10 Tips for Staying Motivated All Year Long: Tip No. 1


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Ask any veteran of the weight loss wars and they’ll tell you that success depends just as much on exercising your mind as on exercising your body and changing your diet.

Let’s face it. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to eat and exercise if you want to lose weight. Sure, there are lots of things it’s very helpful to know, especially if you want to avoid wasting your time and money on some “you can lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks” scam, or on one of the dozens of ineffective fad diets that hit the book stores and magazine racks every January. But the basics are pretty simple: eat a little less, choose healthy foods, move your body more.

If you’re like me, though, the real challenge is actually getting yourself to consistently do what you know you need to do. This is the first in a series of 10 weekly blogs where I’ll share some “attitude adjustment” tips that helped me lose 150 pounds and keep it off for five years.

Read on for Tip No. 1:

In my 60 years on this planet, I’ve gained, lost, and regained way more weight than most people will ever weigh. I lost more than 90 pounds twice, over 60 pounds two other times, and 10-25 pounds more times than I can remember. I’ve known how to lose weight since I was 14. But despite all that losing, I also managed to get myself up to my highest weight of over 370 pounds by the age of 50. I should have been the poster boy for yo-yo dieters.

Right now, I’m about 150 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight, and for the first time, I’ve managed to keep my weight fluctuations within about 10 pounds of my goal weight for almost five years. On my 50th birthday, I could barely walk 2 blocks, and if the elevator went out in my 3-story apartment building, I was grounded. This week, I spent my day off enjoying a 30-mile bike ride through a redwood forest and a couple hours of hiking up and down the side of a mountain to explore a very beautiful beach. It wasn’t work or “exercise”—it was fun.

The difference this time is all in my head. This time, I learned a little about how to manage my attitude, not just how to lose weight. Here’s “attitude adjustment” exercise No. 1:

Tip No.1. Put your goals and strategies in positive terms.

One mistake I kept making over and over again was setting up my weight loss plans in negative terms. I made lists of foods I didn’t want to eat, figured out which behaviors I had to stop doing, and set up rewards and incentives for losing a certain amount of weight by a given date. This usually worked for a little while, but sooner or later, I always started feeling so guilty when I broke my diet or exercise “rules,” or so deprived and resentful about not being able to eat what, when, and how much I wanted, that I would either go on a binge, or chuck the diet out the window completely. Likewise, every time the scale didn’t cooperate with my weight loss goal for the week, even though I’d been sticking to my plan pretty well, I’d get frustrated and start wondering if all my effort was really worth it.

This time around, I’ve been able to minimize these problems by putting my goals in positive terms. My overall goal wasn’t to “lose weight”—it was to get healthy and be able to do the things I wanted, and feel good about being in my own skin. My strategies focused on finding healthy foods I like to eat, eating them in moderation, and finding physical activities I enjoy doing. I rewarded myself for sticking to these plans, even if my scale weight didn’t budge or moved a little in the wrong direction.

So, here’s my suggestion. If you haven’t done it already, write down your weight loss, fitness, and/or health goals for this year, including what you plan to do to make those goals happen. Then, go through your list carefully, looking for negative language—don’t, won’t, stop, avoid, lose, quit, never, etc. Wherever you see something expressed in negative terms, see if you can change the wording so it expresses what you do want to do, instead of what you don’t want to do. Plan rewards for sticking to your performance goals pretty well over a certain length of time, like 2 weeks or a month (but don’t expect yourself to be perfect—if you stick to your plan 80 to 90% of the time, you’ll do fine).

You can read a little more about this here.

Are your goals and strategies for 2009 in positive or negative terms? Which approach do you think works better for you?

