One of the questions I get asked most frequently about how to get hot and healthy is:
How can I stay motivated?
Motivation is a slippery little sucker. Hard to hold onto. We think that if we could just figure out how to keep it around, losing weight and getting healthy would finally be easy. Motivation comes on hard and fast to begin with but always drains slowly away (or in a hurry when the Saturday afternoon munchies fold to a cheese platter).
What’s the secret to making it stay? What’s the ultimate tip to keep yourself on a motivation high?
The secret is: screw motivation.
Getting pumped up on fit-spiration pintrest images will never last. The pressure of summer around the corner always fades. Motivation as you know it won’t ever stick around long. So neither does the weight loss. Or the flatter stomach. Or whatever else you were going for.
Trying to keep motivated didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. So what is the alternative?
Firstly, learn to care.
Most people try to motivate themselves by looking at things they want to change. They focus on the negative things, what they don’t want; I want to get rid of the cellulite on my legs, I want to get rid of the flab that is hiding my abs (I am sure they are under there somewhere). The problem with trying to get motivated this way is that the underlying message you are sending to yourself is that there is something wrong with you. That you don’t like yourself or your body. You hope that my hating it enough this will motivate you to change. The thing is, we don’t want to look after things we don’t like.
Think about your favourite pair of boots. They go so perfectly with all of your jeans and skirts. You always get compliments on them and they are super comfy. You can walk miles in those babies. When those boots need new soles, you willingly hand over the cash to the local shoe repair guy. When you get mud on them you, happily wipe it off. Because you like and care about those boots, doing things to look after them comes easily. You don’t have to motivate yourself to do it. You do it because you want to. Because you care.
Compare that to the pair of boots that you got on sale that now rub you the wrong way (both literally and figuratively). And they are really not that pretty when you compare them to other boots. When those boots need looking after, you don’t want to spend time or money keeping them working well and looking good. You keep reminding yourself to get them fixed but you always put it off till tomorrow or just never get around to it. If you had to get those boots clean, you would really have to motivate yourself to do it. You don’t want to look after things you don’t like. This goes for your body too.
Sure you may be able to make yourself cut out sugar or go for a run, but after not so long, you find yourself losing motivation. It starts being a chore and something you put off. You need to be the people version of your favourite boots. You have to learn to like your body so that you want to do the things that make it feel hot and healthy. You need to learn to have compassion and kindness towards yourself. To befriend your body.
Start doing this by concentrating on what you do like about yourself. And I know, I know, you have heard the same “just-love-yourself-the-way-you-are” spiel before but you don’t believe it will work for you. Liking yourself, let alone loving yourself, can seem too hard when you feel you have a good 15 kg to lose.
You don’t have to instantly love yourself to start feeling more caring towards your body. Instead, start with gratitude. Concentrate on being grateful for all your body does. Your legs that can walk. Your lips that can kiss. Your hands that can create art and cupcakes. You can’t be hateful at the same time as being grateful. So whenever a crappy thought pops up about how you look, mentally chime in with something you are grateful for.
I wrote more about this on my post about what to do when self-love seems impossible. Read it here.
Next, take pleasurable action.
Here is the big thing about motivation: You only need motivation to take action when it is something you don’t want to do.
Brunch with your favourite ladies = easy to do.
6am weight lifting class = pressing snooze until 7.15.
The flip side of this motivation issue is that when want to do something you like, you don’t need to motivate yourself to do it. This may seem obvious, but for years you have probably been trying to lose weight and get healthy by following the latest diet and exercise advise, even though that meant doing things you really don’t enjoy. I did too. And low and behold, you are always finding you need motivation in order to stay on track. I propose another way.
Motivation isn’t needed when the action is pleasurable. Use that to your advantage! If you are trying to lose weight or get healthy, pick things you can do that you actually enjoy.
- Of all the things you could do to help you lose weight or improve your health, what seems easiest to you?
- What could you implement every day without having to force yourself?
- What do you already like to do that is healthy for you and that makes you feel good?
Answer these questions to make a list. Now, instead of trying to stick to the new meal plan you read about, do the things on your list. Focus on what you know makes you feel good and you won’t need motivation to be your slave driver.
The other great thing about taking action steps that are pleasurable is that you won’t be dying to stop them once you reach your goal. It is all well and good going on that detox diet for 4 weeks and doing hot yoga every day, but then what happens after that month? You will probably be so relieved you don’t have to drink lemon and cayenne water anymore that you will slip right back into how you did things before. And the weight you lost will slip back on too. If you take actions that are easy to maintain (because you enjoy them) the changes you have spent your precious time and money making, are likely to stay.
Motivation isn’t something you need to desperately find and white knuckle hold onto in order to get hot and healthy. Instead of asking “how do I stay motivated?”, I suggest to instead ask, “What if I didn’t need motivation?”. Practice being caring towards your fine self and focus on pleasurable actions. You may find your answer is what you have been searching for all along.
Hannah May x