(Image courtesy of Plan59)So this post is not so much for the folks who are just starting out trying to lose weight or live a healthy lifestyle. If you're in the initial stages of improving your eating and exercise habits, you may be facing lots of challenges--but Motivation probably isn't one of them yet. You're probably still pretty charged up.
But for those of us ol' timers who've been at it for a while: we do go through those inevitable cycles, don't we?
First it's all: Whoa, I'm so awesome, this is Really Working and I'm Making Progress! Right until: OK, I'm still On Track but Gosh this Sometimes all Seems Like a Huge Pain in the Ass, right on down to: Screw it, I Hate This! Hand Me that Freakin' Remote Control and a Carton of Ben and Jerry's Right this Minute or I'll Bonk You On the Head With my Exercise Ball!
Sometimes Re-Motivation happens spontaneously and naturally--something we see or hear or think triggers a subconscious shift in perspective. And all of a sudden we reconnect with why we're making all these icky sacrifices in the first place."Oh yeah, right, it's all worth it!" we exclaim. "Bring on the next challenge!"
But often we just drag our asses around for a while until we realize: Damn it, it's time to stop waiting for inspiration to strike. We're gonna have to Force It.
So here is the Cranky Fitness Dorky Reminder List, Complete with Bullet Points, on How To Forcibly Re-Motivate Yourself.
- Acknowledge that Re-Motivation is a Chore Itself and Plan Accordingly. It really helps to give yourself a break from some other "shoulds" and a big fat reward for tackling this. You're going to have to do some creative thinking; you're might have to do some research; you may need to buy something new or go to the library or visualize something or make any number of time-consuming but worthwhile investments in your future success. The time (and possibly money) you spend will pay off, but you may feel some resistance to Yet Another Chore. Persevere anyway, your long-term success is worth it!
- Do Some Detective Work. Try to become your own therapist (or use your actual therapist, if you have a good one). Often de-Motivation doesn't visit out of the blue; there may be some specific events or unhelpful thoughts lurking behind it.
Haul these trouble-making thoughts out into the light of day, and argue with them and berate them until you really do get it that they're wrong. (You may want to do this in your head, not out loud, unless you don't care whether people think you're a nutbasket). Some examples: "I've been really good lately, so I deserve to eat whatever I want for as long as I want until I happen to feel like being healthy again." Or, "I know deep down I'm a weak person and I'll never be successful at this anyway, so there's no reason to try so hard." Or, "My boyfriend seems to get grouchy when I'm exercising so regularly and watching what I eat, so I need to go back to the old way to make him feel better."
Other Detective ideas: Could you be suffering from depression generally and need to check into it? Have things in your life changed, yet you haven't changed anything to accommodate this? Have you been overdoing it like crazy and just need a few days off? Getting specific about what's wrong may give you a short cut as to how to fix it.
- Reconnect With Your Goals on an Emotional Level. You can read all the self-help ideas you want, but motivation requires emotional energy, not just intellectual activity. And so Feeling Re-Motivated sometimes requires you to Get Sappy! Rent your favorite underdog-struggles-to-overcome-the-odds movie, or watch the Biggest Loser, or get all Chicken-Soupy or whatever makes you Feel It. You are the Star in the Epic Struggle and Triumph of Your Own Life! You can Do it! Think of all the Hard Things you've done in the Past! You're capable of Amazing Things!
- Seek Social Support. Duh, right? But we tend to do this when we're all smug and happy and proud of ourselves, and pull back when we're feeling embarrassed and stalled and need support the most. So call a friend or leave a comment on a favorite blog or text or IM someone or whatever it is you young folks do to connect with each other these days.
- Get Ready to Do Something Different The most obvious Re-Motivation technique is to mix up your usual routine and do something different. Below will be a bunch of examples. However, change is hard and inertia is powerful. Just be aware of that and be prepared to bribe and reward yourself like crazy. Heap praise on yourself for planning, for scouting, for any little step you make. And break it down into little chunks.
Also, this is a good time to question perfectionism again. Often the reason we settle into a boring routine is that we've spent a lot of time figuring out the Best and most Perfect options. We know what gym equipment we like, the healthiest recipes, the prettiest running routes--we've tried other options and they're not nearly as good! Well, sometimes "different" beats "best," when you're sick of "best" and need variety. Lower your standards, and like magic, and all kinds of new options appear.
