About a month ago I decided to start focusing on losing weight and getting in better shape – AGAIN.
I’ve started the journey of losing weight and getting fit more times than I can remember, and I’ve actually had a lot of success with losing weight.
Losing weight is easy.
The challenge is that gaining it back is even easier.
Years ago, my primary focus and obsession with weight loss and fitness was figuring out what is the best, fastest and safest way to lose unwanted excess fat on the body and how to put on lean muscle mass.
Because I focused on that, I figured it out and I know exactly what to do and what not to do in order for me to lose weight.
However, this time around, I’m focusing on something different.
I’ve now been a lot more focused and obsessed with learning how to get fit, lose weight and KEEP it off after I lose it, and I’ve learned some very interesting things about that.
Here’s what I did first…
Discovering How Fit People Stay Motivated Long Term
In the past, whenever I would make the decision to lose weight, I would be highly motivated to produce results – and quickly.
I would either do a weight loss competition with one of my friends, or just make the decision to put energy, time and focus into losing weight.
And I would do it. I’d lose the weight I wanted to lose and hit my goals.
Each time I would start highly motivated to lose the weight, however as time would go on my motivation levels would drop.
By the time I was hitting my target weight loss goal, usually my motivation was pretty low at that point…
… so after I hit my goals I would stop doing the things I was doing, and I would go back to eating unhealthy again…
… and the interesting thing I noticed was that when you’re in great shape, and you start eating unhealthy again, you actually don’t gain weight right away…
In some cases I would eat unhealthy foods for weeks or even a few months without gaining much weight, because my body was still in great shape and my higher set metabolism would just burn away any excess food.
Also, my appetite for unhealthy foods wouldn’t be that great – at first…
… but as I would start eating crappy food again, the addiction would start up again and slowly I would eat healthy foods less frequently and start eating unhealthy foods more frequently.
And then a few months later I would start to gain the weight back, but there was usually something else I was focused on in my life outside of health and fitness which held my attention and motivation.
Eating healthy and being fit was not a priority at all, and so I would start to gain the weight back.
And then of course a year or two later I’d be right back where I started, or even a bit heavier and wondering how the heck this happened and why didn’t I STICK with it!?
So this time around, when I decided to go on this journey I started thinking that what I need to figure out is how to stay highly motivated to be healthy and fit not just for a short period of time, but for a LONG time – like forever!
You see, I know when I’m highly motivated to do so, I can lose weight and get fit, but when my motivation goes down, I start gaining it all back.
So my thinking was that if I could JUST figure out how to stay motivated long term, I could keep the weight off forever.
So I started doing research, reading health and fitness and bodybuilding forums, reading articles, and seeking advice from various people who have transformed their bodies long term on how they stay motivated long term.
Surprisingly, what I discovered was kind of interesting…
Virtually NOBODY could answer that question.
NOBODY could tell how the heck they stay motivated to be fit and healthy for more than just a short period of time.
After a while I started thinking maybe people just don’t know what keeps them highly motivated to be fit and healthy long term because they don’t think about it, so if I can just figure out what questions to ask them I could figure out what’s going on in their heads and understand their motivations better.
After a few weeks of searching, I was honestly no further ahead than when I started.
I still had no idea how the heck these people keep their motivations high to eat healthy, work out and stay fit for long periods of time.
I was frustrated, because I couldn’t believe it was this hard to find an answer to seemingly such an easy question – “How do these fit people stay motivated long term!?”
Then during one of my sessions with my Retrofit coaches, I mentioned this and they recommended I look into the work of BJ Fogg.
BJ Fogg does lectures at Stanford and his area of expertise is understanding motivation.
The Truth Behind Motivation
After looking into BJ Fogg and after watching some of his lectures, I realized that the reason I wasn’t able to find the answer to my question on how to keep my motivation high for staying healthy and fit long term is because there is no answer!
Meaning, what BJ Fogg discovered is that it is impossible for people to stay highly motivated about something forever. In fact he discovered that motivation is a VERY short-lived phenomenon in humans.
Our motivation levels are always going UP and DOWN like a roller-coaster, on a daily or weekly bases, and sometimes our motivation levels can even change throughout the day!
Here’s BJ Fogg’s lecture on this where he explains this phenomenon, why we are like that and what to do about it:
I absolutely LOVED this lecture.
It totally explained to me why I’ve failed to keep the weight off in the past.
You see, in the past, whenever I would decide to lose weight, my motivation levels would always be through the roof.
I’d be excited, I’d be pumped up, and I’d usually enter into some kind of competition with one of my friends to see who can hit their weight loss targets etc., so my motivation levels would be ultra high.
