Staying in the game mentally is a task within itself. You have to figure out how to stay motivated. You cannot rely on anyone but yourself for self-motivation. Another aspect of keeping a good mindset is to cut out bad influences. This can be difficult. We’ll be going over ways to deal with all of this. Lastly, we need to talk about realistic expectations.
Motivation is defined in two ways: 1) The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; 2) The general desire or willingness for someone to do something. There are 4 types of motivation: extrinsic, intrinsic, introjected, and identified. Extrinsic motivation comes from an outside source such as taking an order from a superior or responding to people cheering you on. Intrinsic motivation stems from a personal desire or goal such as running a race or studying to get the best grade or trying to become the best at something. Introjected motivation is internalized like intrinsic motivation, but if the goal isn’t met the person will feel a heavy sense of guilt or shame or anger. A good example of introjected motivation would be attempting to show a huge jerk that you can compete with them; if you win, you feel good about yourself, if you lose you feel guilt or shame or anger. Identified motivation is knowing that something has to be done that you have not finished. Identified motivation can be homework or office work or usually some other form of work.
Start a list of what your motivations are and don’t be afraid to modify it as time goes on. The majority of your motivations should be intrinsic. List as many things as you want. Your motivations are going to change over time. It can help when you feel unmotivated or just a little down to look at your list.
On top of your list of motivations, you need to know how to motivate yourself when you “just don’t feel like it”. This is different from the other list. What gets you motivated? Do you have songs that totally get you pumped up for a workout? Do you need to watch an inspirational clip from a certain film? Do you require a friend going to the gym with you for a while? Sometimes it can be a matter of leaving the house because once you’re at the gym, you can totally put in the work. These are things that you need to address.
Activity: Start a list of what motivates you. Start another list of what gets you motivated.
The Hard Cut
Do you have negative people or influences in your life? Perhaps you have a friend who is always bringing over pizza, burgers, and other junk food. This can be a negative influence. They aren’t calling you names or being mean, but their actions are promoting a lifestyle that you want to break away from. Perhaps you have a family member who just isn’t nice to you. Perhaps you are trying to have some sort of social media presence. Make some mental notes (or actually write it down) about who you have in your life and where the negativity stems from. This is step one, identifying the problems.
Step two with “The Hard Cut” is going to be asking or telling these people to stop. Let them know that you’re making a change to your lifestyle. They might be on board with your new healthy lifestyle and they might want to change along with you. They might not be willing to change how they are. If they continue to act or respond negatively to you, you need to cut ties with them.
Step three is making the cut. If your friend keeps bringing over junk food or if you have to deal with negative comments from a particular person in your life, you need to stop having them around. It’s detrimental and disrespectful to YOU. You can still see them here and there, but limit your contact with them. What you need to do is show them that you are serious by continuing on with a new healthy lifestyle. Eat better, exercise frequently, lose the weight, and be happy.
If you want to add in another step, then find a like-minded new friend. This can be a person who is at the gym when you regularly go. This can be a new facebook friend who is supportive of your efforts. This can be someone from a local fitness club (i.g. Running club, nordic ski club, skateboarding group, etc) that you can hang with. This is the start of forming a supportive community around you.
Activity: Make the hard cut.
Adjusting To Yourself
I mentioned an issue of learning to adjust to your new self. Mentally, this can take a toll. The problem is that you see yourself everyday in the mirror. This means you will probably be the last one to really notice changes. The person who doesn’t see you as frequently is going to notice more of a change when they see you.
Some people are really not affected by this. They just accept it until they finally look in the mirror one day and are like “Yeah! I did it!” Others stress through the whole journey. The most popular way to deal with this is to take progression photos. These are usually taken with you standing in your underwear or in a bathing suit. You can do this yourself with your phone and your camera set to a timer. Take a front, side, and back photo of yourself. Do this once a month. Schedule it on your calendar or in your phone or as an email reminder. You might not see much of a difference between month 1 and month 2, but you should start noticing a difference between month 1 and month 3 for sure.
Activity: Take progression photos once a month.
