In Weight Loss, Habits trump Motivation every time. Why? Because Everyone has Bad Days.
It’s the same old fateful story. You’ll just begun your new diet and exercise program, and “this time” you’re going to do it. First week goes well, your full of energy, smashing through your workouts and religiously sticking to your meal plans. Second week comes and go in a similar fashion. But by the time the third week comes around, you start to lose steam, other priorities start battling for your time, and before you know it you have decided to abandon your goal. Not because you don’t want to achieve it, but because right now your time is better spent on other things. At least that is how you rationalize it to yourself.
So what happened? Well for some, it may really be the case that other priorities have taken precedent. But more often that not, it is because the motivation that pushed us to start in the first place is no longer there. Don’t get me wrong, motivational drive is a wonderful thing to have. It helps push you pass your previous limitations and is often critical in initiating change. My problem with it is that it is unreliable. All it takes is a minor setback for that drive to all but evaporate. This is where habit comes into the picture.
A habit is something you do almost autonomously, such that you barely have to think about it. Something like brushing your teeth, saying Hi to your neighbour, or waking up every morning to go to work. Whether or not you are in a bad mood or not is often irrelevant to whether that task will be performed.
But I hear you ask, “how can I establish a good habit when I have very little motivation to do it?”
The simple answer is, start small.
More often than not, the motivation you have at the start of a goal causes you to be overly ambitious and take on more changes than you can handle in the long term. This is why many people fail to follow their weight loss plans longer than a month. It is very difficult to maintain the amount of motivation necessary to sustain such significant change.
Instead, I recommend that people harbor that initial enthusiasm and focus it on establishing one simple habit that will aid them in their weight loss goal. Once you are confident you have established the habit, work on another, and repeat. Although these small changes to your lifestyle may seem trivia, over the course of the year you will find that they accumulate into long term weight loss. And isn’t that what we’re all really aiming for?
photo credit: Alan Cleaver via photopin cc