Willpower, discipline, motivation. Call it what you want, willpower is a lot like money. We know we need it, we all wish we had more of it, but it always seems to disappear as soon as we get a taste of it. See ya tax return! If you have struggled with your weight at all, you have probably told yourself that you just don’t have enough of it. Most of the time, when we start a diet, we’re extremely motivated. Whatever it was that gave us that initial spark of determination, we run with it, gritting our teeth until we can’t stand one more freaking salad or piece of grilled chicken, and then we crack. In my last post, My Little Bag of Tricks , I talked about some practical things you could do to keep yourself from hitting plateaus and burn out. But this week I wanted to talk more in-depth about the discipline mindset, and how I’ve been able to keep myself moving in the right direction.
Motivation Never Lasts
Over the last year and a half, I have heard two things a lot when someone finds out how much weight I’ve been able to lose. “You’re so disciplined,” and “I wish I had your willpower.” One thing I want you to know, is that while I guess I was very motivated, or “disciplined” in the beginning, I don’t feel like I am now. The first few months into my weight loss, I was determined. I knew my body would lose weight if I learned how to make it, in a way that was sustainable and didn’t make me feel deprived. During those first few months, the biggest thing that could’ve thrown me off was the useless things that I loved to tell myself. “This is going to take forever,” “You don’t have time to deal with this right now,” “This is just the body type that you have so you might as well get used to it.” In those moments, I did need the discipline to push those thoughts out of my head so that I could keep going. But willpower can only get us so far.
I heard a great quote on a Podcast one time that summed it up perfectly, it was from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. He said, “Success is actually a short race- a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.” Gary Keller is the founder of Keller Williams Realty, and although he was referring to business when he said this, I feel like this can apply to just about anything you’re trying to succeed in. Weight loss, business, leveling up on Candy Crush, if you can consistently keep your head in the game, just long enough for good habits to form, then your success is inevitable.
How I Knew My Habits Had Changed
I can’t recall exactly when it happened. I was just trucking along, meal prepping, experimenting, trying to find a gym routine that I liked. I was just taking it a week, a few pounds, or sometimes a few hours at a time. Pushing myself forward until my next mental sanity meal, watching my weight consistently follow the same pattern. Up one week, a big drop the next, back and forth. Then one day, something came up. I don’t remember if I got called in to work or what happened. All I know is that it was my meal prep day, and I was ticked off. Like in an actual teenage temper tantrum, “You’re ruining my life” kind of way. I, Melissa, the fast food-loving, excuse-finding, circumstance-blamer, was angry that I wasn’t going to be able to do my meal prep. I was so mad that I was determined to find a way to make it work anyway. Instead of throwing my hands up and calling that week a bust, I just found meals that were similar to what I would’ve meal prepped, and cooked my food the next possible day I could. That’s still what I do to this day if something comes up, because stuff will always randomly come up. That was my first little glimmer of hope that I was actually changing my lifestyle.
The next time I knew was similar, but had to do with the gym. A kid was sick, or my child care fell through. Something out of my control came up, and I wasn’t going to be able to go. Again, I was full-blown angry inside. In the past I would’ve been happy to have any excuse to skip the gym, especially a legit good one! I honestly used to think that people who said they enjoyed going to the gym were full of crap or lying to themselves, but here I sat, mad and pouting because my whole routine was going to get thrown out of whack! I was irritated because this had become habitual, my routine, and it was being disrupted.
Find a Way To Keep Pushing
My advice is to just keep moving forward. Successful people aren’t successful because they’re smarter or better than you. They’re successful because they consistently pushed past their excuses when things got uncomfortable, and just did it anyway when other people would have quit.
For the first several months, your brain is going to be going crazy, trying to keep you in your comfort zone. We already know our normal, safe patterns of behavior. We go on a diet, something out of our control happens, we cave, and we go back to what we know. Look at this as an experiment and see what happens if you don’t. See what happens when you think outside of the box and make it work. It doesn’t matter if it takes you 6 months or a year to form new habits, because this is a lifestyle, not a diet. There are no deadlines or “goal dates”. If you can tell your brain to shut up for a while, habit will kick in and make this so much easier. I mean one day you may even wake up, eat your meal prepped breakfast, go to the gym, and realize you actually have some little shoulder muscles peeking through! Once it’s a habit, the time flies by! A year and a half later, I really don’t feel like I’m still “trying to lose weight”, but I am continuing to lose body fat and make progress because of habit, not because of willpower.
Never in my wildest chubby girl dreams, did I ever think that I would be the person I am right now. Sure, maybe I’ve faked it for short periods of time for the wrong reasons. I even subscribed to Runner’s World for a whole year once, trying to convince myself that I liked running. I thought that’s what you had to do to lose weight, so I better learn to like it! Imagine my relief when a good friend informed me otherwise. Mind-blowing.
I’m sharing my story here, and on my Instagram, not to brag, or get a pat on the back, but because I feel like there’s still so much misinformation out there about weight loss. I swear it’s like they’re trying to keep us fat! I want other women to know that it’s possible to do this. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything that someone else couldn’t have done. I hardly ever eat salads and I loathe cardio! That being said, I feel like mindset and discipline are two of the hardest things to teach. Anyone can give you a meal plan and a workout routine, but it’s hard to get in someone’s head and get them to keep pushing. But if you can consistently have the mental strength to get past those thoughts of not caring, or wanting to quit, I promise one day you won’t have to. Keep going, keep planning meals and keep experimenting with exercise, even when you don’t feel like it. One day it won’t take willpower, because it will be just like brushing your teeth!