staying motivated to lose weight

If you’ve been saying to yourself, “I have to lose weight but I have NO motivation,” you’re in the right place.

Losing weight is more than just exercise and eating right – it’s about your mindset. In the end, staying motivated to lose weight is what will make or break it for you.

Make no mistake; weight loss is HARD. It’s extremely difficult to examine your daily habits and begin making changes, especially since many of those changes involve giving up a comfort or convenience.

That’s not easy.

But it’s the people who have a clear incentive in mind – a clear motivation to lose weight – that are the most successful.

Before we dive into the 3 best strategies out there, let’s examine what makes a bad vs a good weight loss motivator.

Please note: Check with your physician before starting any exercise routine or starting any particular diet. See this Disclaimer for more details. This post may contain affiliate links. For details, please visit my Disclosure page. Thank you!

BAD Weight Loss Motivators

Exercise as Punishment

When you have to lose weight but have no motivation, it’s really tempting to be a bit harsh with yourself. Most people think, “Well then I have to be uber disciplined.”

Unfortunately, that often translates to punishing yourself with more exercise when you don’t hit your goals.

For example, I’ve had clients tell me that since they didn’t complete their cardio yesterday, their “punishment” is that they’re going complete it today – in addition to today’s workout.

Another example is when people say their punishment for eating a dessert is that they’ll need to exercise X amount later to burn it off.

While punishment CAN be a good motivator, using EXERCISE as punishment is not. Instead, you risk forming a negative association with exercise when in reality it’s your weight loss ally.

Food as Reward

Another common weight loss reward is food. As in, “If I exercise 5 days this week and eat vegetables with both lunch and dinner, I can have a big cheat meal this weekend.”

Once again, you’re forming positive-negative associations that may ultimately sabotage you in the end.

Instead, work towards incorporating your favorite foods into your week. Make a healthier version of pizza for dinner one night and eat a few squares of chocolate when the craving really strikes.

Eliminating the need for a “cheat meal” will form a healthier relationship with food, create sustainable healthy eating, and prevent the large binge that will probably undo all your week’s progress.

Because who needs to cheat when you get to eat your favorite foods all the time?

RELATED POST: How to Lose Weight Without Starving: 3 Must-Follow Rules

GOOD Weight Loss Motivators

Instead, we’re going to cover some GOOD ways of staying motivated to lose weight. Here’s the criteria we need to meet:

Non-food related motivation

As I mentioned before, it’s best to have a non-food weight loss motivator. Instead, find a reward that doesn’t sabotage all the hard work you’ve put in.

Something big enough

It may go without saying, but this component is crucial.

When selecting a weight loss motivator, you need to choose something that really means something to you.

Otherwise, who really cares if you get that reward?

Make sure that the incentive is big enough to motivate you.

Get your emotions involved

Use a reward that somehow connects to your emotions.

Feelings are powerful. So rather than thinking how great it would be to achieve something, focus on how you will feel when you achieve it.

Whatever your weight loss reward is, make sure you can connect it to a strong emotion.

The 3 Best Strategies for Staying Motivated to Lose Weight

Some motivators are better than others – and not just because I say so. Many researchers have taken on the task of discovering which motivators are…well, the most motivating.

Lucky for us, their hard work has revealed a lot of interesting and effective ways to keep you feeling driven to lose weight day in and day out. Here’s what they are:

using money as weight loss motivation

Staying Motivated to Lose Weight – 1. Use Financial Incentives


Researchers have found that using monetary incentives can be incredibly effective for weight loss motivation.

It makes sense, right?

I mean, if someone told me I would make money exercising (something I try to do anyway), it would be a win-win situation. And I’d be way less likely to skip a sweat sesh.

But there’s something else interesting that the studies have found.

People are more likely to stick to their fitness regimen if they’re at risk of losing money.

In a fitness motivation study conducted through the University of Pennsylvania, participants who received a reward at the beginning (and then would lose some each day they didn’t complete a daily step goal) were 50% more likely to hit their goal than those who would get a reward each day they completed it. Pretty surprising!

