Establish a System of Internal and External Rewards
Internal rewards are ones that involve only you and what makes you happy. Be careful not to go off the deep end here, though; especially if your heart’s greatest joy is ice cream (I know mine is). Try to find ways to celebrate that don’t involve undoing the work you’ve put in all week.
I highly recommend professional massage therapy after you’ve been faithful to your plan. You and your budget will determine how often it’s appropriate to reward yourself this way.
External rewards involve something outside of you. Here’s an example. When I worked at our local children’s hospital, every week I met my workout goal I would go to the gift shop and buy a balloon or small gift for one of the kids in the cancer unit.
Those kids are there through birthdays, holidays, and sunny days made for play but they can’t go home and some of them can’t even go outside. Not to mention the hardship they have to endure of fighting for their young lives every day.
I would stop at the nurse’s station to find out which kid was having a particularly hard time and pick out something appropriate for their age and gender. The joy on their faces and the way they lit up when they got a gift from a total stranger was enough to motivate me to stick to my plan. I knew someone else was counting on me to meet my goal even though they had no clue.
Find your own way to tie your progress to doing something good for someone else. You will reap rewards that go a lot deeper than how great you look in your “skinny jeans.”
Track Your Progress
If you like to write, keep a journal. If you’re a compulsive planner, make notes in your calendar or Blackberry. If seeing is believing for you, take photos along the way. Do whatever is going to stimulate you to keep your weight loss train moving.
Do not weigh yourself more often than once per week. When you’ve been busting your tail in the gym, there is nothing more discouraging than stepping on that scale and seeing that you’ve only lost one pound! You should only be expecting to lose one to two pounds per week but you can fluctuate several pounds in a day.
If you know a wrestler or boxer, they could probably tell you a lot of stories about playing the scale game. Judge your progress by how well your clothes fit and how well you stick to your plan.
Body fat is more closely related to how well your clothes fit and how healthy you are than is your weight. Consider having your body fat tested before you start losing weight so you can more accurately evaluate your progress. After all, if you’re doing strength training, you will be adding weight in the form of calorie-burning, metabolism-boosting muscle. This is happening at the same time you’re dropping fat. The problem is that the scale doesn’t know the difference so it may look like you’re not making progress when you are.
Leave Room for Adjustments
Remember to continue adjusting your plan along the way. This is one of the reasons you need to work with a team of health professionals. Your dietitian will need to adjust your calories for your level of activity and according to your progress. Your personal trainer can progress your workouts according to your new strength and level of endurance.Making adjustments with your dietician and personal trainer will keep the pounds falling off and keep you from getting hungry and bored.
The next time you visit your doctor, you may happily discover that your medication needs have changed due to your lower weight and increased fitness level. Diet and exercise do a lot to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and stress. Other pleasant surprises you may encounter are better sleep at night and improved mood during the day. Taking care of yourself through healthy lifestyle changes adds whole new dimensions to your quality of life.
The Possibilities are Endless
Take a moment to imagine how much more motivated you will feel to continue your healthy lifestyle changes when you’re able to:
- drop a dress or pants size
- see before and after photos that show your success
- reduce or eliminate your dependency on medication
- reduce your stress and increase your energy level
- lift more weight
- sleep better at night
- do longer cardio sessions
- make a positive impact on the lives of loved ones and strangers
Are you feeling more motivated already? Keep up the good work!