12 Ways to Stay Motivated When You Have a Lot of Weight to Lose

Updated on April 5, 2018
letstalkabouteduc profile image

After struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life, I'm now dedicated to becoming a stronger person who lives life to the fullest.

Losing Weight Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

If you have a lot of weight to drop, like I did, you're likely to lose motivation along the way.

People will say, “It took you a long time to put on the weight so, it will take you a long time to take it off.” While that's certainly true, it's not at all inspiring. In fact, it's downright discouraging as you look ahead to a future of restricting your food intake, calculating your calorie input, and squeezing exercise into your already jam-packed schedule.

No wonder so many of us quit!

Staying motivated during your weight-loss journey is essential. We all have busy lives that sidetrack us from reaching our goal.
Staying motivated during your weight-loss journey is essential. We all have busy lives that sidetrack us from reaching our goal. | Source

12 Ways to Stay Motivated to Lose Weight

  1. Start moving.
  2. Drink lots of water.
  3. Reward yourself without food.
  4. Create an inspiration board.
  5. Minimize time with "foodie" friends.
  6. Get enough sleep.
  7. Find a weight-loss and exercise buddy.
  8. Keep a journal.
  9. Set other goals besides weight loss.
  10. Buy workout clothes.
  11. Figure out why you gained weight in the first place.
  12. Do nice things for yourself.

Embrace New Ways of Living (and Thinking) so the Weight Loss Becomes Permanent

For me, quitting was not an option because I was at a crisis point in my life. I needed to get the weight off for health reasons, not just vanity. I was no longer a teenager who believed the ads that claimed I could lose 15 pounds in two weeks. I knew I had a long road ahead of me to lose the weight and then a life-long challenge to keep it off.

The discipline I showed during my weight-loss journey would need to become a permanent part of my life and, for the first time ever, I became fully cognizant of that fact and embraced it. I could never return to my old ways.

With food no longer a major player in my life—no longer my comfort when I was sad, my pick-me-up when I was tired, my hobby when I was bored—I needed to fill myself up in other ways. I needed new tools for staying motivated during my weight-loss journey and beyond. Without them, I knew the weight would creep back on just like it had in the past.

Here are 12 ways I stayed motivated while losing weight.

1. Start Moving

I had gained so much weight that going to the gym to run on a treadmill or take a fitness class was out of the question. I needed to get in better shape to do those things. So I did what I could: lots of walking.

Whenever I had a break in my day—before work, during my lunch hour, while my son was at swim practice—I walked. I downloaded my favorite podcasts to my iPod and listened to them as I went. Soon, walking became my favorite part of the day.

2. Drink Lots of Water

In the past, losing weight was always difficult for me because I focused on the negative—what not to do (eat).

This time around I focused on the positive—what to do (exercise, write in my journal, eat fruits and vegetables, meditate).

Drinking lots of water was high on that list. Studies show that most have us don't get enough liquids and become dehydrated. This leads to a loss of energy, making us tired, unfocused, and unmotivated. But, let's face it: Drinking lots of water throughout the day gets tedious. To make it more pleasant, I started to add slices of lemon to my water or drops of flavor such as Mio.

The starting point of all achievement is desire.

— Napolean Hill

3. Reward Yourself Without Food

For as long as I can remember, I used treats as a reward for doing unpleasant tasks. I finished my homework, I got a bowl of ice cream. I passed an exam, I got to order a pizza. I stayed up late finishing a work assignment, I got to eat cookies.

I needed to change this life-long habit by rewarding myself in new ways that didn't involve eating. I sat down and made a long list that included things such as:

  • getting a manicure
  • having a massage
  • taking a walk in the woods
  • having a cup of tea
  • taking a long bath
  • reading a novel
  • watching a favorite TV show
  • playing Scrabble with my husband

When I did something hard, I reviewed my list and chose an item to reward myself. I had never learned to take care of myself in ways other than eating, so this was new, different, and key to my success.


Food had always been my go-to reward. I had to think hard about other rewards that could keep me motivated other than eating.
Food had always been my go-to reward. I had to think hard about other rewards that could keep me motivated other than eating. | Source

4. Create an Inspiration Board

Food is all around us as an immediate source of pleasure. I needed to counteract that, so I made an inspiration board. It included photos I cut out from magazines of things I wanted to do when I got thinner: someone climbing a mountain, a couple walking on the beach in swimsuits, a woman taking a ballroom dance class. It reminded me of all the things I'd given up because of my weight that I was now ready to recapture.

5. Minimize Time With "Foodie" Friends

Over the years, I acquired some friends who were not supportive when I struggled to lose weight. Our relationship was based on going out to eat, and little else. When I was around them, I fell into bad habits—overeating, ordering dessert, drinking alcohol, and sitting on my butt for long periods.

