Stay Motivated to Get Healthy: Part 1 – Set Small Goals.

image  Losing a bit of weight isn’t that difficult in the short term.  Just about anybody can adhere to a diet for a week or two and lose a few pounds.  Gyms make all their money on the huge percentage of people who purchase memberships, go for two weeks, and then never return.  We all know what it’s like to do something for a while and then give up.  It’s really hard to develop new habits, and when it comes to eating and exercise I think this is doubly true.  When you live a busy life it’s tough to eat right and find the time to exercise.  Unless you’ve grown up eating right you will likely have to work hard to change many of the bad habits you have related to food and activity.  So how do you keep going?

I don’t know how you keep going.  I can share what has kept me going so far, though.  February 2008 was about the time I got serious with my own health, and that was a year ago.  There have been a couple times over the course of that year where I slacked off a bit but overall I have been pretty consistent with my good health habits and they are becoming more and more internalized, and less and less of a struggle to maintain.

This is the first of a several-part series of short posts on staying motivated to become healthy.  I decided to split it into short posts because that increases the likelihood you’ll read them.  I am of course as always interested in hearing your thoughts on each of these posts, and also different ways you stay motivated.  Up first…

image1. Set Small Goals.  This is pretty basic stuff – but set small, attainable goals.  I weighed around 245 when I first got started.  My first goal was to get to 225 lbs.  Ultimately I knew I’d want to lose more weight than that, but even for a merciless cynic like myself setting a smaller goal was helpful.  If my first goal was 170 lbs it would be a long time before I could celebrate any kind of victory.  My current goal is to get down to 180, though I’m more focused on body fat than weight right now.  I’m going to lose weight slower this way but it’s fine.  It’s important to set goals in areas besides weight as well.

Set goals for whatever you want to change.  When you’re trying to change the way you eat, tell yourself you’ll eat that way 5 days a week, or 6, or whatever.  Instead of going from eating 5000 calories a day on Tuesday moving down to 2000 a day on Wednesday – ramp yourself down.  The goal needs to be meaningful to keep you motivated and help you see results, but it also needs to be attainable.  Do this with your days of exercise, the weights you lift, whatever.  When you succeed, set a new goal.  I am first to roll my eyes and say “shut up playing stupid tricks on yourself doesn’t work” but I know short terms goals help. 


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I set a short goal for me. I know what my short goal is, I just don't know how I plan on rewarding myself. I do know my final goal reward though, and that itself gives me something to look forward to.

Jackson said...

I thought about including a mention of "rewards" but decided against it, since I don't really use them. Like you mentioned, for me the achievement of the goal itself has been reward enough. Rewarding myself doesn't really motivate me. I'm not disciplined enough to "reward" myself with things for accomplishments. If I want something and I can afford it, I get it. Or if I want a piece of cheesecake I just have it and don't think in terms of rewarding myself.

I think if I think of something too much as a "reward" I forget what it is actually costing me (in terms of calories or dollars) and it's actually less helpful.

Nothing I could contrive would be as rewarding as seeing the change in myself and feeling stronger.