Since monetary incentives are hard to orchestrate in real life (I mean, unless any of you feel like paying me 5 bucks each day I exercise), programs have popped up that do just that.

Just be careful, since some are scammy and others just aren’t that great of an incentive. It definitely has to feel worthwhile.

The best company I’ve heard of for this is Healthywage. It’s the perfect example of the risk component because you essentially place a “bet” on yourself each month. Then if you meet your goal weight by your deadline, you win back your contribution and then some.

financial incentive weight loss motivation

It’s a legitimate company that’s had success stories featured on The Today Show, Woman’s Day, and ABC. And according to research studies, this sort of incentive truly does increase your motivation to lose weight and, thus, your likelihood of success.

staying motivated to lose weight with 5k race

Staying Motivated to Lose Weight – 2. Set a Non-Weight Performance Goal

Being able to do a pull-up or a really clean push-up on your toes is an empowering feeling – just ask the women in this Self article on non-scale victories.

When it comes down to it, most women are happiest about what they can do because of their increased fitness.

Working towards completing a physical activity, or performance goal, is one of the best ways to get fit AND shed pounds.

So what’s something you would love to do?

Once you think of something, break it down and start working towards it. Trust me, the fat will take care of itself.

Here are some performance goal examples with tips for how to work towards them:

  • Complete a strenuous 5 mile hike
    • Slowly increase walking distance, begin incorporating trail/hill walking
  • Finally run that 5k
    • After a solid walking baseline begin walk/run intervals, increase running intervals over time, increase overall cardio duration
  • Use 15 lb dumbbells for your set of 10 bicep curls
    • Perform bicep curls every other day, increase the reps each week, increase the weights every 2 weeks (decrease reps when you do)
  • Complete 5 push-ups on your toes
    • Perform push-ups on your knees every other day, increase the reps each week, slowly transition to performing them on your toes
  • Perform 1 pull-up
    • Perform negative pull-ups, perform lat pull-downs
  • Run a mile in less than 10 minutes
    • Start walking/running more frequently, slowly increase your duration, incorporate speed intervals
  • Walk a mile in less than 16 minutes
    • Increase walking frequency and duration, perform intervals at a brisker pace

Completing a performance goal in conjunction with your weight loss goal will not only make you feel like the badass you are, it will have the happy side effect of shedding those pesky pounds.

team competition weight loss motivator

Staying Motivated to Lose Weight – 3. Use a Team-Based Competition

We all know how strong social influence can be. And now it appears to be one of the best methods for staying motivated to lose weight.

A weight loss study in the journal Obesity found that people lose weight more effectively when part of a team-based weight loss competition. This is attributed to two reasons: the drive of competition and the social support that comes from being in a group of people with similar goals.

In fact, the study discovered you could even lose 20% more in a group than if you did it alone.

So how can you implement this weight loss motivational strategy?

Consider rounding up a group of friends, coworkers, or family members who also have a weight loss goal. Implement a friendly competition and support each other along the way!

In Biggest Loser style, use percentage of total body weight lost rather than pounds to determine who wins. This is because heavier individuals tend to lose weight faster, so it’s really more fair to use percentages.

And because they know team-based weight loss is so effective, Healthywage actually has a team challenge option too. It requires 5 people to commit to a team for 3 months, and then your team will compete against other teams in the challenge to see who loses the greatest percentage of weight (and the nifty prize).

No team, or don’t have 5 people? If you sign up, Healthywage will help you match with others for the duration of the challenge. This is such a nice feature for those who’d like a weight loss support group but don’t have access to one.

Losing weight as part of a group competition is a great way to hold yourself accountable and build a helpful support system.

Staying Motivated to Lose Weight

If you’ve been struggling with weight loss motivation, it may be time to implement one (or more!) of these proven strategies.

It’s a little intimating to risk some money or sign up for that 5k, but it’s taking that step that shows you’re committed to meeting your goal. Once the cards are on the table and the deadlines are set, there’s no going back.

Scary, yes. But if you want or need to lose weight, it might just be the push that’ll actually make it happen.