Weight loss journeys aren’t easy.
No matter how prepared and motivated you are to hit your goal, there will always be life events that take you by surprise and challenge you.
Maybe the kids are at home right now and you’re trying to homeschool them while also trying to hit your work deadlines. Maybe you’re struggling to find the ingredients to your go-to meals. Or maybe you’ve been reaching for snacks more regularly because you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
Whatever the reason, know that this is normal.
We spoke with Accredited Practising Dietitian Pennie McCoy for practical strategies you can implement to help you stay motivated and keep seeing results.
To start any journey, you need to have a vision of what you want to achieve. Is there a dress or a pair of trousers you want to fit into? Are you hoping to improve your blood pressure so that you don’t need to take medication?
Whatever your vision is, make it specific and note down the reasons why it is important to you.
“Write it all down on a piece of paper,” says Pennie. “You need to be really clear on what it is you want to achieve, and you need to have a strong, clear focus on why it is important to you without comparing yourself to anyone else.”
“You can have health professionals, you can have your doctor, you can have your dietician telling you what you should be doing and what goals you should be achieving, but fundamentally, unless you really want to make the changes, it is really hard to stay motivated.”
Once you have your vision mapped out, Pennie suggests making weekly SMART goals to hold yourself accountable and keep your motivation levels high.
"SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals that you set yourself,” explains Pennie. “So rather than just saying ‘I’m going to go for a walk a couple of times a week’ you would say ‘I’m going to walk three times this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and I’m going to walk for 30 minutes and this is the route I’m going to walk’."
"The goal you have created is specific, it is measurable and it is realistic. You haven’t set yourself a marathon to do everyday and you’re not trying to get out every single day, you’re just trying to do what you can with the time you have.”
Each week, set yourself a goal for food and nutrition, a goal for exercise and movement, a goal for lifestyle and a goal for sleep and stress management. These don't have to be huge goals, they are simply there to provide you structure and move you closer to that vision you created.
Then at the end of the week, look at the goals you set and ask yourself how they went. Did you achieve them? Were they realistic? Or do you need to adjust them because your expectations were a little too high for this week?
“I would call hitting your SMART goals non-scale successes or non-scale victories. You might use the scales to keep monitoring yourself every week and to check in on your weight, but really measure your success by these goals that you are hitting.”
One of the hardest hits to motivation in a weight loss journey is when your weight plateaus or increases.
If this happens, don't give up - mix it up.
Pennie suggests looking at where you have room to move. Are you tracking and weighing your food? Are your portion sizes on target? Can you increase your exercise or mix up the type of exercise you are doing?
"It might be trying to find some strategies to increase your exercise, like doing 3 or 4 small workouts over the day, or making sure you have a balance of cardio and resistance exercise over the week," she says.
"Use the planning and goal setting strategy to look at what’s working and what isn’t working and use the tracker to monitor your progress. If you haven't been weighing and tracking your food, set a SMART goal to weigh three of your meals this week to see if they're on target."
Many of our members have a specific weight goal in mind when they start our program and while this is great, if you are struggling to stay motivated right now, Pennie suggests adjusting your vision and shifting your focus from weight loss to weight maintenance.
"Back in January, you might have set expectations to hit a weight loss target of half a kilo to a kilo a week for the next 12 weeks,” she says. “And you might have been doing really well so far with achieving those targets. But with our world currently changing, you have to readjust and work out what is important and achievable right now."
“Be flexible with yourself and your expectations and adjust your goals. Make health and wellbeing the key focus for you at the moment regardless of what happens with your weight.”