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Tips for Maintaining Your Motivation & Remaining on the Path of Healthy Weight Loss

“This will be the year!” you tell yourself.

This will be the year that you finally start eating right, exercising, and losing those unwanted pounds for good.

You concoct a detailed and somewhat elaborate plan, which includes cooking the majority of your meals at home, exercising daily at the local YMCA, and abstaining completely from foods high in sugar and fat.

  • January 1 arrives, and you are incredibly motivated and eager to start your plan.
  • A week or two passes and you are off to a strong start!
  • But then there’s a snow storm on January 20 and you can’t get to the gym for several days.
  • And then you have a wedding on January 28 and you eat two pieces of wedding cake.
  • By February 1, you feel defeated, frustrated, and entirely unmotivated to continue with your weight loss plan.

Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone.

Take comfort in the fact that motivation (especially when it comes to behaviors necessary for weight management) naturally waxes and wanes over time, because it is influenced by so many different factors.

However, if you start to identify the factors that negatively affect your motivation, you can take steps to guard against that all too familiar, “Oh, why bother…I give up!” sentiment that will bring your weight loss efforts to a screeching halt.

Consider the following pitfalls and associated remedies to ensure that you follow through on your goals throughout the entire year.

Motivation Killer #1: Setting Unrealistic Goals

You vow to take indoor cycling classes every morning at 6 a.m., even though you have not exercised for 15 years and you never get out of bed before 8 a.m. Further, you decide that you will prepare home-cooked, low-calorie meals for yourself and your family every night, even though the only appliance you have used in your kitchen in the last six months is a microwave.

Setting unrealistic goals that will require drastic behavior change is one surefire route to failure. Instead, make small tweaks to your current behavior.

If you are not currently exercising, start by deciding to walk around your office hallway three times each day. If you are eating at fast food restaurants three times a week, consider reducing those trips to once weekly.
Setting reasonable goals that you are confident about achieving will give you the confidence boost that’s necessary to continue making improvements in your health-related behaviors.

Motivation Killer #2: Expecting Perfection

You develop a meal plan for the week that involves bringing your lunch to work and cooking dinner each evening. You follow your plan Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday, you forget your lunch from home and end up going out for lunch with a co-worker. You feel discouraged that you deviated from your plan and decide to abandon your efforts for the rest of the week.

In life, we must expect the unexpected.

Following a weight loss plan often requires an individual to engage in multiple complex behaviors, and it is likely that a plan will change or a slip will occur at some point in the process.

These missteps – taken in isolation – aren’t likely to sabotage your progress. However, taking an “I already messed up, so I might as well give up all together” approach will negatively impact your ability to reach your goals.

When you deviate from your plan, use the opportunity as a learning experience. Forgive yourself, and get back to your healthy behaviors as soon as possible.

No one is perfect, and perfection is not necessary to lose weight successfully.

About Katie Rickel, PhD

Dr. Katie Rickel graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Florida. She completed an APA-accredited clinical internship in health psychology at Duke University Medical Center, with advanced training in behavioral and bariatric obesity treatment as well as the psychological management of chronic pain and illness. Dr. Rickel also has expertise in treating anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias. Her research has been presented at various professional conferences and published in scientific journals. Dr. Rickel has also appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and has been quoted in several popular media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Health magazine, Yahoo! Health, Women’s Health magazine, Weight Watchers magazine, and

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