4 Effective Ways to Get (And Stay) Motivated While Dieting

iStock 873937380 Credit: Young girl eating a oatmeal with berries after a workout . Fitness and healthy lifestyle concept.

Do you find that you have trouble staying motivated after the first week of a diet? You’re not alone. Most American men and women report that one of the hardest parts of a diet and exercise plan is simply keeping at it, one day at a time. Whether it’s because there never seems to be enough time in the day, because you’re frustrated at your lack of visible progress, or because you lack a support system, there are many reasons to lose motivation.

The good news is, there are many scientifically-backed strategies to keep your motivation up while on a diet and exercise plan. Below we’ve outlined four of the best strategies to stay driven, keep up the hard work, and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. 

The Science of Motivation

Motivation is key when you a goal for yourself. It’s way too easy to start off on the right track and then fall off when problems or obstacles crop up. A few days of stress at work or a few evenings out are often all it takes to get yourself started on the wrong track. So how do you remain motivated to succeed when temptation is all around?

The first thing to recognize is that motivation is largely a psychological phenomenon. It really is “all in your head.” Luckily there are several tried and true strategies that have been scientifically proven to keep motivation levels high, and to anticipate potential obstacles and prepare for them ahead of time.

When working on a goal, first identify the routines and tasks that you’ll need to tackle on a daily basis to make the larger goal possible. If your overall goal is to have a healthier lifestyle, first identify small changes in your daily routine that will help you make progress. This might mean choosing to cook nightly healthy dinners made up primarily of plants and lean protein, or exercising three times a week for 30 minutes.

The way you think about these smaller daily tasks can make all the difference in your motivation level. When implementing a new routine or daily habit, try to frame it in your head as something you are choosing to do for your well being, instead of something you have to do. In the early stages of a new habit, you can also build momentum and motivation by finding ways to make a task fun, instead of treating it like a chore. This could mean enlisting a friend to go to the gym with you, or having fun trying out new nutrient-packed recipes for dinner.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

If you lapse and eat something that’s not on part of your diet, don’t waste time berating yourself for breaking your diet plan. If you find yourself expending energy on negative self-talk or thoughts that tear yourself down, spend some time identifying and stopping these thoughts. Remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world to break your diet or exercise plan once, as long as it doesn’t completely throw off your progress. Work on focusing your energy on the healthy choices you’ll make in the future in order to stay on track.

Set Realistic Goals

It will be difficult to stay motivated if the goals you’ve set for yourself are unreasonably ambitious. While many exercise regimens and diet plans promise quick and dramatic results, the reality is that changes are usually more gradual. Most nutritionists advise dieters to set a goal of 1-2 pounds per week of weight loss. Attempting to lose more weight than this per week can promote unhealthy eating habits and set you up for frustration and disappointment.

Additionally studies have shown that those who set more moderate weight loss goals and achieve them are more likely both to keep the weight off and to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the long term. Even losing just 5%-10% of your body weight can have major health benefits!

Get Fit for Summer

Motivation comes from within but in this case, it shows when you check yourself out in the mirror. Do you want to get a body that will look good on the beach or a body that can slip into swimwear? That sort of desire can really motivate you to continue a diet when you’re craving a sugary treat. If you’re keeping track of your weight loss, you’ll have a good idea of how you should look week by week or month by month so keep checking yourself out in the mirror and if you’re enjoying what you’re seeing, that should be all the motivation you need.

Empty Cupboards and Hydration

As well as maintaining a high level of motivation you should also maintain a low level of treats in your cupboard. Don’t stock the fridge with goodies and then try and stay away from them. That’s a form of torture no one needs so if you’re living with someone who’s hooked on candy, ask them to keep the chocolate and the cakes out of the house while you’re on a diet. The other key to weight loss is hydration. According to a journal in the Annals of Family Medicine, inadequately hydrated people are 60 percent more likely than others to be obese.