While my motivation levels were ultra high, I would find activities and action steps that I could take in order to produce results – fast!
In BJ Fogg’s motivation wave graph, these activities and actions would belong under the “Hard to Do” and “Requiring High Motivation” section of the graph.
Now, because my motivation was ultra high, the fact that those activities were hard to do didn’t matter, because when your motivation is high, things that are hard to do aren’t so hard to do!
And, typically when you do things that are hard to do, they usually produce results very quickly, which then fuels motivation even more, which in turn makes it easier to keep doing those hard to do things.
HOWEVER, once I would hit my goal, or I would finish a competition with my friends, my motivation levels would usually drop down – just a bit.
Not all the way down to zero, but they would drop from “Ultra High” to like “Medium”. On a scale of 1-10, they might drop from 9 or 10, down to like 5 or 6.
This usually happened because I would get motivated by something else in my life. Meaning, once I hit my fitness goal, I would move onto something else in another area of my life, such as manifesting a new car or increasing my income or something along those lines.
So then, while my motivation to do that OTHER thing would go up to like 9 or 10 out of 10, my motivation to eat healthy and be fit would drop down to 5 or 6.
The challenge with that was that ALL the activities and structure I put in place for eating healthy and staying fit while I was at level 9 or 10 were all HARD to do and required a lot of energy or time to accomplish. I guess you could say that those activities were a 9 or 10 out of 10 on the “easy or hard to do scale”.
So what happens when your motivation drops to 5 and the activities you are trying to do are at a difficulty score of 9 or 10? Nothing!
You don’t do them!
Instead, what you do is you start eating crappy, and you start to skip workouts, and then you feel guilty for doing so, and you try find a way to get your motivation high up again.
Of course that doesn’t work, because you can’t fake motivation. If you’re already highly motivated to be focusing on something else and that thing is already taking up all your energy, time, focus and attention, you can’t also be highly motivated to stick to a diet or fitness plan at the same time.
There’s only so much energy, time, focus and attention we all have in a day, and if you’ve already decided to invest that into something else you’re excited about, there just isn’t enough to also focus on a healthy diet and fitness plan which requires a high level of motivation.
So what’s the solution?
Creating a Variable Motivation Plan of Attack
Once we realize that motivation is not something we can fake or manufacture if it isn’t already there, the solution to how to deal with that is actually not that complicated.
The solution is to simply create a plan of attack which MATCHES your current level of motivation in any given moment.
Meaning, what we need to do is we need to create a plan of attack which moves us forward when our motivation levels are HIGH, but also continues to move us forward when our motivation levels are LOW – and everything in between.
For example, way back in 2009 I did a program called P90X. Some of you probably heard about it.
When I started the program, my motivation was super high, and I had the time, money and energy to invest into it.
So when it came time to invest the 60-90 minutes to do the workouts, and maybe another 15-30 mins before / after the workouts, and the energy and will power to keep pushing through these insane workouts – it was no problem for me – because my motivation was high.
But 60 days later, when I had to shift my focus on my business, my motivation dropped a bit and I stopped doing the workouts and went from doing P90X every day to doing NOTHING.
This is because I had absolutely no plan in place as to what to do when my motivation goes down.
This is because when our motivation is high, we think that our motivation will ALWAYS be high – forever – so who the heck wants to plan for low-motivation situations when we are living in a fantasy that says that our motivation will never go down.
We think “No man, I’m done with being fat. I want to be fit, I’m pumped up, I’m committed, and I’m never giving up!!!”
Yeah, right. That’s a fantasy.
That might be our motivation in the beginning, but there will come a time when that motivation goes down – for any number of reasons.
The only solution is to have a plan in place which ASSUMES that at some point your motivation goes down, and it already gives you an exact plan of attack that you can easily accomplish even if your motivation is super low.
For example, right now my motivation to get fit and to lose weight is very high. So for me to bang out a 60-90 minute workout today wouldn’t be that hard.
HOWEVER, I’ve already been working with my Retrofit coaches and we have a plan of attack in place where I have a 5 minute workout already in place, ready for me to implement on days when my motivation is low.
I have a printed out sheet which tells me EXACTLY what exercises I can do on that day, which only take 5 mins or less.
That is actually what we started with – an exercise program which is easy to implement and easy to build a habit with.
On the diet side of things, I’m doing the same thing.
I have a plan of action for what to eat while my motivation levels are high, but also what small changes I can implement when my motivation drops.
In other words, I have a plan in place which encompasses all the motivation levels from Ultra High to Low.
Now, it’s very important to realize that I am not saying that the solution to losing weight and getting fit is some 5 minute workout program…
Why Making Things Too Easy Isn’t The Solution
When people skim over this stuff and don’t take the time to actually understand what BJ Fogg’s research reveals, there is a tendency for people to try to oversimplify a complex subject like this.
