Friday, July 10, 2009

how to stay motivated

sheryl asked me the following question in the comments:

"One more thing: How do you stay so consistent?! I am totally off track and even WW online didn't get me going. I really like your attitude; so, what would you tell yourself if you had 45 pounds to lose? I'd love to hear some inspirational words. Thanks!"

all right. i guess i have been pretty consistent with working out and eating well (for the most part) for a couple of years, so here are my tips for getting (and staying) motivated.

1) set goals. look at the big picture (for example, how much weight you want to lose total), write it down and then turn the page. you really want to focus on monthly, weekly, even daily goals. when you set small goals for yourself, it's easy to accomplish them. then you feel good about yourself and want to keep going. if you set the bar too high, you will probably fail and feel like crap, and it's a vicious cycle.

so, for example, your monthly goal could be to lose 5 to 10 pounds. attainable? yes. but that won't just happen. make your weekly goal to exercise four to five (or more) times each week. don't just say that's your goal, really make it your goal. get out your calendar and mark what you are going to do on each day of the week. i do this every week. i think of my schedule and then plot out workout times based on my free time. if i have a special event on a thursday night (when i would normally run), i make sure to wake up early and run before work. that way i can feel good about myself all day. and working out on the day of an event gives you a little more wiggle room for foods and drinks, too. your daily goal could be to drink two to three litres of water, or to follow an eating plan, something like that. it's only one little day. if you are tempted by something, tell yourself that if you really want it, you can have it tomorrow. for example, whenever i see a chocolate chip muffin, i want it real bad. especially from tim hortons or another coffee shop. they are just sooooo good. but i always tell myself, not today but if you want it that bad, you can come back tomorrow and get it. and i never do, so it works out.

2) delay the gratification. this sort of ties in with my muffin story (i can have one tomorrow, i can have one tomorrow) but i like to really focus most of the time and then let loose on occasion. i'd much rather eat well all week, make all my meals at home (saves money too), and then not worry too much about it on the weekend. i don't mean go entirely crazy. i still make healthy choices on the weekend but i have a few drinks and indulge a little more. i have a weekend rule and it's called "if you aren't hungry, don't eat it" - that means no mindless eating. when you are at home or out on the weekend it's easy to eat all day long. i usually have a big brunch-lunch on saturday (made by my bf at home, so it's fairly healthy - he uses 3 eggs and then some whites from a carton and we split that, and chicken bacon) and then a dinner later. i know that you are supposed to eat three or more times a day but it's not going to kill anyone on the weekend to just follow their natural hunger cues. and, if you have a big brunch and a dinner, you can have a little something-something post going out at 3 am on sunday morning - when it's really hard to say no!

3) give yourself a reason to stay focused and remind yourself of it. why are you trying to lose weight and get fit? for your kids? for your health? to prevent cancer? just to look hot? whatever your reason (and whatever it is, it doesn't matter so long as it's your own reason), keep that in your mind. you can even put post-its on your fridge and bathroom mirror if you like. i've put notes on my fridge before haha. they say things like, "are you really hungry or just bored?" maybe you have a special event coming up and want to look your best at it. mark it on your calendar and remind yourself of this event when you are tempted by food or laziness. when i'm really struggling in a run, i think about why i'm doing it. i do enjoy running some of the time, but not all of the time. sometimes it really hurts and sucks the big one. other times it's great. on those bad times, i think of my goals and reasons.

4) be an information vacuum. when i started losing weight, i joined ww online. i read the message boards. i started reading other people's blogs. i went to the library and borrowed every past issue of every fitness magazine i could find (and read them on the treadmill), i signed up for nutrition newsletters, i visited organic and health food stores, etc. make fitness and losing weight your #1 hobby. dedicate a lot of time to it. when you know exactly what to do to lose the weight and stay fit, you have a harder time making excuses for yourself.

5) don't put off anything good. i mean, don't tell yourself you aren't going to buy any new clothes or get your hair done or go on vacation or whatever until after you lose weight. if you do that, you are treating yourself like crap. if you are skinny or chubby, you are still a good-looking person who deserves nice things. and having nice things is very motivating. whenever i get a new workout outfit, i can guarantee my first few workouts in that outfit will be spectacular. having nice things and feeling good about yourself just makes your mood improve and your energy go up. besides, your life keeps going. it won't start or get better after the weight is gone, so enjoy yourself throughout the process of losing weight.

6) loosen up. don't be too strict or too hard on yourself. if you mess up, forget about it and move on right away. don't think that because you ate one bad meal your whole day is ruined. it's not. pick yourself up right away and make your next meal a healthy one. also, don't deny yourself your favourite things all the time. if you love wine or chocolate, have it on one day of the week. that being said, if you are a crazy beast around a certain type of food then you should not keep it in your house or anywhere around you. personally, i can't control myself around ice cream. i become a monster who has to eat the whole carton and nothing can stand in my way. nothing! noootttthhhiiiiing! so i can't have it at home. occasionally i will get a cone or something but i try to limit it, knowing that it will just fuel my craving for more.

