Gradual but permanent weight loss would improve the health of the 60% of U.S. adults who are overweight or obese. Most people realize this but either can’t get motivated to start or are unable to stay motivated to persist in losing weight, and many have given up after several tries. A greater emphasis on specific motivations for weight loss might help many more people persist long enough to lose weight and keep it off.
Health Benefits of Weight Loss
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the minimum health benefits of weight loss include:
- lower blood pressure
- lower blood sugar
- improved lipid (blood fat) levels
Research has shown that being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases as well as premature death. Weight loss can help decrease these risks, or if a person already has a chronic medical condition like diabetes, can help manage it better.
Other significant benefits of weight loss can be:
- looking better
- feeling better
- gaining higher self-esteem
- having more energy and stamina
Focusing every day on a written list of these benefits of weight loss can help a person get motivated to begin a weight loss program and to stay motivated to persist with it. Nothing is more important than one’s health so permanent weight loss should be made a top priority by those who are overweight or obese. With a comprehensive approach and high motivation, most people can succeed in achieving permanent weight loss.
Weight Loss Motivation from Setting Goals
Setting specific, challenging but achievable goals has been shown to help motivate effort and persistence in accomplishing the tasks required to achieve such goals. Setting goals also helps direct the search for effective strategies and the development of realistic action plans.
The weight loss goals set should follow the following “SMART” guidelines:
- S-Specific goals work best
- M-Measurable goals are necessary to assess progress and tell when they have been reached
- A-Attainable – goals must be attainable otherwise frustration and giving up occur
- R-Relevant – goals must clearly pertain to one’s important needs or wants
- T-Timed – goals need to provide a reasonable deadline or schedule
The Mayo Clinic offers a number of tips for success in setting weight loss goals, including:
- Personalize the goals to fit one’s condition and circumstances.
- Aim for realistic goals such as a rate of weight loss that is sustainable and healthy – one or two pounds per week.
- Focus on the process such as changing one’s eating and physical activity habits.
- Have both short term and long term weight loss goals; the short term goals should focus one’s daily activity and the long term goals should be formulated to supply ongoing motivation.
- Write it all down – e.g., what exercise is to be done, when, how much and how often.
- Start small – build on small steps and work up to full effort gradually.
- Plan for setbacks – setbacks are natural and normal; plan in advance how you will deal with them and obstacles likely to be encountered on the way to weight loss success.
- Reassess and adjust the goals as necessary – they may have been too ambitious, or no longer reflect the progress made.
Overcoming Obstacles to Weight Loss
The key to permanent weight loss is making permanent changes to one’s eating and physical activity habits. Such major lifestyle changes are likely to encounter a number of challenging obstacles before they finally become ingrained habits. Each obstacle along the way can harm motivation and effort if not dealt with effectively. Fortunately, many obstacles can be foreseen so plans can be made in advance on how to overcome them. A great resource is the Mayo Clinic Diet book’s “Action Guide to Weight Loss Barriers,” which offers many suggestions and classifies these barriers into just three categories:
- nutrition (lack of knowledge about good nutrition, harmful foods, and diets)
- physical activity (lack of knowledge about options and effective levels of physical activity and exercise)
- behaviors (bad eating habits)
Each potential barrier or obstacle needs to be identified and strategies devised to overcome them. For example:
- Perceived lack of time for exercise or physical activity – Because sufficient physical activity/exercise is the most important key to good health and longevity, its role in weight loss should be given the first and highest claim on one’s discretionary time; schedule time on the calendar to do it every day before any TV time is allowed.
- Snacking at night – Make sure meals are not skipped, have water instead or snack on fruits and vegetables only, don’t buy fattening snack foods at all.
Motivation can be kept high by developing a plan to handle lapses and obstacles before they occur in the pursuit of permanent weight loss. Thorough preparation before beginning a weight loss effort can make the difference between success and failure.
Focus on Motivation for Permanent Weight Loss Success
Motivation is the energizing force that helps people make significant effort and persist in the face of difficulties like those involved in making permanent changes in eating habits and physical activity. One can’t have too much motivation for major lifestyle changes so working on personal motivation and developing plans in advance to handle obstacles will increase anyone’s chance of success in the battle for permanent weight loss.