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  • 110
    Thanks for the wonderful blog post. It really helps me to stay in focus! - 1/3/2009   10:01:21 PM
  • 109
    Thanks for sharing - 1/3/2009   5:32:16 PM
  • 108
    Super great advice! I learned not long ago that the brain can not properly process negatives, which sets us up to fail. Example, if you think "Don't strike out" when playing softball, you probably will. Why? Because the brain has to process the image of you striking out FIRST, then try to undo that mental action to get to the positive picture of hitting the ball. It is the same when we think "I don't want to be like my mom/dad." We end doing the behaviors we most despise. HOWEVER, I had NEVER thought to apply this to weight loss until I saw this article (duh). So, thanks so much for bringing more light to my knowledge and day! - 1/3/2009   3:47:46 PM
    Many years ago when my mother was taking a Dale Carnegie course, she told me the major thing that was emphasized was "accentuate the positive and minimize the negative." Still very good advice!!! - 1/3/2009   11:09:07 AM
  • 106
    I try to think of adding positive behaviors which tend to crowd out negative ones. Especially when I exercise, I tend to naturally stay away from unhealthy food choices because I don't want to "contaminate" the good I've already invested in my body that day. - 1/3/2009   8:57:13 AM
  • 105
    I have tried the positive goal setting, now if I can get the positive motivation to do it. My goal is stay stay motivated to reach my goal - 1/3/2009   7:57:59 AM
  • ROMA1994
    That is what I'm setting out t do for this year, hoping that it will stick this time. I bought some ball room dancing DVDs, I love to dance, and the first time that I used them, I like the moves, and it made me feel good and energized. I'm also going to keep a journal try to write down every thing I do . So if something is not going the way it's supposed to, I can track it down. Well good luck to all. :) - 1/3/2009   12:05:15 AM
  • 103
    Thank you for sharing this inspriational blog. I also have been up and down, and for 2009 I finally want to make it to my goal and stay there.
    Donna - 1/2/2009   8:59:30 PM
  • 102
    I have also been up and down with my weight all my life and it wasn't until I focused my efforts on health benefits that I was able to maintain a normal weight range for the last 2 years. Also making no foods "off limits" has radically changed my perception of food. I rarely overeat knowing that I can have any food anytime I'm hungry has really set me free and I no longer feel secretly ashamed of how I eat. =) - 1/2/2009   4:11:23 PM
  • 101
    I definitely had to start thinking a more positive way. It's how I lost over 90 pounds and have been working to keep it off. Not getting down on myself for being human! - 1/2/2009   1:49:27 PM
  • 100
    Thanks for this blog entry, Coach Dean. I'll be looking forward to the rest of the series. - 1/2/2009   1:13:49 PM
    Thanks so much for the tip! My major problem is that I'm a perfectionist. If I slip and don't give something 100 percent, I tend to get discouraged and want to quit. In the future I'll try to take your advice and not be so hard on myself if I only achieve 90 percent! - 1/2/2009   12:16:06 PM
  • 98
    Thanks for the positive tip.

    We all need to remember that the word Diet doesn't just mean what we eat. It comes form the Romans and means 'life-style'. If I'm going to succeed in losing my 32 pounds by July 2009 and keep it off, I'm not only going to have to change what I eat but my mind-set and physical patterns.

    I'm going to shovel more snow now as we have more than 60 inches on the ground here in Spokane, WA. - 1/2/2009   11:50:07 AM
    Thank you! Great advice and overlooked by me until I saw it in writting. The one thing I have changed is the way I look at "loosing weight" I quit saying "I need/have to loose weight" The reason is because to loose something is to suggest I am looking for it to return to me. I say I am getting rid of my uneeded fat. It has helped with my mind set, but I do need to check on my goals and make sure to get rid of negativity. - 1/2/2009   11:38:59 AM
  • 96
    I never (uh oh negative word use!) thought about it that way. I am going to check my goals and rewrite anything negative. It's so easy to slide into that mindset. I know exactly how Dean feels as I'm sure a lot of us do. Great article! - 1/2/2009   11:21:54 AM
  • TGIF697
    Excellent advice which I am taking advantage of. Instead of losing the entire amount, enough for an extra body, I will lose 10% of my fluff. - 1/2/2009   11:21:30 AM
  • 94
    Thanks so much for this blog- I'm with you- having positive goals have helped me also- any more hints would be greatly appreciated- Sharon - 1/2/2009   11:13:32 AM
  • 93
    This was great. I really think speaking in the positive will help me not just with my health goals but with my life goals. Thanks a lot for this.
    - 1/2/2009   10:46:49 AM
    One of my Spark Friends gave me a wonderfully positive term to replace "lose weight." We don't lose weight, we release it. It is free to go away and never come back. That's the mindset I have for the coming year.