7) make friends with exercise. nobody really wants to work out. wouldn't everyone just rather sit on the couch? but after you do it, it feels SO GOOD. and it makes you look really good too. and it's good for your body. so really, the only thing working against you is your mind. if you tell yourself that exercise is your lifelong friend it becomes a little easier. why put off doing it when you have to do it for the rest of your life! besides, the more you do it, the fitter you become, and the easier it is. and you can become strong and scare people! i'm kidding, but as a fit, strong woman i feel a lot safer walking alone at night, knowing that i am capable of punching someone hard and running away fast - and keeping it up without being out of breath for a long time. don't you want to be an action movie star too?

the easiest way to get started with exercise and stick with it is to a) work out with a "buddy" or b) set some sort of goal and plan into motion (this is what i did because i'm kind of a loner and none of my friends work out). for example, you can do the couch-to-5k program (you can google it) and start running. if you think you can't run, you are deluding yourself. everyone can! well most people, unless you have joint or leg issues. when i started i couldn't even run for a minute without panting manically. i'm not joking - it was really REALLY tough. but if you stick with the program, you can do it too. and running is amazing exercise - nothing has toned my body like running has. a friend once told me that after you can run for 30 minutes without stopping it gets much easier and it's so true! once you cross that barrier you're golden!

also mix up your exercise so you don't get bored. i go through phases. i try to stick to running, but i like to mix in swimming, yoga, workout videos, etc. depending on my mood and the time of year. right now i'm doing mostly swimming and running.

8) read up on food. when i was doing ww online i would eat anything as long as it was low in calories and points. after doing a lot of personal research, i don't do that anymore. for the most part, everything i put inside my body gives it nutrition. i read every nutrition label and look especially at the protein content, fat content (for saturated and trans fats), the fiber content and the sodium content. obviously i'm not perfect and i do eat crap too but i'd say 80-90% of the time i eat really well. when you know what happens inside your body after eating crap, you'll be less likely to eat it too. also, bad food makes me feel bad. most of the time when i eat a greasy pub meal, my body literally rejects it and i am in the bathroom for a long time. gross? yeah ... i guess my body thought it was gross too. look for foods that are nutritious AND filling. eat more vegetarian protein options - like seeds, beans, lentils, edamame, whatever. i never really ate beans (except for wieners and beans!) until a couple of years ago and they are sooooo good.

9) i guess my last tip would be that everything you do is really mind over matter. nothing is stopping you from reaching your goals but you. no one is holding you down, preventing you from working out or shoving cookies in your mouth. hmmmm. of course that's easy to say and hard to do. but everyone has a choice, right? yes the cake looks delicious but is it worth it based on your current goals? what will feel better - eating the cake now or accomplishing your goals a little later? the taste of food is fleeting but feeling good about yourself can't be beat. i actually got this tip from that books series, don't sweat the small stuff. i read that being angry or upset at someone is your choice. for instance, when you are experiencing some rampant road rage, pull yourself back. choose not to feel anger. it's possible. being angry at another driver accomplishes nothing but makes smoke come out of your ears - and it's dangerous as well. put yourself in the other driver's shoes. maybe they got fired from work that day, or perhaps they found out one of their parents has cancer. you have no idea - you can't assume they are just a dick for no reason. so what's the point of being angry? there isn't one. ha! my point is, you can choose to overcome your temptations and work out when you don't feel like it. over time, as these things become part of your regular routine, it becomes more about habit and less about willpower.

10) i just wanted to have a #10 to round out the list. actually i just thought of a #10. realize that anything (weight loss or fitness) does not happen overnight. when you accept that it will happen gradually over time, the chances of it happening are greater. besides, you can put pressure on yourself to meet unrealistic goals but what the point? you will just feel bummed when you don't meet your goals. but if you stick with them, and stick to working out and a healthy diet, in a year or two or maybe just months, you'll be a success, instead of wondering why you are back where you started, frustrated and bummed.


Jaime (Embracing Balance) said...

Girl. Love it. Good list of tips. So many of them are what I've come to follow (often unwittingly) too. These do work and what a great list to help motivate your readers!! I particularly love "make it your hobby". Helloooooo blogging! :)

Lainey said...

Wow, this is great! Great posts all over the blogosphere there something in the air?

Cat said...

What a great list! Thanks!

I think I'm going to print this out and carry it around with me...

Vanessa (Last Night's Leftovers) said...

You rock. I literally just bookmarked this post so I can read it whenever I need a pick-me-up.

P.S. Thanks for the birthday wishes! :D

Fatinah said...

Your #5 really struck a chord. I really think if more of us did this, it would be easier to put ourselves first and it would be easier to think we deserve to be at goal. Great list. I've linked your post on my blog!

Blossom said...

This is such a great list. Your idea about saying you can have something tomorrow if you still really want it, is definitely something I'm going to try and something that might help me. And also, I have to realize that I can't lose everything overnight. Thanks!!

jennifer said...

AMAZING POST! I loved it! You are so wise :)

Okay, so I still can't fix my comment thing and it's making me want to ditch the blog altogether... BAH!

fittingbackin said...

Wonderful advice that REALLY rings true. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

GREAT post!

H-woman said...

Love it, love it, love it!

H =)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog! I found you on Jaime's (Embracing Balance) blogroll. Thanks for the AMAZING list! I'm with Cat, I'm going to print it out so I can read it whenever I need a little extra motivation!


cinemarie said...

This is such a great post - I need to print it and read regularly :) You rock!!!

Sheryl said...

I just caught up with your posts from being on vacation. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I saw you had posted my questions from an older comment! AND provided a great 10-point post. Loved the motivational talk and inspiration. Your writing is authentic and honest. I will keep your tips with me and think about them. Thanks!


Lena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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