Making the commitment to start a healthier lifestyle journey can be a tough. We can often be afraid of failure, falling back into our old habits, or losing motivation along the way.
But remember that a lifestyle change journey is never linear. It's unlikely that we'll make 'perfect' choices and lose weight every day throughout the programme. As much as that sounds ideal, it's not realistic or sustainable. Some weeks we'll have more motivation than others, and that's ok.
Usually at the start of a healthy lifestyle change, we're really enthusiastic about trying new things. This is what some people refer to as 'the honeymoon phase'. However, a few weeks in, our motivation can start to dwindle - we're less enthused about getting out of bed to exercise on a cold morning and get more tempted by the calling of biscuits, chocolate, or a glass of wine.
This drop in motivation usually coincides with a decrease in our rate of weight loss. While this is completely normal and ensures our weight loss is sustainable in the long run, it can cause us to doubt what we're doing.
Why is this?
Our brain prefers the idea of a short term gain, rather than a long term goal. It likes processes that are easy and efficient. This is why it's so much easier to revert back to our old habits, rather than forming new ones, as these old habits are ingrained as neural pathways in our brain.
When we try to change a habit, it can feel uncomfortable and require a lot of brainpower. When maintaining new habits or behaviours, there'll always be the pull towards the old and the fear of the new. This is best represented in our 'Cherry Tree' visualisation, which you can find here.
However, with time, practice, and the right support, these new behaviours will turn into lasting habits. This means healthy choices become your new norm and healthy living is effortless.
To help you continue working towards your goals and get through these more challenging times, we've compiled a list of our top tips for maintaining motivation.
We'd also encourage you to talk to your health coach and group if you're struggling with motivation. Our health coaches are trained to provide guidance through these times and will have plenty of knowledge and resources to share!
Our top tips for motivation
1. Celebrate every small win
No matter how small the change, it's important to celebrate every milestone. While weight loss may be your overall goal, a change in habits or behaviour are more important if you want to optimise your health for the future.
We'd suggest writing down all the non-weight related changes you've made so far on the programme. Here are some examples:
- Checking food labels for added sugar
- Doing my three daily gratitudes
- Being able to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling out of breath
- Reducing my waist circumference by 2cm
- Trying new healthy foods and recipes that I now enjoy eating
- Eating my meals away from distractions, like the tv
- Reducing my caffeine intake to before midday
- Drinking 8 glasses of water a day
The list could go on! Keep your list easily accessible (perhaps on the kitchen fridge, your bathroom mirror, or in your wallet) so you can refer to this if you feel like you're not seeing results. You can also keep adding to this list as the programme goes on. All of these healthier changes are fantastic and worth celebrating!
Another idea is to keep a 'Success Jar'. Write down each healthy change you've made on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. Over time, these will start to build up! You can then go back and read these any time you need a motivation boost throughout the programme.
2. The three P's - practice, patience, and perseverance
Lifestyle change is a journey, not an event. We need to be continually learning and improving along the way.
In some ways, it's similar to learning to drive or learning a new musical instrument. These skills take a lot of dedication, time, and practice to feel confident. As much as we want to master them overnight, it's just not realistic to put these expectations on ourselves.
So many of us want to see short term results straight away. If we don't, we assume the plan isn't suited to us and we give up. If you're feeling this way, take a moment to reflect on previous times in your life when you've given up. How did you feel a few months later? Often we end up back in the same position as when we started.
This is why we emphasise the importance of breaking your goals down into smaller milestones. This can be helpful for both your weight loss goal and new habits that you're trying to form.
Rather than feeling like you need to change everything all at once, strip it back and focus on one thing at a time. This might mean for this week, you only focus on drinking 8 glasses of water each day. If you've achieved this by the end of the week - celebrate and be proud of yourself. Next week, increase the benchmark slightly. This might mean drinking 8 glasses of water each day and going for a 10min walk in the mornings. For more guidance on creating 'tiny habits', watch this TED talk here.
Yes, it might take longer with this approach, but it'll stop you from burning out and giving up if you start to feel overwhelmed. It also means you can feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement at the end of every week, which is important for maintaining your motivation.
Patience and persistence are so important to success. You'll find an inspiring TED talk here on the importance of patience.
Remember, all good things take time.
3. Believe in yourself
A lack of self belief can hold us back from achieving our goals. Interestingly, people who have positive expectations and feel confident in their ability to achieve their goals tend to lose more weight.
Developing self belief can be harder than it sounds, particularly if we have a voice in our head telling us we always fail when starting a new diet, or asking why this time should be any different.