    I do put my goals in writing and I'm working at phrasing them in a positive light. I'm a positive person in just about every aspect of my life. For Pete's sake, why should my attitude toward seeking a healthier lifestyle be any different.

    I have a lot of work to do today, this week, this month, this year...this lifetime. But that is really what makes my world go around, so I'm determined to make it all FUN! - 1/2/2009   10:35:56 AM
  • 91
    Writing things down does seem to help - its a good way to remind myself, especially if I write it down and place it in several strategic places. - 1/2/2009   10:33:00 AM
  • 90
    Excellent points! Thank you. And... now that I think of it: usually when someone tells me about a goal to lose weight or make another important change, the statement begins with the words, " I have to...". I used to do that, too. But. Since joining SP I've come to think of my goal to lose weight as a RESULT of the changes I am and have been making to my lifestyle. - 1/2/2009   10:28:02 AM
    This is a great tip. I don't usually write these things down - just carry a picture or list in my head, but I am going to try this. And the positive aspect spin is terrific too. Thanks! - 1/2/2009   9:52:34 AM
  • 88
  • 87
    Thank you for sharing. This is a great blog!!! - 1/2/2009   9:23:47 AM
  • 86
    What a great tip! I've gradually started doing this on my own, but how wonderful to have it articulated so concisely. Thanks for the tip, and for the inspiration. Happy New Year! - 1/2/2009   9:15:34 AM
  • 85
    Point well taken - thank you for the constructive suggestions. I started to put my plans for the year in writing - as I work on them I will remember to keep it positive! - 1/2/2009   9:15:12 AM
    I wrote out 10 goals for me for 2009 and after reading this blog I read them over and 3 of them start with negative words!! I will change that!! Thank you for this tip Dean, I look forward for more of them from you! In my book, you're tops, keep up the good work. - 1/2/2009   9:02:00 AM
  • 83
    Can't wait to read the other tips! - 1/2/2009   9:00:51 AM
  • 82
    The positive thinking is one of my goals for this year,
    not just for working out but, life in general.

    When you are put in difficult situations, either at work, shopping,
    or dealing with someone who has a bad day (sometimes week)
    those people tend to carry a lot of negative "weight".
    I plan to not be in that group, at all this year.
    I know I have fallen into the party, of negative bashing but
    I plan on walking away. I just dont want to be around those
    negative pity party's.

    As a goal this year I am walking away from the negative comments,
    not joining adding to the topic, if I can't leave, I will change the topic.

    But for my workout goals everything can be achieved
    that I am focusing on because I believe that I can.

    - 1/2/2009   8:49:17 AM
  • 81
    Thanks for the advice...I need to start writing down my goals and my rewards.

