Motivation for Diet & Exercise

by Charles Platkin, PhD
Even A Few Minutes Matters: If you don’t feel like exercising, tell yourself you’ll do it for just 10 or 15 minutes. Doing a little something is better than doing nothing at all. Once you get started, you may even find the energy to keep going.
Get Reinforcements: Turn to family members or friends for . Inform them of your goals and ask them to help you achieve what you’re working for by being your “cheerleaders” or joining the cause themselves.
Change It Up: Change your exercise routine to prevent boredom. Once you master an exercise your muscles become more efficient and you will burn fewer calories. In addition, you will start to dread your workout. Vary the length, intensity and type. For example, shorten the time of the workout and increase the intensity, or do a completely different activity.
“A” For Effort: Focus on the efforts you are making instead of the outcomes. Increased efforts will result in increased positive outcomes. Reward yourself (with non-food rewards, of course) for the effort you exert, not the number on the scale.
Create Several Workout Mixes: Mix some of your favorite upbeat songs to help keep you moving during your workout, or buy some new music and allow yourself to listen to it only when exercising.
Buy A New Outfit: To lift your spirits at the gym, buy a new exercise outfit that makes you feel energized and good about yourself.
Paradigm/Perception Shifting: If you’ve been focusing on what you CAN’T eat, change your frame of mind and focus on what you CAN eat. Filling your day with healthful foods will help you not only to get all the nutrition you need but also to forget the foods you are trying to avoid/limit, which will result in fewer cravings.
Cookbooks/Cooking Classes/Cooking Websites: Buy a new healthy cookbook and try one new recipe each week. Try taking healthy cooking classes. Take a look at and
Remind Yourself that Weight Loss is Quick Only at First: If your weight loss has slowed, and you’re feeling less motivated because the scale isn’t giving you the feedback you desire, remind yourself that you didn’t gain the weight overnight, and you won’t lose it overnight either. The plateau in weight loss is the body’s natural way of adjusting to its new weight. The weight loss will eventually resume, but look at the slowing down as a sign that it’s time to step up your workout a notch.
Make Appointments to Work Out: Think of your workouts as “appointments.” Record them as you would any other appointment. To help you keep the appointment, re-visualize why you want to lose weight and how you will feel when you reach your goal.
Lower Your Goals: If for some reason you are not meeting your exercise or food goals at this time, and you’re feeling like a failure and lacking motivation, lower your goals so that you can achieve them. Once you meet your goals and experience success, you will have more self-esteem, be more confident and become motivated again. You can then increase your goals slowly.
Understand and Create Relapse Prevention Strategies: You’ve been so “good” on your : You lost weight, exercised every day for months – it’s all going so well. Then it happens. You’re completely stressed out; you just had an argument with your 14-year-old daughter; your boss is breathing down your neck about a report that’s late; your phone’s been ringing off the hook — you’re at the end of your rope. Finally, to top it all off, your co-worker is having a birthday celebration with the works, including lasagna, cake and ice cream. You have it all, and you don’t just stop there – you continue this slide, and you relapse. The reality is that weight loss and maintenance have lots of ups and downs, and plenty of curveballs. And a key component of any program is to prepare for lapses and relapses.
A lapse is when you come close to moving away from losing and/or maintaining your target weight, and it typically involves a weakening of your coping skills. According to research appearing in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy a relapse is defined as a “setback that occurs during the behavior change process, such that progress toward the initiation or maintenance of a behavior change goal (e.g., abstinence from drug use) is interrupted by a reversion to the target behavior.” A relapse is defined as a reverting back to the target behavior.
The authors of the report also believe that a relapse is not a final result but a fork in the road to changing behavior. A slip doesn’t have to become a fall, and a lapse doesn’t have to become a relapse. To understand more about relapse prevention strategies see: and
Watch a few TV Commercials: TV commercials can be very inspirational. There are also some wonderful viral videos. Here are a few old TV commercials that still resonate:
Nike, “If You Let Me Play”
Weight Watchers’ “Stop Dieting. Start Living.” / “History of Dieting”: 
Watch a Great Food Movie:  Movies can be quite inspirational; in fact, a few have the power to stimulate real change in our lives. I’ve watched several documentary films about food in the last several months, and I’ve found them to be entertaining, interesting and inspirational. Here are a few you might want to watch: Food Inc., Two Angry Moms, Super Size Me, Forks Over Knives, King Corn – and there are many more.
Take a Great Food/Nutrition Class: For instance: Nutrition, , and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights (free online course from Coursera). The online course, administered by a member of the faculty of Vanderbilt University, will help you develop a basic understanding of nutrition, make better decisions and react more cautiously to media hype. “This seven-week course will explore nutrition concepts that take center stage in mainstream media outlets and become conversation topics among consumers interested in food choice as it relates to optimal health and physical performance. Separate fact from fiction and fads as you learn about core nutrition concepts and how to evaluate not only personal food choices and overall dietary patterns, but nutrition-related content in the media and in advertising. Such topics include fundamentals of a healthful eating pattern, nutrition labeling, dietary supplements, fortified and “super” foods, plant-based nutrition, nutrition and , and food allergies and intolerances. The course will also include an overview of nutrition fundamentals as they relate to human health.
The best part is that it’s free. See: and check out for more free nutrition classes.
Affirmations and Self-Talk: Give yourself a pep talk. Start by creating affirmations: strong, positive statements asserting that something desirable about yourself is, in fact, true. The idea is to use your words to help you succeed by “talking to yourself about yourself” in a positive light.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences divided golfers of high and low skill into two groups not related to their skill level. The first group was asked to repeatedly tell themselves they would do well in a series of putts, while the second group was instructed to tell themselves they would not do well. The investigators found that the players instructed to engage in negative self-talk performed much worse than those who used positive self-talk, regardless of skill level.
Enjoy Exercise More: Focus on the enjoyment, feelings of competence and social interaction that come from the experience. A study in the International Journal of Sports Psychology showed that a group who participated in aerobic exercise to improve their physical appearance didn’t stick with it nearly as long as a group who did martial arts because they enjoyed it. If you can’t find something that you love right away, “at the very least, find something you don’t hate. It’s important to find as many redeeming qualities as possible for any of the exercises that you choose,” says Bess H. Marcus, Ph.D., a professor at Brown Medical School Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.
Make It Social: There is a plethora of research demonstrating that working out (or dieting) with a group on a regular basis increases your likelihood of sticking with your routine. One study found that married couples who worked out together had a significantly higher attendance and lower dropout rate than married people who worked out alone. Find a regular fitness class that you know you’ll enjoy. Organize a group of friends, co-workers or neighbors to participate in some regular fitness activity. Get yourself a workout buddy. Not only will you increase your fitness level and improve your appearance, but you’ll reduce stress and increase the effectiveness of your immune system (social groups do that) — and you will probably have a good time as well.
Read Great Quotes: I love the idea of posting great inspirational quotes on your computer, fridge and other key locations. Here are a few to get you started:
Use a Device and/or Application: There are so many great fitness and food apps and devices out there today. There are also reminder services that will send you motivational texts. See: 
Fake It Until You Become It: See Dr. Amy Cuddy teach you how by watching this amazing talk:
Dress for Success:  There’s nothing like wearing nice clothes to make you feel better. Don’t wait until you lose weight. Look good NOW!  See: 
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