I want to be very clear with this.
I am *NOT* saying that the long term solution to losing weight and staying fit is to create a 5 minute workout for yourself, or some super easy dietary change to follow.
Creating a 5 minute workout plan, or having a plan to make a super easy dietary change are examples of activities that a person would do when their motivation levels are LOW – for whatever reason.
However, they are NOT examples of activities you would do when your motivation levels are MEDIUM or HIGH.
Meaning, it’s not just as simple as saying “Oh okay, I get it. So what you’re saying is that I should just create a simple workout like to do 10 pushups per day and just do that forever, and I’ll be in the best shape of my life, right?”
See, the challenge is that doing activities that are TOO EASY as compared to your current motivation level will not work either.
Reason being is that if your motivation is high, when you don’t match that high level of motivation with higher difficulty level activities, you essentially dissipate that motivation and produce very little results with it and that doesn’t feel good either.
Meaning, if you’re pumped up, excited to get fit, and ready to do a 60 – 90 minute workout, then THAT is what you should be doing! Not a 5 minute workout.
Because if you are pumped up and excited to do that, but then you stop yourself and think “Well, I want to do a good solid workout, but I think that I should start slow, so maybe I’ll just do a 5 minute workout today, and then maybe a 6 minute workout tomorrow and build it up from there…” that will kill your motivation levels instantly!
What BJ Fogg talks about in his lecture is that when your motivation levels are high, you need to apply that motivation to taking action at that level, and there are a whole bunch of different things that you can do while motivation is high.
Also, besides applying that motivation to doing something that is harder to do – diet or fitness wise – another thing you can do with a high level of motivation is to do things that might be hard to do in the short term, but which will make it easier to produce results when motivation is low.
For example, let’s say that currently the only place I can work out is at a local gym which is 20mins away, but I have a room in my house that I could transform into a home gym, but it would take a lot of work to clean it out, set it up as a gym, and to buy the equipment to make it into a gym.
That process of transforming a spare room into a gym might be a good example of a HIGH difficulty level activity, AND it can also be a good example of an activity that – if completed – could make it easier to work out when motivation is LOW.
So if my motivation was Ultra High, for example, that might be a good time to utilize that motivation and to apply it into cleaning out a spare room, going out and buying gym equipment and setting up a gym. This way, on days when motivation is low it will be easier to do a 5 minute workout in THAT room, instead of having to drive 20 mins to go to a gym.
That’s just one example.
Other things we may choose to do when motivation is high is to go grocery shopping for healthy meals, or to pre-plans meals, or to even pre-cook some meals ahead of time. Or we might go and buy some gym equipment, or some new clothes, or some new shoes or sign-up for some kind of class.
Again, these are just examples, you have to figure out what would work for you.
The point, however, is simply to just be aware of what your current level of motivation is, and then to take action based on that level.
Don’t do LESS than you’re motivated to do just because someone told you that it’s best to “start slow” or they told you to not “overdo it”.
If you do that, you’ll get bored, you’ll get mad for not producing results quicker, and you’ll just give up on the whole program.
Match your CURRENT level of motivation to the activity levels which will move you towards your goals.
And don’t feel bad or guilty for not doing MORE, if your motivation levels are lower than what would be required to do some activity.
Just match your activity levels to your current level of Motivation.
That’s what I’m doing now, and it’s working out really well for me.
I started my new program on June 1st, and on some days I’ve had more time, energy and motivation to do more so that is what I did.
On other days my schedule was so busy with my businesses, that I had to fall back on my “easy” activities that still move me forward like doing a 5 minute workout before going to bed when I was really tired.
I was so tired that I didn’t even want to do that workout, but because it was only 5 minutes though, and it was already pre-planned for me and I didn’t have to think about WHAT I needed to do, I just did it.
Only took 5mins and I felt great! 🙂
If you’ve been struggling to lose weight and get fit, or more importantly to KEEP the weight off and to stay fit, I highly recommend looking into this concept and the research/lectures on motivation from BJ Fogg.
Then, once you understand the concepts, focus on creating a plan that assumes that some days your motivation will be HIGH and some days it will be LOW – and have a plan in place for the entire spectrum of motivation levels, not just one or the other.
P.s. Incidentally, if you haven’t already realized, this entire concept of matching activity to current motivation levels can be applied to EVER area of your life, not just fitness and health. I’m just using health and fitness as an example, but it applies to everything. Now that I’ve learned this simple but powerful concept I’m starting to implement it into other areas of my life as well and I recommend you try it out yourself as well.