Another part of adjusting to yourself is getting rid of “fat-brain”. This is what I call my brain when it wants me to eat a donut or grab a milkshake or have something that I’m not supposed to have. I’m fully aware that I’m NOT supposed to have it. If I do have it, I get so disappointed in myself and in the fact that it never tastes as good as I think it will. This is fat-brain at work. Fat-brain will have you believing that some trashy food is going to be so satisfying and I promise you, after you are strict with yourself about eating healthy, you’re going to be disappointed. Maybe it used to taste good, but now your body recognizes that it’s really not.
Every great once in a while, I give in to fat-brain; every time I am disappointed. It took me a really long time to really get fat-brain mostly under control. I still get very specific junk food cravings, but I can make something that resembles the food I want. For example: A craving for pizza with sausage and black olives. Maybe I make a portobello cap pizza or an sausage-black olive-marinara sauce omelet. That’s how I tend to combat fat-brain.
Others May Be Offended
I brought up the subject that others may be offended by your progress. Other people should NOT be offended by you taking care of yourself. It’s such a crazy notion, but it happens. It’s important to note that not every person has this occur.
Food is one way people get offended. Perhaps you’re doing really well with food and that means not eating the muffins that someone brought into the office or opting to not indulge in a slice of homemade pie your mom made. Some people take offense when people don’t eat their food. It’s important to not over-react if this occurs. The person may not be aware of your new dietary habits or they might not understand them.
As you make progress, some people are simply offended that you are making a positive change. There are a lot of various reasons for them acting this way: jealousy, fear of change, envy, fear of losing the social spotlight, lack of control over you, or perhaps they are afraid of not being good enough to hang with you. It’s hard to know the true reason why your change makes them angry. There are some people in the #FatPositive or #BodyPositive movements who take almost immediate offense. It comes off like there is a fat person’s club and they just lost a member. This is an issue that plagues a ton of people.
Regardless of how the person is taking offense, the core of the matter is their feelings are hurt for some reason. Your progress is not something to be offended by, so what’s the real culprit here? Are they insecure over something? Are they experiencing a negative emotion like jealousy or envy? Do they simply not understand why you’re on this new journey? If your healthy lifestyle is such a big issue for them, what does that really say about that person? You may need to remove yourself from this person (if you can) or just open the lines of communication with them. You do not need unnecessary negativity in your life.
Misconceptions & Fears
Sometimes we are subject to our own misconceptions of people and places. Perhaps you hated gym class in high school, thus you haven’t been inspired to hit your local gym. Perhaps you never learned to cook and you’re kind of afraid of the kitchen. You need to move away from these hindrances.
The local gym is so vastly different from a classroom setting. There are a lot of people doing their own things and the typical person at the gym is not paying attention to what you’re doing or what brand you’re wearing. In fact, most people at the gym are usually courteous - wiping down machines/benches after use, answering a question, etc. If you’re not super comfortable at the gym, you might want to find a gym buddy or a training partner to workout with. Not only will you both keep each other on task, but it can help ease your peace of mind at the gym.
When it comes to food and cooking, you might be faced with learning new cooking methods, learning the basics of cooking, or learning what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. These are BIG. I mean, we all have to eat and food is naturally a big topic. Some foods are naturally addictive like sugar. Some foods are not good for you (foods your body doesn’t want to process) or can actually do you harm (like food allergies). There are a lot of resources out there for eating a healthy diet and keeping it budget friendly. There are cookbooks, recipes online, recipes on pinterest, social media food groups, cooking classes both online and in-person, and your friends/family.
These areas that fester into misconceptions and fears tend to have a number of various remedies. The best way to deal with it is to acknowledge your issue and come up with a viable solution. The following are some of the most common misconceptions and fears with simple suggestions:
Everyone is going to stare at me when I go to the gym. Other people are focused on themselves. If it’s an issue, find a gym buddy or a training partner.
Am I being judged at the gym? No. Just focus on what you’re there to do. Have a great playlist ready for the gym.
Everyone will know I’m a beginner. You have to start somewhere. Just get started and soon you won’t care.
What if I am doing something wrong? If you think you’re doing something wrong, stop and ask for assistance.
