to meet your goal?
  • Attainable: Is your weight-loss goal attainable based on your current weight and overall health?
  • Relevant: Is your weight loss goal timely and important at this phase in your life?
  • Time-Bound: What is your deadline for meeting your weight loss goal?

For example, a reasonable weight loss goal may be to lose 10% of your body weight over six months. To achieve this goal, reduce your calorie intake by about 400 to 500 kcal per day. This should cause ½ to 1 pound of weight loss per week and about 10% weight loss over six months.

According to researchers, people who set unrealistic weight-loss goals are more likely to leave a weight-loss program than people who set reasonable goals.5

When setting your goals, consider your current lifestyle, capabilities, and resources. Be realistic about what you can achieve within a given timeframe. Setting overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and disappointment, whereas setting attainable goals can provide a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated to continue.

3. Track Your Progress and Set Milestone Goals

Keeping track of your progress is an effective way to stay motivated and accountable. There are many ways to track your weight-loss progress. Your body may go through periods when you gain more muscle or hold on to more fluid. The scale does not tell the complete story. Track your progress using several tools and set smaller milestone goals that break up your journey toward your final weight loss goal.

Tools you can use to track weight loss and body composition:

  • Weigh yourself: A scale is most commonly used to track weight loss, but it does not differentiate between fat, water, and muscle. Hormonal shifts, lack of sleep, stress, and dietary changes can significantly affect your weight. Weigh yourself daily, average the numbers over a week, and track the weekly averages. This can help you keep from getting discouraged by daily weight fluctuations and plateaus.
  • Track your calories: It’s hard to estimate how many calories you eat in a day. Purchase a small food scale and weigh your food portions. Check your portion sizes against recommended portion sizes to get a good idea of what a healthy portion size looks like.
  • Monitor your activities: Do you make time in your day for both physical activity and exercise? Adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
  • Record your triggers: What emotions, interactions with people, social settings, or environments trigger you to eat? Most people find that feelings such as stress, happiness, or anger can trigger them to eat when they are not hungry. Social settings may also trigger you. Avoid people who guilt-trip you into eating. This behavior makes it hard to stay motivated.
  • Take pictures: Often, you experience a change in body composition before you lose weight, especially if you exercise a lot. You may gain muscle mass and notice that your clothes are fitting much better, even though you haven’t lost a pound.
  • Track inches: Track your waist, bust/chest, and hip measurements. A decrease in waist circumference can reflect a decrease in visceral fat. This is an important health benefit that may be apparent before any significant weight loss.

Whether you write a journal or use a smartphone app, keep track of your progress. Look for trends. For example, does interacting with a specific person cause you to lose your weight loss motivation? Does the time of day impact your resolve to lose weight? Keeping track of your food intake and physical activity increases mindfulness. It helps you monitor your progress toward meeting your goals.

A scale, weights, apple and tape measure

4. Celebrate Every Weight Loss Motivation Success

Celebrating your achievements, no matter how small, is crucial for maintaining weight loss motivation. Acknowledge and reward yourself for reaching milestones, such as losing a certain amount of weight or consistently following your exercise routine. Treat yourself to non-food rewards, such as a spa day, a new workout outfit, or a weekend getaway.

When tracking your progress and celebrating your successes, besides monitoring your weight on the scale, choose things you can control. You have little control over the number on the scale from day to day.

Celebrate your ability to stay under your calorie goal, meet your exercise goal, get enough restful sleep, and manage your stress.

When you only celebrate goals over which you feel you have little control, you can become discouraged and have a dip in your weight loss motivation.

5. Build a Support System to Maintain Your Weight Loss Motivation

Having a strong support system can significantly impact your weight loss journey and overall weight loss motivation. Surround yourself with individuals who share similar goals or have successfully achieved their own weight-loss goals. Join weight-loss support groups, attend fitness classes, or find an accountability partner who can provide encouragement and guidance.

Verbally stating your weight loss goals can lead to better follow-through.

Sharing your goals and progress with others creates a sense of accountability and support. It allows you to celebrate your successes together and seek guidance during challenging times. Connecting with like-minded individuals can provide inspiration and new perspectives on your weight-loss journey.

9 Effective Weight Loss Motivation Tips to Keep You on Track

6. Plan for Setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of any weight-loss journey. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, embrace them as opportunities for growth and learning. Adopting a growth mindset enables you to approach challenges with resilience and perseverance.

When faced with a setback, reflect on what you can learn from the experience. Identify the factors that contributed to the setback and develop strategies to overcome them in the future.