When I suggested we get together to walk instead of to eat, they flatly rejected the idea. So I wisely minimized contact with them. I needed people in my life who were rooting for me, not sabotaging me. I began making friends with people who loved to walk, hike, and do yoga. I looked for more people who inspired me.

6. Get Enough Sleep

With our hectic lives, it's tempting to cut back on sleep. But don't do it! We need a minimum of eight hours so our bodies can recover and get energized for a new day.

I turned my bedroom into a sanctuary where I could escape from my work world—no TV, no computer, and no cell phone. I bought some blackout shades to make the room darker, maximizing my deep sleep. I also purchased more pillows and a cozy comforter for my bed and decorated the room with houseplants. I used sleep to my advantage and stopped seeing it as a waste of time.

Your Weight-Loss Journey

When you're trying to lose weight, do you stay motivated by:

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7. Find a Weight-Loss and Exercise Buddy

Who doesn't know someone who's trying to lose weight, exercise more, or get healthier? Ask this person to become your partner in achieving your goals. Studies show that we're more likely to stick with a plan when we verbalize it to others and work toward it with a friend.

I chose someone who didn't need to lose weight but who wanted to get fit after years of being sedentary. We made a plan to walk together before work three days a week. There were many mornings when I didn't want to do it because it was too cold, too dark, or too early. But knowing I had to meet her at a specific time always kept me accountable for showing up.

When you have a lot of weight to lose, you need to make it fun and an exercise buddy can help. She'll keep you on track even when you want to give up.
When you have a lot of weight to lose, you need to make it fun and an exercise buddy can help. She'll keep you on track even when you want to give up. | Source

8. Keep a Journal

Throughout my life, I've tried weight-loss plans where you keep a daily journal of what you eat. While I always lost weight on those plans, it always came back...plus some. I realized that my overall goal in life was to think less about food, not more. Writing down everything I consumed just made me nutty and compulsive and it wasn't something I wanted to continue for the rest of my life.

I started to journal instead about my feelings and experiences losing weight, my successes and failures, and my good days and bad. After all these years, I knew my over-eating was more about emotions, not real hunger.

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out.

— Robert Collier

9. Set Other Goals Besides Weight Loss

Setting realistic goals is a terrific way to stay motivated. Since the scale is not a true measure of all your hard work, it's best to have goals other than weight loss. Otherwise, it gets discouraging when you hit a plateau and the pounds aren't coming off like they once were.

Some of my goals included fitting into a particular pair of pants, walking a certain distance, completing a rigorous hike, and going to a fitness class three days a week.

10. Buy Workout Clothes

Once I started to drop pounds, I bought some cute workout clothes: yoga pants, exercise bras, tank tops, and running shoes. I'd put them on when I got home from work, and they motivated me to jog on the treadmill, lift some weights, or take the dog for a walk. Wearing those clothes gave me a new persona —the jock—and I liked it!

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing - that’s why we recommend it daily.

— Zig Ziglar

11. Figure Out Why You Gained Weight in the First Place

This was a significant element that had always been missing in my previous weight-loss failures. The simple answer, of course, was that I ate too much and exercised too little. But it went much deeper than that. My weight gains through the years had to do with the depression and anxiety that I've struggled with since childhood. In fact, an anti-depressant I was prescribed led to a tremendous weight gain.

When I was fat, I had a convenient excuse to hide from the world and avoid the social interaction that I loathed. Understanding this was essential to me losing weight and keeping it off.

12. Do Nice Things for Yourself

It's crucial to do nice little things for yourself during your weight-loss journey. You're working hard and need to treat yourself with kindness, patience, and love.

Many of us who are overweight don't know how to treat ourselves well. That's why we eat too much junk and don't take time to exercise. We need to get stronger and advocate for what we need without feeling guilty.

While some people may think we're fat because we're lazy, that's probably not the case. We're often people-pleasers who put others before ourselves. Each day of my weight-loss journey I did something nice for myself: bought flowers at the market, sat down to eat a salad, took a nap, listened to music, played fetch with my dog—anything to show love and concern for me.

I Wanted to Put Food in Its Proper Place and This Book Helped Me Do It!

The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

This book is just what I needed to keep me motivated during my weight-loss journey. It has 100 scrumptious recipes that got me inspired about cooking and eating right. Best of all, it has real-life success stories that got me excited about reaching my goal. The authors talk about “food freedom” and that was exactly what I wanted. My journey was about so much more than losing weight. It was about finally putting food in its proper place and not letting it consume my life and thoughts.

 

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 McKenna Meyers

    Let Us Know About Your Weight-Loss Challenges and Success Strategies!

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      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        21 months ago from Bend, OR

        Right back at you, Bill!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        21 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Wishing you a Happy New Year!

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