Motivation Articles

5 Mind Games You Need to Stop Playing

These Common Tricks Never Motivate--Find Out Why

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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.
 
Mind Game #3:  Taking the Road Less Traveled
There will always be a new diet or exercise program that promise fast progress and fantastic results. Reading about the latest food fad or watching a perky personal trainer push sweat-drenched clients through an infomercial workout can definitely spark your motivation. Who wouldn’t want to try an effective 4-minute workout or slim down fast with a celebrity-backed diet supplement? Deep down, we all know the truth: People are getting paid for those advertisements and whatever motivation you’ve mustered up during the commercial break will fade fast if you don’t get those "as seen on TV" results that were so motivating to you. Trying every new fad that comes on the market may leave you broke and brokenhearted.
 
Motivation Makeover: If you want a plan that works long term, stick with the tried and true. Keep your eating close to the earth with whole fruits, veggies, grains and lean meats. Get up and moving with whatever activity suits your style and schedule. Remind yourself that following through with real nutrition and fitness habits is a process: It takes the proper planning and commitment that can’t be found in a book, a box or a bottle.
 
Mind Game #4:  Flying Under the Radar
You’re already feeling self-conscious about losing weight, so you certainly don’t want your friends and family making more of a fuss. Besides, you’re confident that you can do this all on your own! So what if your plan to be stealth has you skipping out on lunch with friends and sneaking veggies to parties in your purse? Going it alone may seem like a good idea, but it is actually counterproductive. Soon enough, you’ll be feeling lonely and left out, and that’s no way to maintain success in the long run.
 
Motivation Makeover: Call in the recruits! Whether it’s a neighbor down the street, a fellow play group parent or a Facebook friend, get someone to join you on your weight-loss journey. Studies in behavior science show that changes that you make in the public eye have a much better chance of sticking in the real world. Plus, sharing your weight-loss goals with friends opens you up for great personal payouts like counsel, camaraderie, and accountability from the people who know you best. SparkPeople Community, anyone?
 
Mind Game #5:  Staring Down the Scale
There’s a scale in your bathroom and one next to your treadmill. You check in twice a day and diligently track your weight on a chart on the fridge. Still, even though you’re eating well and exercising, some days the numbers just don’t show it! Seeing real, objective results can be super motivating but being tethered to the scale often becomes a burden. Even though you know that body weight fluctuates throughout each day and hydration (or lack thereof) is usually responsible, unpredictable digits can be deceiving and downright disheartening. If you find yourself frowning at your feet during morning weigh-ins, then your scale is likely sapping your mojo.
 
Motivation Makeover: Stick that scale in the closet and find inspiration in other numbers (besides your weight). Track specific behaviors to gauge your progress; how many push-ups you can do in a minute, how many miles you walk or bike each week, how many flights of stairs you take each day at work. Keep tabs on a variety of positive results and you won’t be left wanting for fitness focus.
 
 
Making use of motivational mind games can really boost your fitness morale. But sometimes, techniques that seem perfectly logical can end up leading you astray. Mastering your own motivation doesn’t have to be a crap shoot. Bet on the time-tested strategies above to get your mind right and you’ll be sure to cash in on long-term wellness!

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Member Comments

  • Very good article. I like to weigh myself daily for accountability!
  • I have mixed feelings about #4 I am very willing to share with spark friends but IRL I keep it to myself other than the hubs.
  • I'm glad to see it in writing here. I cannot deal with a scale. I look at how I feel and inches lost. But I still only measure myself once a month. The rest of the time, I am calculating what good I am doing for my health and how this makes me a better grandma, mother, teacher, and friend.
  • #2 really helped me. Realized it didn't matter how long it took because what I was doing to lose weight was what I'd be doing for life.
  • I'd disagree with "flying under the radar" and seeking accountability outside of yourself and the scale: if you need external validation and are incapable of being accountable to yourself, your chances of long-term success are probably pretty slim.
    At the end of the day, is there really anyone besides you who gives a toss how your pants fit or how you feel? Barring extreme morbid obesity that becomes a handicap and renders you immobile, is there realistically anyone besides you who will have to deal with the consequenses of your poor choices?
  • Nice article. For me, I've learned, the best motivator is setting myself up for the best health possible.
  • What a great article! I use the scale and try not to let it rule me. It is hard. I tell myself that it is ok to be blank number on the scale and that I will not panic. Then I weight myself and track it. I'm learning the subtle differences that can make my weight go up or down a pound or two. I strongly believe everyone is unique and has to find their own best strategies for weight loss and motivation. One of my best strategies has been tracking on SP.
  • 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.
  • KEEPTHINKING
    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.

  • Thank you for a great article!
  • Thanks for great tips!
  • 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.
  • WYATT18
  • 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.

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.

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