Strength training is only for men. This is very wrong. Strength training should be done by everyone unless their doctor says otherwise.
I only want to lose a little in a certain area. You can’t target fat loss. Keep working out and soon that “problem area” will resolve itself.
I don’t want to get too bulky by lifting weights. People tend to slim down and tone up when they lift weights. It can take years and precise training to achieve bodybuilder bulk.
I don’t know how to cook. There are tons of resources for learning to cook, use them. Ask friends or family to help you learn.
What’s the right way to “eat healthy”? There are a number of ways to eat healthy. If you're really concerned, go ask a nutritionist to help you with a meal plan.
Eating healthy is going to cost more money. Actually, it’s pretty easy and cheap to eat healthy, especially when you are NOT buying the bad food.
Eating healthy means the food is going to be gross. You can make some very flavorful food depending on what spices and herbs you use.
It will be a chore to eat healthy. Once you understand what you’re doing, it’s not a chore. Keep at it.
What will the rest of my family eat if I’m making these healthy meals? Have them eat healthy right along with you. Nothing is wrong with that.
Unwanted Opinions and Advice
At some point it’s going to seem like every single person will have some sort of opinion or advice that you don’t want. The biggest culprits are going to be those closest around you and family. Most of the time you will probably be able to ignore the comments from people, but if you seem to keep receiving unwanted opinions and advice you need to have a plan for dealing with it.
It’s very likely that these people possibly don’t understand what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. It can help to share your goals with them. They might be firmly set on their way of eating or their way of exercising, which is great. Just be aware that there are several paths you can take and still have a healthy lifestyle.
There are a multitude of ways to deal with people who may annoy you with their opinions and/or advice. It’s going to vary from person to person. As someone who has had to deal with this issue, sometimes it’s a matter of smiling and saying “I’ll consider that. Thanks.” Then you can move on with what you’re doing. With more aggressive people, it might be better to open your mouth only if you have the facts.
Forget the Fluff
At some point you’re going to get busy. Maybe it will happen around the holidays. Maybe you go back to school for that master’s degree. Maybe you get busier with work. Whatever the reason for it, a switch is going to flip and you’ll want to “forget the fluff”. To "Forget The Fluff" is to keep your food totally basic so it's faster to make or meal prep. This is totally fine.
You don’t have to have a gourmet meal every time you eat. Once you figure out what works, just get it done. I realize that this doesn’t sound fun. This tends to be why people start meal prepping. It just makes it easier to have stuff ready to go during the week.
I meal prep all the time and, yes, I get a little flack for it from family members. As a bodybuilder, I eat 6 times a day at specific times. I absolutely do not want to cook every single meal because it's a waste of my time. Instead, I meal prep most of my meals so it becomes a grab-n-go sort of thing. My meals are consistent and pretty boring. I will use sauces and spices to make them zing. I have forgotten the fluff, so to speak. This doesn’t mean that I don’t spend time trying out recipes or switching things up, I just reserve that for the weekend when I have more time.
“Forgetting the fluff” is okay. It tends to happen when our brain steps in and tells us to do this thing that’s more efficient, if you don’t mind eating virtually the same thing for a few nights in a row. Some people can’t do that and end up prepping two different types of meals so they can pick and choose for a few days.
Let me be perfectly clear - - you don’t have to do it.
You don’t have to meal prep anything. You don’t have to eat plain food if you don’t want to. It’s just something that some people find themselves doing naturally and it needed to be validated as a time efficient step.
A big question people ask is: how much can I lose in a month? Realistically, you want to aim for 1-2lbs per week which comes out to 4-8lbs per month (average numbers). If you lose a little more or a little less, that’s okay. Your fat loss is going to be directly related to what you consume, your gym effort, self-care, and consistency. Think about how long it took to put the weight on. It’s going to take a little time to take it off. If you are remaining consistent with eating and exercising, you may not realize the loss of fat if you are building up a little muscle. Building muscle does take a lot of effort. Muscle is dense for its size and weight, while fat takes up more space. This is why 1lb of fat is sized differently than 1lb of muscle.