- A Few Random Ideas--You Can Think of Way Better Ones Yourself
- Download or buy a bunch of New Tunes to workout to. Or books on tape or whatever gets you going. Banish thoughts of "this sucks" before they drag you down because you won't be thinking, you'll be rockin' out or listening to find out what happens next.
- Go to a new more appealing place to run/walk/workout/swim even if it's farther away than normal and you have to use a car, bike, or bus to get there. Not forever, just every now and then to make it an event. Bonus if you arrange to meet someone there during or after so you can't back out.
- Watch other people exercising. Oddly enough this can be motivating whether they are (a) Buffed Gods and Goddesses or (b) Way Worse Off than You.
- New Recipes This might also include new cookware, new cookbooks, or new ingredients. Yes, there's a chance you might not use whatever it is all the time. (And this is NOT a good idea for people with compulsive shopping problems). But sometimes laziness or cost-consciousness can get us trapped into eating the same few things over and over then resorting to treats when we get bored. If a waffle-iron will keep the dang Krispy Kreme's out of the house, then buy a waffle iron!
- Pissing contest! No, not literally. But a contest or bet or dare or something can be very motivating for some people. Who can rack up a hundred new walking/running miles first? Or race your running partner for the last quarter mile of your route. Challenge your spouse to who can hold out longest on gratuitous junk food! First one to cave and open the bag of Tostitos does the dishes.
- Or raise the stakes further and enter an Official Race or Contest. (Note: a Hot Dog or Pie Eating Contest is NOT the sort of contest we're talking about).
- Cross-train. They always say to do this yet most people seem to find this completely unappealing. You've spent all this energy getting better at your favorite thing, how is taking on something different going to help? Well, all the experts say it does, plus it prevents over-use injuries. Bonus: it will give you not only a whole new set of goals and accomplishments to obsess over, but it may mean new outfits and equipment as well.
- Take a Class. A cooking class, an exercise class, a bird watching class, a dance class, whatever. Something that sounds intriguing but you've always been afraid you'll be bad at. Think of it as Amusing Material for your Blog or for cocktail parties.
- Visit or do a Very Intense Visualization of a Nursing Home or some other place where people have little ability to exercise and no way to choose healthy tasty food that they actually like. Feel the boredom as you sit in front of the tv, taste the boiled potatoes and canned peas, smell the musty smells, hear the staff bickering about who's turn it is to check on Screaming Margaret down the hall, feel your muscles wasting away from disuse. Get good and depressed and claustrophobic and then realize, wait, that's not me! I can get out of my chair, I can dance, I can go prepare tasty fresh food, I can and go outside and play.
- Get Visual and be Very Silly About It. You can even buy a special Doofy Bulletin Board or Scrapbook just for this purpose. Calendars with accomplishments and Gold Stars! Collages! Pictures from magazines of outfits you'd like to wear, people you'd like to be, 'before' and 'after' pictures, Motivational Slogans!
- Congratulate and Reward Yourself for Effort, not Results. Scales and muscle size and race times etc. are all fickle. They'll go up and down and sometimes there will be a reason and other times there won't. What will guarantee your success and promote your health in the long run is your commitment to the Process. You are Staying on Track and getting healthy. You are being good to yourself every time you make a smart food choice or get any exercise at all. Praise the hell out of yourself for it!
- Buy a new exercise toy. A heart-rate monitor, a pedometer, a cheap mp3 player, a new exercise video, barbells to do some of your workout at home. Or a subscription to a motivating fitness or health magazine. (Again, not if you have compulsive spending problems).
- Commit to making just one small step towards doing a New Thing Soon --today if you can, or if not, within the next couple days. But make it very small and easy. Is there an exercise machine at the gym you've never tried? Is there a recipe you want to search for on the web and print out, even if you're not quite committed to making it yet? Is there a Self-Help book you think might be motivational that you'd like to purchase or borrow from the library? A class you want to pick up a schedule for? Choose something, plan when you're going to do it, and take that first step to re-Motivating. You're going to have to make a conscious decision to do it, because it probably ain't gonna happen by itself.
So, does anyone have some better re-Motivating ideas? What's worked for you in the past?
(Note: post edited 1/05/08 to remove about 2,000 unnecessary exclamation points.)