Create a mental image of yourself engaging in activities that were once challenging or impossible. Visualize the positive impact your weight loss will have on your overall well-being and quality of life. By regularly visualizing your success, you reinforce your weight loss motivation and create a clear vision of what you are working towards.

7. Make Weight Management Part of Your Lifestyle

Though working on weight loss and then managing your weight can feel like a chore, try to make it part of your lifestyle. Instead of thinking of a low-calorie diet as a punishment for gaining weight, look for recipes that are low-calorie and taste great. Try competing with yourself or others to improve your recipes by substituting lower-calorie ingredients and discovering different cooking techniques.

Think of movement as a physical activity instead of exercise. Exercise usually brings up negative thoughts of uncomfortable physical labor in a gym setting. Find physical activities that you find fun and engaging, such as dancing, hiking, or video games that require physical activity.

If you enjoy the foods you prepare and the physical activities you engage in, you are much more likely to continue them long after you meet your weight loss goal.

8. Don’t Aim for Perfection

Think of the last time you taught someone a new skill. You had to exercise patience as they tried to learn the skill. You were probably encouraging and compassionate, as they had setbacks.

Treat yourself the same way. Accept that you will have weight-loss setbacks. You will overeat occasionally. You may not exercise every day. When this happens, treat yourself with kindness and forgive yourself.

Put scaffolds in place that can support you as you work toward your goals. If you overeat or choose unhealthy foods in a particular setting, such as a bar or restaurant, try to avoid going there until you have met your weight loss goal. You could also try preordering your food or having the server box half your food before you eat. These scaffolds or supports can help you be more successful in reaching your goal.

Talk to your doctor about your weight loss motivation

9. Seek Professional Guidance

If you struggle to stay motivated or face complex challenges in your weight-loss journey, consider seeking professional guidance. A registered dietitian, personal trainer, or therapist can provide specialized support and advice tailored to your unique needs.

These professionals can help you develop personalized meal plans, exercise routines, and strategies for maintaining weight loss motivation. They can also provide emotional support, accountability, and guidance for overcoming obstacles.

How do I stay motivated after losing weight?

According to researchers, most people will regain their weight loss unless they have a weight-maintenance program in place. This program should include a dietary plan, physical activity, and behavioral therapy to support your weight loss motivation.

Research suggests that people who are most successful at long-term weight management:6

  • Stay motivated over the long term.
  • Have realistic goal-setting.
  • Consistently use routines and self-monitoring.
  • Avoid feeling deprived.
  • Have strong coping skills.

Sometimes, motivation is not enough to meet your weight-loss goals. Weight loss medications are highly effective in helping carefully selected people lose weight, along with a low-calorie diet, physical activity, and behavioral therapy. Most weight-loss medications are only intended for people with a body mass index of ≥ 30 (obesity) or ≥ 27 with a weight-related medical condition such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

If you believe weight-loss medications are necessary to help you meet your weight-loss goals, talk to a treatment specialist at Invigor Medical to learn more about your weight-loss medication options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will motivate me to lose weight?

Different things can motivate individuals to lose weight, such as improving health, increasing energy levels, enhancing self-confidence, and achieving personal goals. External factors like support from friends and family, upcoming events, or health concerns can also serve as motivators. Setting realistic and achievable goals, focusing on the benefits of weight loss, and finding activities that make the process enjoyable can help maintain motivation.

What is the 30 30 30 rule for weight loss?

The 30 30 30 rule for weight loss involves dividing your plate during meals: one-third for lean protein, one-third for complex carbohydrates, and one-third for vegetables or fruits. This rule helps to balance macronutrients, control portion sizes, and ensure a nutrient-rich diet that supports weight loss and overall health.

Why am I so unmotivated to lose weight?

Feeling unmotivated to lose weight can stem from various factors, including unrealistic goals, lack of support, fear of failure, or underlying emotional issues. It’s essential to identify the root cause of the lack of motivation and address it accordingly. Setting achievable goals, seeking support from friends, family, or a healthcare professional, and focusing on positive changes rather than perfection can help overcome motivational barriers.

How to lose 20 pounds in a month?

Losing 20 pounds in a month is not generally considered safe or sustainable for most individuals. Rapid weight loss can lead to health risks and may be difficult to maintain long-term. Instead, focus on gradual and sustainable lifestyle changes, such as adopting a balanced diet, increasing physical activity, staying hydrated, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. Consultation with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance and support for safe and effective weight loss.

Author: Leann Poston, M.D.
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