Why is it so hard to lose weight? Most of us think it’s just about the food we’re eating, but that doesn't explain the full story. The real reason most people fail to lose weight is because the initial motivation they have to lose it slowly disappears. And that’s because we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and when we can’t achieve them, we feel lost and slowly give up.
Motivation is the answer to reaching your weight loss and health goals. When you know how to stay motivated, you will lose weight. Let’s get into what you need for creating a motivated journey to hitting your weight loss goals.
The Connection Between Weight Loss and Healthy Routines
Weight loss is less about food and more about establishing healthy routines. Those routines should address nutrition and physical activity, as well as other lifestyle factors that could inhibit progress like stress and inadequate sleep. If you have ever wondered, why is it so hard for me to lose weight, the answer may be that it's because you haven't addressed those other factors.
Success in weight loss relies on maintaining healthy lifestyle routines until they turn into habits. You may ask, why is it so easy to gain weight but hard to lose? It’s because you are not sticking with the right habits. For you to stick to habits, you need to be motivated to see them through.
Why People Think They Don’t Lose Weight
Often, people attribute their lack of weight loss progress to three main factors: their genetics, the wrong weight loss plan, or not being motivated enough. Among these factors, motivation plays one of the most significant roles in determining success in weight loss. People often ask, why is it so hard to lose weight over time. The answer is a lack of motivation.
While genetics can impact your weight to a certain extent, it only applies to a small percentage of the population. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), only 1-2% of obesity cases are caused primarily by genetics.
Following the “Wrong” Plan
Some ineffective plans can be specifically identified, including two primary types that tend to produce negative results.
Calorie Restrictive Plans: These types of plans often lead to a yo-yo effect, where weight loss is initially observed within the first few weeks because you’re not eating a lot. Then the body enters survival mode. This adaptation increases appetite and decreases metabolism, causing weight loss to stagnate or reverse.
Plans Focusing Only on Exercise: Relying solely on exercise to achieve weight loss is another misguided approach. Success is not guaranteed by simply increasing physical activity. The relationship between exercise and weight loss is not linear, and exercise alone is rarely sufficient to counteract the adverse effects of an unhealthy diet
While there are certain weight loss plans that objectively don't work, as explained above, there are also numerous plans that have proven effective for weight loss. The secret to success lies in finding a sustainable plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that the key to successful weight loss is adherence to the chosen diet plan, rather than the specific diet itself. That means, if you can find an effective plan, and also one that you like and find enjoyable, you will stick to it and it will be easier to maintain.
Staying motivated is crucial because the difficulty in establishing healthy routines relies on being able to repeat them consistently. Contrary to popular belief, staying motivated involves more than just willpower or discipline. It requires accountability to help you to stay the course. However, the key to it all is the motivation and let’s get into why it’s so important for weight loss.
Main Reasons Why Motivation is the Key to Weight Loss
Motivation is arguably the most crucial factor for initiating and sustaining healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as regular exercise and healthy eating. Adopting and maintaining these habits can be challenging, and motivation is critical for overcoming the obstacles and sustaining the behaviors over time.
For example, a study published in JAMA found that individuals who were motivated to engage in regular physical activity had higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, lower body mass index (BMI), and a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease (Warburton et al., 2006). Similarly, people who are motivated to eat a healthy diet are more likely to consume nutrient-dense foods (Serra-Majem et al., 2006).
In simple terms, habits are actions or behaviors that have been performed so many times in the past that they become automatic. And the key element encouraging consistent repetition of such actions is motivation. If you can get motivated, your losing weight struggles will minimize and when you’ve maximized motivation, weight loss won’t feel like a struggle.
The Role of Motivation in Sustaining Lifestyle Change
You may want to lose weight, but if you don’t have the motivation to do it, it can be difficult to make it happen. At Fitmate, we've witnessed some incredible success stories that only happened when motivation became a part of the mix. There are quite a few reasons why motivation plays a critical role in your weight loss journey. Let’s get into those reasons.
Is Self-motivation Innate or Learned?
There are different types of motivation and you might lean towards one or the other. However, you can change your motivation style from the one you are innately inclined towards to a learned one. The primary distinction between people who succeed in establishing sustainable lifestyle changes and those who don't lies in where their motivation comes from. Those who succeed are motivated by the process while those who don't succeed focus on the outcome. The successful individual may focus on regularly exercising while the unsuccessful individual may obsess about losing 20 pounds.
Outcome-motivated individuals may feel motivated to start, but this state is often short-lived, meaning they are unlikely to repeat the target behavior frequently enough to establish long-term habits. This is the key reason why many people struggle with exercising regularly or eating a balanced diet in the long run. Numerous studies have found that the type of motivation you have plays a role in your outcome.