However, we'd encourage you to try and leave the past in the past, and avoid comparing apples to oranges! Second Nature isn't like every other diet out there. We use scientific evidence and expert advice to ensure that lasting change isn't a pipe dream, but a reality. And we know it works. You can read the positive stories from many of our members here.
Try to see your Second Nature journey as an opportunity to learn and grow. Don't place expectations on yourself to be perfect all the time. Allow mistakes and use these as opportunities to prepare better for next time.
You can do this.
4. See slip ups as stepping stones to success, not failures
Lifestyle change is like a game of snakes and ladders. We can sometimes take two steps forward and one step back.
There'll always be occasions where we eat or drink more than we normally would or don't have the motivation to exercise. It's important to accept that this is ok and that these experiences are important stepping stones towards our goals.
For more advice on how to get back on track after a slip up, you can read our guide here.
5. Step away from the scales
It's easy to get caught up only thinking about short term results, such as the number on the scales each day, and we forget to think about the bigger picture. If we tracked our weight loss journey over a longer period of time, like 6 months rather than a week, we can see our progress much more clearly.
Our weight loss journey won't necessarily be a linear process. Instead, we'll experience periods of weight loss interspersed with periods of plateau. This is a realistic and sustainable way to lose weight.
We talk about weight loss fluctuations and the 'Set point theory' a lot throughout the programme.
Don't let the scales overshadow every other positive change you've made. Just because your weight doesn't always change, it doesn't mean your body shape and metabolic health isn't changing.
For alternative ways to measure your progress that aren't weight related, read our guide here.
6. Self sabotage
Sometimes we want something really badly, but our behaviour takes us in a completely opposite direction to achieving this. This is what we call 'self sabotage'.
The cause of self sabotage can vary from person to person, but it usually stems from the belief that you don't deserve success.
Some of us self sabotage in order to regain control over a situation. We predict a failure occurring in the future and sabotage early so the failure is on our own terms.
Emotional eating can be a common form of self sabotage. If this resonates with you, we'd recommend reading our guide here on how to overcome emotional eating.
We also cover emotional eating and exercises to increase self worth throughout the programme. We'd recommend speaking with your health coach in the group if this is something you'd like more advice on.
7. The influence of others
Having external support from friends and family can be really valuable when it comes to making lifestyle changes.
Unfortunately, not all of us receive this type of support from those around us. Instead, we might be experiencing peer pressure to eat or drink certain foods.
Learning to say 'no' politely is an important step when it comes to managing these external influences. Make sure you're consistent and confident in your responses. Over time, people will respect your decisions and stop pressuring you to eat certain foods.
Here are some ways you could politely decline:
- "Wow, that looks delicious, but I'm really full already. I'd love to have the recipe so I can make it at home another time."
- "Thank you for offering! I'm focusing on being mindful of my food choices and listening to my hunger cues. I'm really full already so I'll leave it for next time."
You can also use this as an opportunity to explain the Second Nature programme to friends and family in more detail, so they understand what you're working towards. Perhaps show them the app and a few of your favourite recipes!
If your friends and family aren't supportive or encouraging of your goals, don't let this dishearten you. Instead, use this as ammunition to keep powering on. Flip it and say 'I'll show them!'. Commit to proving them wrong.
The best is yet to come!
Almost everyone on the Second Nature programme will experience a dip in motivation at some point. But this doesn't mean you can't still be successful. The important thing is to ask for help when you need it, look at the bigger picture, and take things one day at a time.
Here's some advice from those who've completed the programme that they wish they'd had when starting:
- "Broaden what success looks and feels like for you... think about how you want to feel, what habits you want to change, what benefits do you want to see rather than just movement on the scales"
- "Make a habit of reading each and every article. Every day is a little piece of knowledge or motivation that really does help to keep you on the path to a better you"
- "Keep the faith and not get hung up on whether you lose weight or not. Trust that if you stick with the programme, it will happen sooner or later."
- "Don’t hold back. Immerse yourself in the programme. Do/try everything suggested! Plan shopping and meals and to prioritise mindfulness."
- "Don’'t focus so much on the scales. Before I started this that was my main aim but now I realise that my weight fluctuates so much during a week that it’s not worth feeling down when the scales haven’t shifted. I feel so much better now and have completely changed how I think about food. I naturally choose healthy foods as they make me feel good and that for me is such a huge change."
- "I would tell myself not to get too hung up by the fluctuation in weight loss. If you are following the programme, the weight does come off and you feel better. If you are weighing yourself often, as I have done, there are weight gains but overall there is great weight loss."
Article written by Jen Taylor, Registered Nutritionist and Second Nature Health Coach