Motivation Articles

5 Mind Games You Need to Stop Playing

These Common Tricks Never Motivate--Find Out Why

Motivation is like cold hard cash: You can never have too much! And when you’re trying to lose weight (for the umpteenth time for many of us) you know that you need a wealth of motivational strategies you can count on. But, with so many motivational tips and tricks to sift through, why are we so often losing our motivation rather than reaping the rewards?
One reason is that some of the most popular motivation strategies people use are mind games—games that don't really work for the long term. At first glance, they all seem helpful, but most are actually bound to fail. Instead of playing Russian roulette when you’re choosing a weight-loss strategy, read on to find out how you can beat the odds and pick a winner.
Mind Game #1:  Going for the Gold
You have your perfect weight and pants size in mind. With a big, bold goal to aspire to, you start biking to work, cooking lighter, packing your lunch, skipping that morning latte, and taking the stairs. Then, three busy, butt-busting weeks later…the scale hasn’t really budged and you’re trying on the same size in the dressing room. Deflated, you start snacking a bit here and slacking a bit there, and your dream of a whittled waistline slowly fades from view.
Motivation Makeover: Going for the gold is a great way to start your weight-loss plan; setting a long-term goal can help you to keep an eye on where you’re headed. But it’s also important to remember that your goal weight is far from the only benefit of incorporating healthy eating and exercise—and it could be a long ways off. Taking note of smaller, more subtle changes (more energy, better sleep, lower cholesterol, better mood, etc.) can help you stay motivated, even if the pounds aren’t coming off as quickly as you’d hoped. Setting some shorter-term goals (1 pound, 5 pounds)—especially ones that aren't based on the scale (like getting to the gym 5 days a week) can also help you stay on track.
Mind Game #2:  Starting Out Super Strong
It’s Sunday evening and you realize that you spent the weekend indulging on brews, barbeques, and binges. A twinge of guilt has you psyched to start speeding down the road to wellness first thing Monday. So you restock your pantry with healthy eats, download a hardcore training app to your phone, and plan out the next month's food and workouts. You figure that going full throttle is the way to reach your weight-loss goals as quickly as possible. And why not? You're excited for it! But two weeks into your overhaul, your muscles are so sore you have trouble rolling out of bed, you’re sick of salads and you’re already thinking about throwing in the towel.
Motivation Makeover: Maintaining motivation is like running a marathon. Instead of starting at full speed and running out of steam, it is better to focus on simply putting one foot in front of the other. Set small, achievable goals so that you can build momentum and feel successful in the beginning, and pat yourself on the back when you conquer each one. No matter how long it takes to reach the finish line, you’ll be reaping the rewards for years to come. Continued ›
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About The Author

Megan Coatley Megan Coatley
Megan is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a masterís degree in applied behavior analysis from Western Michigan University. As a health and wellness coach, she combines her passion for nutrition and fitness with her professional talents to help others creative positive, lasting change and live healthier lives.

Member Comments

  • I got a lot out of this article, but the business writer in me had to take a minute to say that the phrase "snacking a bit here and slacking a bit there" actually made me gasp. NICE wordplay. You should be writing poetry. Or something that pays better than poetry, like rap. - 10/1/2015 3:55:41 PM
    My nutritionist did massive deprogramming on me, much of which is in this article. A lot of which is not. I am not to know my weight and I gave my scale to my nutritionist. It was the right thing to do. If I was up in weight, I would get depressed and eat. If I was losing lots of weight, at some point I would panic and binge. I am no longer controlled by that viscous rollercoaster..

    Without a scale, I had to have new motivators and they are simple and not stressful. Things like work out at least 4 times per week, chase the grandbabies around about least twice a week, have a day of rest or a different adventure about once a week.

    Being tied to my weight, which is regulated by hormones anyway, drove me crazy. Once I no longer watched my weight every day or multiple times a day, released me from that prison. Also, I do not take measurements or at least I avoid them unless I have to get fitted for something.

