More and more I've come to realize that motivation is great, but it's also short-lived. Most of us know what we need to do in order to get into better shape - eat better and move more. But billions of dollars are being spent by millions of people every year to try and find something to get them into better shape. Gadgets, pills, exercise programs, foods, and fads galore. They all cater to that initial motivation when someone becomes discontent with their life and decides that they need to do something about it.
So everyone wants something that will help them lose weight quickly, and the industry is only too happy to oblige by offering quick solutions. And that's because everyone knows that the initial motivation runs thin after a few weeks, peters out, and typically dies when people don't see those rapid results.
I've learned over the past few years that you can't rely on motivation to carry you through. Every day is different, some days you'll feel more motivated than others. If you leave it up to momentary inspiration you'll flat out fail. Don't get me wrong, motivation has an important role in the process.
The typical weight loss cycle as I see it is:
Then the process begins again, along with a dose of self-doubt and discouragement that make it even harder to see any positive results. Perhaps that doesn't describe you, but it does describe many people I've seen, and it did describe me.
The problem I see is, once the motivation wanes, it is almost impossible to rely on willpower. If you leave it up to motivation, then you'll do well on days you feel motivated and terribly on days you don't. And most people don't have motivation that is constant and consistent over the period of time that it takes to see real results. So if you can't rely on motivation, how can anyone succeed?
In my own case, I found the answer in routine. I used my motivation to "wake up" and find a solution, but then while I was still motivated I began to make changes to my daily routine. I oriented my whole life around it, because I knew without my health I had no quality of life. So I started to get up at 5:30am and do an hour of exercise every morning. I put some serious planning into how I should eat. And I didn't just plan, I executed. I threw all of the bad food out and surrounded myself with good food. I planned what I would have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and ensured that I had the food on hand. I did all of that during my "motivation" or honeymoon period while I was still fired up about becoming more healthy.
Because yes, the motivation did wane, and yes, the results did come slower than I wanted. But when the motivation ran out, my whole daily routine had changed. I had developed new habits that carried me through. I didn't have to ask myself "when will I work out today?" or "what should I have for lunch?" because I had boiled everything down to a routine. To the extent that if I didn't do the routine, I felt uncomfortable. I worked on building up what I later called my "Fortress of Fitness" - a bunch of habits that reinforced each other, so that it would be really hard for me to cheat.
So your mileage will vary, but my recommendation is to pounce on your motivational period with a death-grip and use it to establish new healthy routines, ones that you can live with indefinitely (not fads), so that when the motivation ends, you have a more powerful fallback. And once you see some results, motivation does tend to come back in waves along the way. Which you can welcome and use again to make more changes, but again not rely on it to carry you through to the end.
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