As mentioned in our January top tips blog, from a few weeks ago, a good way to keep stress and failure at bay when working towards your target weight, is to keep your healthy eating and exercise goals realistic. Implement lifestyle changes gradually over time, rather than trying to nail down a whole series of 'quick fixes' at once.
Having goals in place that are manageable will give you a feeling of empowerment, as you are in control of your new lifestyle, rather than allowing unsustainable regimes restrict and depress you.
Staying motivated...Finding motivation and staying motivated are often two very distinct things, though – the initial sense of optimistic confidence about your new healthy choices can easily fade as you inevitably encounter temptations and stumbling blocks along the way. The stumbling blocks (anything that makes you question whether your goals are worth it / achievable) are bound to arise in all sorts of everyday situations.
The power of positivity...However, maintaining a positive mental attitude (PMA) can help keep you motivated and allow you to work through any stumbling blocks more constructively.
Positive mental imagery
A massive supporting tool for PMA is 'positive mental imagery'. Rather than dwelling on how others may currently perceive you, focus on what your body will look like, how much healthier you will be, and the emotional rewards this will bring, once you reach your target. Visualise yourself completing your goals, and keep reminding yourself of how this will make you feel – the effort will be worth it!
Similarly, if you start to "miss" the unhealthy foods that you have cut out of your diet, try not to get caught up in cravings - instead, spend some time researching all the new delicious, healthy dishes you could be discovering, and think about how this feeds into your overall health goals.
Inspiring images / mantras
In addition to positive mental imagery, use of inspiring images and mantras is a common psychological technique. Put photos and images that drive you to keep going (you at your heaviest; your children; a beach holiday; your dream body, etc.) up in places where you will regularly see them - such as the fridge door, the bathroom mirror, or on your office desk - to keep reminding yourself of what you're doing and what you want to achieve.
Happiness...backed by science...Using small habits like the above techniques to keep yourself motivated and happy will not only assist you in reaching your weight loss goals, but could even help you live longer! A 2007 study called 'Healthy happiness: effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care', looked into the relationship between happiness and longevity, and whilst happiness can't be used to treat illness, it can help in the prevention of becoming ill.
The power of fruit & veg...Following on from the above, research has also shown that eating fruit and vegetables increases positivity, not only on the day, but the following day as well. So, ensuring you make fruit and vegetables a large part of your regular, daily diet can have some great benefits, beyond just the nutrition factor!
Exercise helps too, of course...In addition to good food and a positive attitude keeping you happy and healthy, exercise plays a massive role in creating and maintaining good mental well-being. Each time you exercise, you release chemicals called Endorphins, which are like feel-good messages to your brain. They are released to combat the feelings of pain and stress, both physical and emotional.
The prospect of going for a jog might not seems appealing, but the 'runners high' you experience afterwards will make it worth it - especially if you are feeling a bit low!
On a more general note...Trying to keep yourself content in all aspects of life is a good rule of thumb for a healthy life. As much as possible...
- Keep good social contact with friends;
- Don't miss out on fun events because you are 'dieting';
- Get plenty of sleep and fresh air;
- Set goals for the future, but live in the present;
- Focus on constructive actions you can take now to make positive change happen;
- Don't worry over what might never be.
No one is happy ALL the time...Last but not least, remember that no one is happy all of the time. It's perfectly fine to have off days, or feel sorry for yourself every so often, but try not to dwell or focus on the negatives for the sake of it, or find problems where there need not be any.
At the end of a bad day, or during a period of feeling low, try to spend some time contemplating all the things you do have to be happy about.
You may also want to...Read our top tips on motivation...
Check out our 'winter warmers'...
Learn how to snack healthily...
Find out more about Diet Chef...