10 ways to stay motivated through the dog days of summer

July 23, 2013

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

The heat is here but you are still working on those New Year's weight loss and workout goals you set back in the chilly days of January. Keep in mind that healthy living is not a short-term goal or simply something you think about the first of the year; it is a lifestyle choice that is made every day. If weight loss is your goal, behavior changes must be implemented and practiced every day, not only to lose weight, but to keep it off.

Here are a few tips at staying motivated to lose the weight and change your life forever!

1. If you bite it, you write it

Journaling your dietary intake each day really helps you stay on track with any weight loss program. Too often we get discouraged because the scale isn't moving and we are spending countless hours in the gym. However, writing down what you eat will let you know if you are treating your diet as seriously as you are treating your fitness. Weight loss will only occur consistently when both exercise and diet are working together.

2. Change mindset to living healthier, not losing weight

Don't only make healthy choices when you are trying to lose weight. Once you get to your goal weight, continue to practice the healthy habits that got you to a lighter weight. You eat every day, why not eat better every day?

3. Set reasonable goals

Do your goals make sense? While losing 5 to 10 pounds in a month is a reasonable goal, expecting to lose 50 before next month's vacation is not. Also, weight loss is seldom linear; you will have weeks and months with larger amounts and some where your weight just seems to creep along. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals.

4. Abstinence does not work

Not ever allowing yourself to enjoy certain foods can leave you unfulfilled, disappointed, and miserable. Don't deprive yourself of the foods you most enjoy; find a way to co-exist by controlling the quantity and portions of these foods. Allow yourself 100 calories of your favorite snack each day, or schedule that special dinner once per week. Just keep serving sizes in check and you will prevent feelings of deprivation.

5. Focus on non-weight progress

If you are only focusing on the number on the scale each week, you may be ignoring other victories your healthier eating has given you. By cooking more meals at home and eating out less, you are saving money. Your energy has skyrocketed from reducing the junk food and replacing it with balanced healthy snacks. Even your spouse and your children are eating healthier as a result of your healthier dietary habits.

6. There is no such thing as being perfect

Your body isn't a perfect machine, so your diet does not have to be perfect to get great results. Stop thinking that a certain meal plan or diet has to be followed perfectly to lose weight. Expecting perfection only leads to disappointment. One bad snack or meal won't throw everything off. At the end of the day, if you have made more better choices than bad ones, you have made progress!

7. Involve others in your weight-loss efforts

Tell your friends or family about your efforts to lose weight and give them details on how you are going to do it. Tell them you don't want them supervising you, rather you may need some accountability every once in a while. A gentle reminder when you don't feel like going to the gym, getting up to fix breakfast, or going for that second helping of potatoes may help you stay on track.

8. Don't find time to exercise "“ make time to exercise

Exercise should become a normal part of your routine. Schedule your workouts just like you schedule a meeting or an appointment. If you wait until all of your other commitments are accounted for and then "find time" for exercise, you have diminished the importance of your fitness. By scheduling your workouts a month or two in advance, you make exercise a higher priority and other commitments come after your commitment to better health.

9. Eliminate negative thoughts

If you are constantly beating yourself up over mistakes in your past, or feeling guilty for cheating on your diet, you are giving negativity too much power. When you feel yourself thinking negatively, have something that reminds you of the good things you have done, how much progress you have made, and how good these changes make you feel. Every thought, word, and action has power; it's up to you to decide what kind.

10. Revisit your goals nightly

Don't lose sight of why you started this journey of better health. Waking up at 5 a.m., dragging a cooler to work, eating in your office while others go out to eat, all can cause you to forget why you are sacrificing in the first place. Write down your goals, why you want to change your health, and keep these on your nightstand, computer, even in your car. Read them everyday so you always know why you are choosing to change your life.

Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., CISSN, is a weight loss and fitness expert and doctor of nutrition. He owns eatrightfitness ®, an evidence-based counseling practice focused on weight loss, disease prevention, and sports nutrition.

Originally published Jul 23, 2013 10:00:21 AM.