There comes a time in your weight-loss journey when you'll waver. It happens to the best of us: sticking to any kind of health and fitness regimen requires a whole lot of energy, motivation, and time, and there's no shame in falling off the wagon (even if you do so in spectacular fashion). Most weight-loss journeys are not linear, and allowing yourself the flexibility to loosen up occasionally is key to sticking to your goals long term. Whether you're on holiday, heading to a big event, or just in need of a break from all the weighing, counting, and planning, a few days of indulgence cannot undo months of hard work. But it is important that a short pause doesn't become a slow spiral back into long-term bad habits. To help you get back on that wagon and boost your motivation, here are a few things you can do. And yes, I definitely speak from experience!
1. Focus on one thing, and one thing only
Many weight-loss plans fail because we try to do everything at once. As much as we all know the mantra "this is a marathon, not a sprint" there's always a desire to get it done as quickly as possible by going at it full throttle: food, drink, exercise, the lot! If this level of dedication has worn you down, loosen up and give yourself a break. Instead of trying to adjust your entire life, focus on one thing; stick to an exercise regimen but be flexible about food, or reduce your gym trips and give yourself more time to prepare healthy meals you actually enjoy. Build back up to a stricter plan if you need to, but still allow yourself a life, or you'll only get resentful.
2. Take a Week Off
If you're beginning to feel a bit disenchanted with your plan, especially when it comes to food, don't be afraid to have a weekend (or even a whole week) off. Unless you know that you have problems when it comes to binge-eating, there's only so much damage a few days can do. Eat the pizza, drink the wine, skip the gym, and press the reset button. Chances are you won't enjoy any of it as much as you expected to, but it will hopefully get it out of your system. The key is to set a strict end date to any overindulgence, and to avoid anything you know causes massive cravings down the line (especially sugar). Even if you step on the scales afterwards to find you haven't gained weight, don't think you can get away with doing this every weekend; it's better as a one-off.
3. Go Back to Rigorous Tracking
Has your weight-loss stalled, and is this the reason for your loss of mojo? If you're following any kind of plan that requires you to track your food intake (Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Calorie Counting, Macros etc.) it may be time for a reality check. The more you follow a plan like this, the more you tend to loosen up when it comes to tracking. Often you won't even realise you're doing it, but simple things can tip the scales in the wrong direction. Stop guesstimating portions instead of weighing them, don't forget to log the little bites or treats you sneak during the day, and don't underestimate your alcohol measures if you drink. On their own these things are tiny, but they add up over the course of a week, and can easily cause a plateau. Before you lose faith in whatever system you use, ensure you're really following it correctly.
4. Switch Up Your Exercise Routine
When it comes to exercise, variation is key. We all have our favourite exercises (hello, elliptical) and so long as you're increasing the difficulty or length of your workouts as you get stronger, there's no problem in having a go-to. But adding in strength training, more varied workouts or activities like swimming, cycling, or hiking — will help avoid boredom and sculpt your body in new ways. If you're not exercising at all, start today!
5. Set an Interim Goal
If you're aiming to lose a lot of weight, your goal can seem impossibly far away sometimes, and this can often lead to disillusionment when things don't move as fast as you'd like. Set yourself interim goals so you have something to work towards in the short term. They could be based around a specific number ("I vow to lose 1 pound a week for the next 4 weeks") or based around upcoming events, like holidays, weddings, parties, or anniversaries. Keep these goals truly obtainable: if you keep setting yourself more and more unachievable goals you'll just exacerbate the issue. It helps to make yourself accountable for these, whether that means telling a few people what you're doing and asking them to check up on your progress, or using an app or tracker to track progress. If you're a bit of a gambler, you could even put money on it, through a service like DietBet, but only do this if you're truly willing to lose the money if something goes wrong.
6. Find a Clothing Incentive
A lot of people use a specific size or item of clothing as motivation for weight loss. If that works for you, go out and buy those jeans or order that bikini! But be cautious. This works best for people who are aiming to lose a relatively small amount of weight. If you're looking to lose more than 10 or 15 pounds, buying "goal clothes" in the early days is likely to be the opposite of motivating. I'm not a fan of buying clothes that don't fit and trying to exercise or diet my way into them (I would much rather buy something that fits me now, like a really cool exercise kit that gets me off the sofa and into the gym). However, what has worked for me in the past is going through my wardrobe and finding clothes from the past that no longer fit. Getting back into them again is like getting a whole new wardrobe for free, and I know it's an obtainable goal because I did it before.
7. Change Things Up Entirely
Sometimes, when you're feeling really grumpy about the whole endeavour, you just need to change your plan completely for a bit. The one you're following might be working, but if it's making you miserable, change it for a bit and try something new. Tough love is often a good way to reset your motivation: rather than looking for an easier program, take on a difficult challenge like the Whole 30, which can be beneficial for a number of reasons beyond weight loss. After doing that, your old regimen will feel like the easiest thing ever, and if you choose to return to it, you'll be able to do so with gusto!
8. Don't Be So Hard on Yourself
This is the real key. It's OK that your motivation goes up and down. It's fine if you gain weight one month. It's OK if you just can't bring yourself to get back on the wagon immediately. Take some time out for yourself and do something that's not related to your weight, but will make you feel great. Book a massage, get a haircut, take a class in something interesting, volunteer for a charity you care strongly about . . . self care is key to getting you back to a point where you're ready to continue your journey.