In previous weeks, we talked about how motivation and willpower are highly overrated when it comes to weight loss. Super human willpower will only get you so far and should not be relied upon for long-term dietary success.
Motivation is an odd thing also. Some days we can be on fire, where every food choice is bang on healthy and we give it welly in the gym. Then the next day, all we want to do is curl up on the couch and eat chocolate.
Motivation and willpower are both short-lived. The inevitable will happen and they will eventually run out, and you'll blame yourself for not being driven enough.
But, motivation is more than simply having a desire to accomplish something. It's deeper rooted than that. Motivation is the reason why we want to act or behave in a particular way.
find your why
Our motives for doing something can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from the outside, and involves rewards such as prizes, money, or praise.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within: an internal desire drives the behaviour simply because it is personally rewarding, the activity is enjoyable or fun.
In terms of weight loss, extrinsic motivation can be found be setting outcome goals, such as dropping a dress size. Intrinsic motivations can be found by setting daily behaviour goals, such as eating breakfast each day that has a protein source.
When establishing some realistic outcome goals, they should be SMART:
Specific: must not be vague
Measurable: be able to quantify the goal
Attainable: should be realistic and manageable
Relevant: have importance and fit to your lifestyle
Time-bound: timeframe within which the goal is to be achieved
Ask yourself: "Why do I want to achieve this goal?"
Find your 'why' and you'll discover the 'how'. Why you want to achieve something is a driving force for achieving it. Having a fulfilling purpose is a catalyst for action.
After you have asked yourself why once, then ask yourself why up to another four times until you reach the singular most important factor that is driving your change.
Q Why do I want to lose fat?
A Because I want to look better.
Q Why do I want to look better?
A Because I want to improve my self-esteem.
Q Why do I want to improve my self-esteem?
A Because I want to be a good role model for my daughter by having a healthy relationship with both food and my body.
Q Why do I want to be a good role model for my daughter in this regard?
A Because I love her and want her to grow up with a healthy perception of her own body and a healthy relationship with food.
So in the beginning, a goal that seemed motivated by an extrinsic factor actually turned out to be motivated by something entirely different, an intrinsic personal desire.
Not everyone will have such a deep rooted 'why', but take a few minutes and think about the answers to the whys you ask yourself.
If you can find the deeper 'why', then you can more readily fuel your motivation for the days when your fluctuating mood is low.
It's a good idea to write down your goals. Better again, write them down on a credit card size piece of paper and keep in your purse or wallet for daily reminders of your 'why'.
now discover how
Now that your goals have been set, the next step is to forget about them. While setting outcome goals is essential to uncover motivation, ultimately, we cannot directly control the outcome of our endeavours.
So, to elicit some form of control over the outcome, we must now turn our focus to setting behavioural goals, and take responsibility for our day to day actions.
One of the key characteristics of a behaviour goal is that you can directly control it - it's an action you can choose to do every day. Set a behavioural goal that you know you can act out on.
Start simple and incrementally add to it. If you achieve the behaviour goals you establish then you can be confident that you'll reach the outcome goals you have set.
For example, protein is known to play a key role in the fat loss process by keeping you fuller for longer and maintaining lean muscle mass while in a calorie deficit.
Playing off this information, a new behavioural goal might be to eat a source of protein each morning with your breakfast. It's a positive action that you know you can do.
When this new behaviour becomes a habit, then you can confidently set another new behavioural goal. Such as having two servings of vegetables each day with your dinner. And so on.
Achieving the smaller behavioural goals over time will add up to big changes, and ultimately help you successfully reach your outcome goal.
Karen is a nutrition coach and personal trainer and runs monthly online group nutrition coaching programmes and hosts nutrition seminars around the country. See www.thenutcoach.com