    All I need to know is that I am headed in the right direction and I can tell through my clothes that I am on my way to my target and it is when it is time to drop to another size, which is very exciting.

    This whole scheme has released me from the chains of diet and weight control. I focus on fitness and healthy eating, but I don't restrict what I can eat (although I don't reach for junk food by choice) nor do I count calories anymore. I do track grams of protein though. I need to because I am a true hypoglycemic. That's all I count though.

    Say I'm crazy and nuts for buying into this because that's how I felt for the first few months, but now that I am on the other side, I cannot believe how much it controlled every waking minute of my day. I way prefer this freedom. I way prefer being normal.

    - 9/6/2015 11:33:22 AM
  • Thank you for a great article! - 5/30/2015 9:08:01 PM
  • Thanks for great tips! - 5/19/2015 8:43:10 AM
  • Weighing in almost every day is a must for me. Catching an upward trend when it's just beginning is the best way to reverse it. - 5/15/2015 1:24:58 AM
  • WYATT18
    Great article! - 5/12/2015 6:10:54 PM
  • I like the stuff I find on Spark People - I am getting "re-ignited" here - at 80 years of age some of your spark gets up and wanders off - I love you sparky people - my motivation will perhaps improve. - 5/12/2015 5:54:43 AM
  • All great advice! Thank you! - 5/12/2015 4:19:45 AM
  • I agree with the last 2 comments. In year 6 of maintenance there is NO WAY I will put the scale away. If I'm on a path to the dreaded regain I want to know quickly and not wait until I reach double digits.
    Fluctuation means up AND down. If the trend if only UP, I must reevaluate what I'm doing. If I weigh only occasionally and it happens to fall on one of those up days, that would be discouraging. Daily weight gives me the data I need so I don't worry about one fluke weight in.

    There are too many yo-yo stories out there. NSVs are great and important, but in the end I want that scale number to stay right where it is right now. - 5/2/2015 3:28:47 PM
  • Whether or how often to weigh is an intensely personal choice. I weigh myself every day, not because I have an obsession with the numbers or because I believe a number will make me a different person, but because I can see progress trends much more clearly with lots of data than with just a few points. Having daily weights smooths out the normal peaks and valleys we experience and allows a real trend line to prove that I'm continuing down the right path. I'm nearly 90 pounds lighter, fit, VERY happy (always have been) and healthy so I'm confident that my plan is working. Only YOU know whether frequent weighing is helping or hindering your efforts and achievements. - 5/1/2015 1:07:43 PM
  • I get weighed every day. Many very successful maintainers get weighed every day. You can run half marathons and not lose any weight. - 5/1/2015 6:44:06 AM
    Very good article, especially number 5. It's SO easy to get sucked into weighing yourself that it can get obsessive. Now, I weigh myself every 3 or 4 days (a couple of times a week) and I can see progress. It's also very true that setting goals are the best way to get to where you want to be. So, when I go swimming, I try to swim further and for a longer time on each visit. When I swim I find that I am very hungry. My advice is NOT to eat after swimming, it's easy to overeat and destroy all the good you achieved piling on the lengths. Instead of eating, drink plenty of water and have a very light snack. I eat a few almonds and wait until dinner to eat again. - 3/3/2015 10:41:10 AM
  • #1 and #2 are definitely ME. This is quite my attitude in most things, not just dieting etc. And I know all too well how useless this attitude is, when it comes to losing weight for example. Changing it is difficult... but I need to do it! Thanks for the inspiring article! - 1/31/2015 2:57:59 PM
  • What can I say but WOW to this article!!! Thank you for tapping into my mind with this one. I'm seriously Motivated by this article. Again Thank you! - 1/14/2015 5:06:35 PM
  • Thanks a lot for this inspiring article, I am now aware that I make most of these mistakes and will work to avoid them! - 8/31/2014 8:23:03 AM

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