You might be asking the wrong questions then like, "Why is it so hard for me to lose weight over 50?". The real question should be, "What's my motivation and where is it coming from?".
Intrinsic Motivation Versus Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation comes from within – doing something because it brings personal enjoyment or satisfaction. Extrinsic motivation is driven by an external reward, such as money or avoiding punishment. Unsurprisingly, individuals who are intrinsically motivated by healthy lifestyle behaviors are not the ones seeking motivational support, but their extrinsically motivated counterparts want to become fitter, healthier, or lose weight, without enjoying the required process (Ryan et al., 1997; Teixeira et al., 2012).
While intrinsic motivation is relatively resistant to change (Deci et al., 1999), extrinsic motivation offers numerous opportunities for optimization. The source of extrinsic motivation often stems from a combination of external and internal sources. For example, someone who refuses to exercise unless forced to do so has a low degree of internally regulated motivation. Someone who only does it to compete with someone else has a comparatively higher but still low degree of internal motivation.
Someone who perceives exercising as an essential habit but struggles to do so regularly because they don't enjoy it has an even higher degree of internal regulation. However, these are all examples of extrinsically motivated individuals – of varying degrees. This phenomenon is referred to as the social-determination continuum, described by the social determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Importantly, the higher the degree of internal motivation, the more similar it is to intrinsic motivation, and the more motivated someone will feel.
Main Elements That Can Help in Maintaining Motivation
There is no one best way to be motivated or get motivated. However, some common elements help.
If you feel like you’re in control of your actions and choices, you’re going to feel more motivated. For example, if you feel empowered to set your own goals, you’re going to feel more motivated and in control.
Competence and Confidence
When you feel capable of achieving your goals and effective at doing so, you’re going to go for it and make them happen. Having a coach that reminds you of your past successes, and the skills you have and applauds your milestones can make all of the difference.
When you feel a sense of belonging within a community that is aligned with the goals you want to achieve, you are more likely to achieve them. And when you’ve got a supportive community giving you feedback, there’s a greater chance you’re going to feel motivated to hit your goals. You get accountability, support, and a group of cheerleaders with you as you move closer toward your goal.
When you feel responsible for your goal and also feel accountable to someone else for your goal, it makes it easier to achieve it. When you have a coach monitoring your behavior, reviewing your progress, and helping you set clear definable goals, you are more likely to feel motivated to hit them. This also makes you feel more accountable for your actions.
How to Quickly Boost Motivation?
There are easy ways for you to use some psychological tricks to start hitting your goals.
Set Clear and Achievable Goals
Break down the adoption of healthy habits and set specific targets for each week. This can help boost motivation concerning the psychological processes mentioned above. It is very important for someone not just to follow a general plan, as that can lead to failure. Finding the right pace at which to change habits is crucial; adding 1-2 new habits a week is a good rule of thumb.
Create Routines You Enjoy
Choosing foods and physical activities you enjoy is much more likely to tap into your intrinsic motivation. There are plenty of healthy foods that support weight loss, and similarly, it is essential to find a form of exercise that you genuinely enjoy. For example, if you dislike high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, trying a lower-intensity cardio activity, such as walking or swimming might be more sustainable and enjoyable for you.
Plan Your Meals Ahead
Planning boosts motivation by identifying obstacles beforehand and by lowering the likelihood that you won't do the healthy habit because you are tired and your willpower is low. For example, don't leave grocery shopping for times when you know you'll be tired.
Monitoring your progress towards your weekly goal boosts conscientiousness because each success will boost your confidence and motivation.
Get Feedback from a Coach
Feedback on your goal from your weight loss coach boosts motivation by acknowledging accomplishments and providing useful suggestions for improvement. For example, receiving validation from a professional after creating a great lean, filling breakfast that keeps you full until lunch can increase the chances of you maintaining that healthy habit.
The Bottom Line - The Motivation Trap
The trap is that people often don’t set these motivation routines in place and instead believe that by setting strict plans, they will achieve their weight goals. Strict plans themselves are often doomed to fail as staying motivated during restrictive dieting is incredibly challenging. Strict plans are also unnecessary for achieving goals, as there are plenty of healthy ways to eat and live happily.
There are also ways to include your favorite treats into your lifestyle as long as you are keeping up with all the other parts of your healthy living plan. If it has seemed a little bit difficult and confusing in your previous attempts to lose weight, don’t worry, you’re not alone. More likely than not, it wasn’t the food you were eating, but rather the support and accountability that you needed weren’t there. It’s all about developing healthy habits for your life, setting realistic goals, and monitoring your progress.
If you want someone to keep you accountable while cheering you on with your successes and calling you out when you need it, connect with one of our amazing Fitmate coaches. We’re here to help and travel down the road with you on your journey to becoming the best version of yourself.