Another realistic expectation is that you will, at some point, have some kind of “bad food” that you shouldn’t be having. You’re going to know it and you may even feel guilty about eating it. If you hyperfocus on this, you’re going to stress yourself out. Just tell yourself to get back on track. Don’t let it become an excuse to not eat healthy.
This is brought up under “Mentality” because these are giant mental hurdles. I don’t want them to come as a surprise. It might not be fast, it might not be easy, but you can do it.
One reason why everyone calls this a “journey” is due to the ups and downs, the hard times and the happy rewards, getting on track and learning when you can have a little something extra. Everyone’s journey is a little different.
Remaining consistent with healthy eating and exercise is one of the biggest pivotal points of reaching your goals. You can have the best intentions, the greatest goals, but if you’re not consistent then it won’t happen.
Today’s world is full of instant gratification and this is definitely not part of that. You can’t expect to eat healthy for a week, hit the gym 3 days of that week, and have the results you want. If it was that easy, obesity wouldn’t be a major health problem around the world. It takes time and dedication. It takes changing your priorities around so living a healthy lifestyle is at the top of your list rather than somewhere at the bottom.
It doesn’t have to be a challenge to remain consistent. Tracking your macros using an app/website can become second nature - just like checking your email or social media. Exercising on a schedule is only hard if you allow it to be. The hard work is the effort you put in at the gym. You’re going to get out what you put in, so always give 100%.
Find things that help you remain consistent. You might find that stepping on a scale once a week or once a month helps. You may need to check in with a personal trainer or a friend. You might feel the need to blog or vlog your journey. For some just using a tracking app/website is enough.
The mentality behind remaining consistent is to realize that starting out is difficult for everyone, but at some point it gets a little better. At the gym you start looking forward to challenging yourself because you’ll start feeling better on a regular basis, your mood will improve, and you’ll be able to do more stuff due to increased mobility. With healthy eating habits, you will start appreciating the quality of your foods because your body will simply function better. Make sure you reward yourself with non-food rewards. Rewards can absolutely help you remain on track, consistent, while also allowing you to feel proud about achieving your small goals.
Shut Down Excuses
We all have days when we don’t feel like doing things. Don’t let this be your downfall. Excuses get you nowhere. Part of being consistent, part of feeling proud of your progress, part of making progress is simply pushing through your excuses. Of course, we all know that this is easier said than done. To get through that excuse, you need to know what motivates you and you also need to have some reasons for yourself to do it.
What is your overall goal?
What is your current short term goal?
Can you get yourself motivated with some upbeat music or watching a motivational video clip?
If you made it to work or school, why can’t you put in one hour at the gym?
Can you do it if you used lighter weights at the gym?
Could you remain more consistent if you meal prepped?
Would you remain more consistent if you allowed yourself to have a little something extra for dessert?
Would it work better if another person was making a change as well?
What if you followed it up with a mental health evening?
Mental Health Days
We all need a mental health day here and there. Mental health days help us to deal with stressors from daily life by taking a little reflection time for ourselves. It’s okay to have mental health days, but try not to take those days on gym days unless you absolutely need it (i.g. Death, fired from job, etc). The gym can actually help you deal with the major stressors more than skipping it because it provides you a way to literally work through the issue.
Just as you might for any other day, it might be best to have a scheduled day each week as a mental health day or a mental health evening or whatever works for you. It’s recommended that you take mental health time once a week on one of your non-gym days. You might use the time to meditate, do yoga, take a long soak in the bathtub, allow yourself time to read a physical book (not a digital one), try something new with a friends, spend a little time away from any electronics, bake, go for a nature walk, or whatever else you like to do on mental health days.
A mental health day is NOT eating junk food or other bad foods, an excuse to be lazy, for watching an extra episode of a tv show, or an excuse because “you just don’t feel like it”. It’s meant to help you relieve stress, deal with emotions, and end up revitalizing you for the next day. Some people require quiet reflective time, others require extra socialization. Some people need to connect with nature, others need to clean their house (a clean home leads to a clear mind), and some people need games or playtime.