From an early age, I struggled with my weight. Overweight through primary school and into high school and obese in my early 20s, I could never seem to lose body fat and keep it off.
I always dreamed of having a great body. Often I would get frustrated, and in a moment of inspiration, I would swear to myself that the time was now. I was going to do it this time and achieve the body I wanted—like that guy in the movies, in the magazine, or on the street.
My super-intense moments of inspiration and motivation didn’t last much longer than a couple of days. I may have worked out for a week or so, eaten a bit better, and possibly even noticed a slight change, yet mysteriously my motivation would always begin to wane. I had a social event, got sick, felt too sore to train, or life just happened.
All of a sudden, it was six months down the track and I had come full circle, carrying more weight and feeling a little more hopeless. Sound familiar?
Recently, I have heard about many people losing motivation or lacking the willpower to stick to their journey toward the body of their dreams. This has made me take a look at my own story and wonder about the difference between back then—when I would constantly give up, sabotage myself, or not even try—and now. Currently, I feel fit and strong, am happy within my body, and happily stick to an exercise and diet routine.
I had to reach the point where I was tired of being unhappy with how I felt about my body. I knew I deserved and always wanted better. My reasons were to feel better about myself and to look better. Call that vain, but who doesn’t want to look better?
Your reason doesn’t matter. It may be to treat a medical condition, to get healthy and strong for a planned pregnancy and children, to compete in a sport, or simply to look amazing. It doesn’t matter. Whatever the reason, it is your inspiration, your motivation for change.
The next part of my journey is a bit of a blur. I started to exercise almost daily and formed a habit. This was crucial. Exercise has to become a part of your life. If you think, “I don’t have the time to exercise,” then stop reading now and flick your browser to Facebook, where you will undoubtedly waste the next hour that you could have spent exercising.
At first, it was really hard. I had to drag myself to the gym. I was working from plans I had found on the Internet (some very helpful and some misleading). I remember feeling so sore and stiff that I wasn’t able to straighten my arms to drive to the gym, but I went back for more anyway. (I don’t recommend this, by the way.)
I had thoughts like “I am so unfit that when I run, I feel my entire body jiggle, and it’s gross.” I felt so self-conscious at the gym that I would take my weights into a separate studio where nobody else could see me working out.
This was really difficult, and I wish I had some special piece of advice to help people get through these early stages, but in my experience, there simply isn’t any. You have to let go of your ego and self-consciousness, feel that fear, and do it anyway. Take a deep breath, walk through the door of the gym, and just get through the session no matter what.
At times like these, your newfound motivation and drive will be nonexistent. You either take that scary step to change your life or you don’t. This separates those who achieve their goals from those who keep dreaming about them. Harsh? Yes, but definitely true.
Within a month or two, I was seeing small results, finding or feeling “new” muscles, and getting comments from friends and family. I remember the moment when I realized that I no longer owned a pair of jeans that fit me. I was shocked. It was actually working.
Who would have thought exercise and diet would actually work? This was great and felt amazing. I was not only reaching my physical goals, but I was also building confidence and self-esteem and had a newfound energy and passion for life. But where to go from here?
Getting to this point takes a lot of hard work, sweat, and possibly a few tears. You feel good about your progress, you have formed a new, healthier relationship with food (which is absolutely critical), and you may actually enjoy exercise, but don’t let complacency creep in now. That sense of urgency to lose weight has dissipated with the pounds. How do you stay motivated now?
Motivation doesn’t just last. It needs to be continually sought after. One thing I notice as a constant with all of my long-term successful clients is that they are constantly and consistently setting the bar higher, setting new realistic goals, trying new things, taking on new challenges.
Whether it be concentrating on the next five pounds they want to lose, wanting to see more ab definition, running a half marathon, competing in a sports-model competition, making a national-level sporting team, or simply doing “man push-ups,” one thing is always constant: Every one of them is always looking for the next goal, the next piece of motivation, the next reason to change and excel.
Write a list of goals for your health, fitness, and body. Then decide how important they are to you and write a plan of action detailing each step of the way to achieving your goals.
You will not get the body of your dreams by simply turning up for your personal training sessions. Sure, your trainer should help to motivate and push you to work harder, but unless you are constantly keeping yourself focused on your goals and staying motivated, you will experience a plateau or maybe even regression.
We all have down days, but if you constantly turn up for your session or class thinking you hate the class, wishing you had called in sick, thinking the workout is going to hurt, or wondering why you are doing this, then you will have a bad session. You’ll deliver substandard results, ultimately reinforcing your negative outlook.
Contrary to popular thinking, I do not bounce out of bed every morning, begging to be punished in the gym or smiling at the thought of sticking to a strict diet. This is unrealistic, and you simply cannot maintain this level of motivation.
This is where consistency plays a part. Along with having a goal, you must also be consistent with the actions you take to make your goal a reality. I think this is just as important (if not more) than the motivation itself.
Initially, I set myself a bare minimum number of times I would exercise each week. This has to be realistic and in accordance with your goals. Be consistent with your food and eating habits. Make a deal with yourself that you will only eat “treat food” a certain number of times this month or week.
Resolve to give 110 percent in every session. When you feel tired or lazy, turn up for your planned exercise session. Other than being incapacitated, there really is no excuse good enough.
If you simply cannot make a session due to commitments, ensure you do a catch-up session. These rules should all have a “no matter what, not negotiable” condition attached. If you are consistent in your actions, the results will follow.
Constantly seek new reasons for motivation. Cut out pictures of people you want to look like and refer to them regularly. (I have many successful clients who swear by creating a dream board and the results it delivers).
Emulate the person you want to be, buy fitness magazines, learn new things to keep your program fresh, plan events such as fun runs or activities that interest you, give yourself something to train toward whether it’s a trek, a triathlon, a figure competition, or a new swimsuit for next summer.
After a period of time pushing myself to achieve my redefined goals, I realized I had lost all of my fat and was no longer overweight. In fact, I actually looked pretty good. But what was next? This is where I noticed a shift in the source of my motivation. I think this is what made all the difference and is a big reason why I now live and breathe exercise and diet.
If your motivation for training is based on external factors, pleasing your partner, family, or trainer, or you are concerned about what others think and want to get attention from the opposite sex, or compete with others, then you may gain great results yet still end up feeling inadequate or unfulfilled.
I can relate to feeling like this, and I was baffled as to why. This is the exact opposite of how training should make you feel.
I needed to take a good look at myself and the reasons why I was dedicating so much time and effort to these goals. There is no denying that it felt really nice to be complimented on my new body and to have girls ask me for my phone number.
While this was great, the real fulfillment (and therefore motivation) came when I realized I was training simply because I loved it. I believe this is the real secret to long-term motivation.
If you have never exercised or have regained lost weight, reached a plateau, felt stuck in a rut, or particularly if you are thinking, “I believe it worked for him but I could never do that,” let me tell you that is rubbish.
For a long time, I was that very person—fat, feeling hopeless, and my history told me that I could never be one of “those people.” I know how it feels, and I also know that there really is no excuse. I assure you that change is possible and will be one the best things you ever do for yourself.
Fusing the latest in sports, performance, and weight-loss nutrition with holistic wellness practices while cultivating emotional and lifestyle balance, Anthony and his team at Pure and Lean Nutrition System transform the bodies, minds, and lives of everyday people all over the world. www.facebook.com/pureandlean