    Hone Love - 1/2/2009   8:45:57 AM
  • 80
    Great advice. I think we all know this, but need to be reminded. - 1/2/2009   8:14:30 AM
    After having lost 70 pounds and keeping it off for seven years, I agree completely with you. Once that negative talk comes into play, it is hard to move ahead. Thank you for the great advice. - 1/2/2009   7:31:50 AM
  • 78
    Great advice. Thanks for sharing. - 1/2/2009   7:07:15 AM
  • 77
    Thanks for this great advice. I agree with you that making positive goals are so much better for us psychologically. I began doing that last year when I started posting the month's goals on post it notes on my makeup mirror. It felt so good to mark off each goal as I achieved it. If I didn't make a goal, I assessed the reasons why I missed it and then made it the number one goal for the next month. No time to feel sorry for myself. I had the goal to meet. Once it took me two months to achieve a certain goal. Sure felt good when I got to mark it off.
    That reminds me that I need to set my January goals. :-) - 1/2/2009   7:02:15 AM
  • WHOLY_FIT_48
    Dean, thanks for the great blog. Looking forward to the next 9. I too can relate to yo-yo syndrome...while my weight gain and loss has never been more than 30 pounds, I've never been able to keep it off. What has helped me since I joined SP is re-training my brain just as you mention. It's how I look at and perceive these changes...for the first time in my life I am seeing them as lifelong LIFESTYLE, not just to lose weight or get to a certain size. When I stopped focusing on the scale number and focused on HEALTH, my body began to change. I'm actually ENJOYING all these changes in my life...it's no longer a chore...and for the first time in my life when I have a "not-so-good day" incorporating health, the negative isn't carrying over the next and the next and the next and so on. - 1/2/2009   6:23:35 AM
    Thank you for sharing with us. I am looking forward to the next 9 tips. - 1/2/2009   2:31:17 AM
  • 74
    Yo Yo has been my middle name for the past 20 years. I WILL change that mantra. Thanks for the positive can do attitude. - 1/2/2009   1:29:59 AM
  • 73
    Hello Ladies,
    Thank you for sharing and I basically do that and if anything is bothering; I make sure write it down before I go to bed too. I keep my notebook by my bed so I could write it down....Always, ERNA - 1/2/2009   1:12:40 AM
    Thanx a bunch for the advice :) - 1/2/2009   1:09:40 AM
  • 71
    What a great blog. Attitude is such a big part of it! Thanks for the tip! Last year I didn't have the attitude or the commitment to my goals like I should have and I am hoping that this year will be different. I look forward to reading the rest of your tips. Thank you! - 1/2/2009   12:42:18 AM
  • 70
    On the positive note side -- I tend to stay away from saying I want to "lose" weight or that I "lost" a certain number of pounds because "lose" and "lost" implies that you will find it again. Instead I say things like " I have gotten rid of 9 pounds so far" or "I want to get rid of 40 more pounds" or that I am working twoard a healthier weight.That's what works for me. - 1/2/2009   12:41:53 AM
  • 69
    I wrote all my 09 goals in "I will"statements. I am hoping that will help! :) - 1/2/2009   12:36:44 AM
  • 68
    This is awesome!!! I have not made my New Years resolutions yet (although I've been thinking about them all week long), so when I make them I will definitely try this! - 1/2/2009   12:35:48 AM
    it is definately hard to keep my weight steady after I lost a bit
    thanks for the advice - 1/2/2009   12:08:35 AM
  • 66
    Great advice, thanks :) - 1/1/2009   10:11:28 PM
  • 65
    Thank you so much; while reading this blog I was taking notes to use this year. I have deemed 2009 as the year that I reach my goals for a healthier lifestyle. I know your tips will be a great help. Happy New Year! - 1/1/2009   9:32:21 PM
  • 64
    Oh thank you Dean! Such a simple way to focus I had not realized I fell out of the
    negative tree! Now I will go off & find a positive tree to place my self in!!!! - 1/1/2009   9:16:53 PM
  • 63
    I going to rewrite my goals more positively - 1/1/2009   9:12:13 PM
  • 62
    Thanks - I'm really looking forward to reading the other 9. I've been putting off goal setting & reading this makes me realize I've been avoiding it because I didn't want to set up another "restrictive" program. I'm definitely going to state my goals & steps to achieve them in positive terms. Happy New Year! - 1/1/2009   8:51:41 PM
    Thanks for your thoughts - 1/1/2009   8:44:12 PM

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