Best Weight Loss Motivation Tips

Power through an "off" day and keep seeing results with these expert tips for staying motivated through weight loss.

Stop Trying So Hard

If you notice that your weight loss motivation is waning, give yourself a break from your diet or exercise plan for one to three days, Klapow says. "The problem with motivation is that the more people try to ‘catch′ it, the more elusive it becomes; by allowing it to run its natural course and at the same time having a set of habit-changing skills (such as a meal plan for the week), you′ll stay on track and your motivation levels will run their natural course."

Quiz Yourself

Need an instant dose of weight loss inspiration? Take this quick, healthy-habit quiz. (We′ve used diet as an example, but you can plug in any behavior that you′re trying to maintain). "Answering these questions often helps to boost motivation just enough to remind you of why you started the diet in the first place," Klapow says.

Clean Out Your Closet

If you′re struggling to stick with your weight loss moitvation, practice integrity in other areas of your life, suggests Andre Farnell, a certified strength and conditioning coach and owner of Better Body Expert. Clean out your closet (finally), pay off your debts, make good on your promises to friends, family, or co-workers. Practice sticking with promises or commitments you′ve made in other areas of your life in order to strengthen your own subconscious belief that you are able to uphold the promise to lose weight that you′ve made to yourself, Farnell says.

Steer Clear of Super-Skinny Models

Pinning and posting pictures of super thin models may seem like a good way to stay motivated to lose weigh, but according to a new study, it′s more likely to hurt your progress. Researchers in the Netherlands divided women who wanted to lose weight into two groups: the first group was given a food journal with photos of thin models on the cover and interior pages, and the second group was given a journal with a neutral logo image on the front. While the neutral group lost weight, those given the journals sprinkled with supermodel images gained weight.

The scientists say that the images of models discouraged the women by creating unrealistic self-standards. Staring at photos of much-thinner women while logging food intake may have made them feel like they′d never be able to achieve that look, so they stopped trying. Instead of comparing yourself to unrealistic fashion models, stay inspired by posting images of you at your healthiest weight for inspiration. Or, check out these real women′s before and after weight loss photos.

Focus on a Feeling

Too often we get frustrated by focusing on a specific number on the scale, or even a task we must do to reach our goal (like working out), which is a pretty quick way to zap your motivation, says Simon Rego, Ph.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Concentrate on your mood after you′ve eaten a healthy meal or how you feel after a great workout—weight loss motivation doesn′t always have to come before an activity, Rego says. "If you focus on how you feel each time you exercise, you′ll get all the benefits of burning calories, plus the reinforcement of remembering how good it felt to do it, which should increase your motivation to do more."

Build Your "Business Plan"

Any successful venture requires a plan that describes its mission and specifics on how to achieve it--without one, you have no idea where you′re starting, where you′re going, or how you′ll get there, says Jenn Walters, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of Fit Bottomed Girls. Treat your goal as a business objective; If you were trying to accomplish something for a client, you probably wouldn′t start out without a strategy. Once you′ve determined exactly what you want to achieve and your deadline, work backwards to create a monthly plan of action with realistic and specific goals for losing weight (such as committing to healthy snacking) and free of ineffective strategies like extreme cleanses or fasting.

Plant a Carrot Halfway

Rewarding yourself for reaching your goals is a great idea, but some undertakings can take months or even years to achieve, so you risk knocking the wind out of your sails before you even get close. Instead of waiting until you′ve reached the big finish line to reward yourself for weight loss, plan something really amazing once you′ve reached your halfway point (like a trip to that spa in the Bahamas—and focus on traveling healthier), suggests Dr. Susan Bartell, a psychologist and motivational speaker. You′ll be less likely to throw in the towel when things get tough around that midpoint marker.

Hang Your Motivation By the Mirror

Whether it′s your favorite pair of skinnies or a teeny bikini, putting a special piece of your wardrobe on display is a great daily motivator. Pick something you′ll look forward to wearing and hang it close to your mirror. "I visualize myself wearing it and think about how good I will feel," says Marie-Pier Ouellet, a student in Montreal, Canada. Since it′s an item you already own, it′s much less likely to be an unrealistic goal (when compared to say, that photo of Gisele Bundchen in a bikini) and will help spike your weight loss motivation to keep hitting the gym.

Give Yourself Some Tough Love

Yes, picturing yourself wearing that bikini can be motivating, but for some people, imagining what might happen to you if you don′t lose weight can be even more inspiring. "I ask my clients what their lives will be like in five, 10, or even 20 years from now if they stay on the same path that they are currently on," says Matthew Richter-Sand, an Air Force veteran, personal trainer, and founder of NX Fit. "I make them imagine how badly they will feel and how much they′ve missed out on in life—it′s absolutely critical that they′re honest with themselves at this point. It′s too easy to sugarcoat things and pretend like it′s okay. It′s not okay!"

Get Competitive

When it comes to losing weight, a little competition goes a long way. According to a recent study published in the journal Obesity, social influence of team-based weight loss competitions can help you lose up to 20 percent more weight than you would if you did it alone. Even more interesting is that team captains shed more weight than team members, likely due to their position and involvement in the group competition, the researchers say. So recruit a group of friends or coworkers and lead your team to victory!

Why Do You Exercise, Really?

If you′re really going to stay motivated to lose weight, the first thing you need to do is determine what actually motivates you, says Anne Dranitsaris, Ph.D., author of Who Are You Meant to Be? For example, if you are inspired by your family, focus on how exercising will help you remain in your kids lives well into your old age, she says. Take it one step further by getting your family involved—play tag with the kids, hit the gym with your husband, cook healthy meals for the coming week together on weekends. "In order to change your patterns of behavior, you first have to recognize your patterns and why they exist. If you can redirect that healthy motivation into a new action, your goal will automatically seem more compelling and achievable."

Surround Yourself with Health

Stage your home to reflect the new (lighter) you, suggests Tara Zimliki, a personal trainer and bootcamp instructor. Stock and organize the fridge with healthy, prepped foods in clear containers, present fruit in beautiful bowls on counter tops, get a shoe rack to display your sneakers right by the front door, keep the dirty laundry off exercise equipment, etc. Adjusting your environment to reflect your weight loss and diet intentions can make it that much easier to stay on track, she says.

Turn to Your Smartphone

With more weight-loss apps available than ever, instant motivation is just a tap away. Whether you can′t muster the motivation to cook dinner (try a healthy eating app like BigOven to find recipes based on what′s already in your pantry), need a little support (download Fitocracy to team up with a buddy), or you′re just looking for a new way to get moving (try Zombies, Run!), there′s a great app to help keep your motivation (and you) mobile.

List Your Reasons for Losing

Looking (and feeling) better on the beach is a perfectly valid reason for wanting to slim down, but it might not be enough to keep you inspired for the long haul. "Come up with a running list of all the things that are better about your life when you′re at a lighter weight," Nichols says. Your list might include things like being healthier, having more stamina, improving your confidence, shopping for fun fashions, keeping up with or setting a good example for your kids, or knocking something off your bucket list like hiking the Grand Canyon, which is much easier when you′re fit and at a healthy weight. Once you′ve written out your detailed list, keep it handy and read it often, especially when you′re feeling particularly drained, to remind yourself why it′s worth staying on track, she says.


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