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Why is it so hard to get motivated to lose weight?

Millions of Americans struggle with obesity and the numbers continue to rise. Weight-related illnesses come at a high cost to a person’s health and add up to billions of dollars a year in health care. Many people know they should, but it’s so difficult to get motivated to lose weight.

The struggle is real.

Lose weight. It’s a common New Year’s resolution, but it stays on the list year after year, so that it becomes better suited for a “Wish List”.

Why is it so hard to get motivated to lose weight? What’s that trigger point when we know it’s time to get serious about weight loss, exercise, and healthy lifestyle?

The “Aha moment”. That moment of clarity, when the motivation, belief, and decision to make a change happen all at once.

The motivation to lose weight is different for everyone.

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Health can help a person get motivated.

It could be:

  • Something the doctor says
  • Something a loved one says
  • Threat of being on medication and don’t want to be on medication
  • Threat of being on medication and can’t afford medication
  • Worrying about breaking chairs because of weight
  • Worrying about not fitting in chairs
  • Not recognizing yourself in pictures
  • Being scared straight by life-threatening emergency
  • Not being able to find clothes that fit
  • Seeing relatives suffer from weight-related illnesses and knowing that’s the path you’re on and deciding you want to get off that path

Sometimes it’s enough to get started.

What makes it last?

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

When I first started my career in education, I observed teachers in the classroom. I visited public high school classrooms and it was immediately apparent that some students weren’t into school. (I know. Shocking!)

They were often unmotivated to complete assignments, participate in discussions, stay awake in class, or even show up.

I visited a Senior English class that was reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – not an easy read by any means, but interesting and entertaining if you can de-code it.

They didn’t want anything to do with Chaucer or his tales.

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Canterbury Tales

How do you get people to do something they don’t really want to do? How do you keep them motivated?

The discussion in my education classes and amongst my future teacher friends often centered around the best ways to motivate students.

Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s motivation/movement/action that comes from the simple desire to do something, to reach a personal goal or expectation. It’s the understanding and desire to do well and meet or exceed expectations or goals.

For those high school seniors struggling to de-code Chaucer, few students were intrinsically motivated to make an effort.

Extrinsic motivation means motivation from outside of self, such as for a reward.

Extrinsic motivation is more of a “What’s in it for me?” type of motivation. Getting a homework pass for getting a perfect attendance in class for example. Store rewards and frequent customer programs motivate customers to buy more by offering free merchandise/shipping if you spend a set amount.

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How do you get motivated to accomplish a goal?

The million dollar question for me as a teacher was how do I get students to want to learn? How can I motivate students to learn?

The reality is you can’t make some one do something they don’t want to do.

It’s always a choice.

Those kids reading Canterbury Tales had to muster the motivation to pay attention and de-code the work, not just the language, but the historical context and social norms of the time that make it true, entertaining and still worth a read hundreds of years later.

Reading Chaucer is not easy. Neither is losing weight.

When it comes to our health, we have to be just like those kids in school. We have to want to do it. We have to get motivated to lose weight. Our reasons will differ, but ultimately, we have to see a benefit and decide that it’s worth the effort.

What are some motivators?

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Rewards can be motivating.

Extrinsic motivation alone doesn’t have long-lasting results. Rewards programs for exercising and losing weight are marginally successful.

Many companies offer employees incentives for exercising, tracking steps, reaching 10,000 steps a day, and monitor their activity. Some participants cheated in a major way with these programs. One guy put his step tracker on a ceiling fan.

Some step trackers have an accountability opportunity by creating a community in which you compete with others to get steps, track food, etc. If you’re a competitive person, this may work well for you. Keep it going.

Remember intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. A weight loss challenge or contest can be great motivation to get started. To keep it going for life, it’s got to be something deeper.

When you’re ready, take action.

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Get motivated to lose weight.

Success is the accumulation of the daily habits that may seem insignificant by themselves, but over time these small actions add up to results. And then:

  • Set a goal.
    • 1 pound a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but slow and steady over time tends to lead to more successful weight maintenance.
  • Believe you can.
  • Believe you’re worth it.
  • Be patient. You didn’t get to where you are overnight. You won’t get to where you want to be overnight either. A quick fix doesn’t last. Most of the time it doesn’t work either.

For some ideas about first steps, see Take Care of Your Body and Lose Weight Without Counting Calories.

You decide.

You’re not a child and no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. You may be subject to consequences for inaction/actions, but ultimately, you still have a choice, even if you choose to do nothing.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that the most important thing is that you feel strong, positive, and well, so you’re able to live your best life.

If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin because of your weight, weight-related health issues, or fitness level, then it’s time for a change.

You can do it!

What do you think? What affects your motivation to lose weight? Positive or negative?

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Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

You’ve probably heard the long standing formula for weight loss – calories in, calories out. When you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll lose weight. Theoretically.

But that’s not all you need to know. It’s a little more involved than that.

Harvard Health Blog, posted an article last week: “There’s no sugar coating it: All calories are not created equal” that addresses the topic.

Author Celia Smoak Spell begins the article:

Burning more calories each day than you consume may have been the diet advice from the past, but that doesn’t work for everyone.  Instead, the focus should be on eating whole foods and avoiding processed carbohydrates — like crackers, cookies, or white bread.

She explains a 1960s nutritional study that started the calorie-focused, low-fat, high-carb trend.

As a result of that [flawed] study, she explains, the food industry began removing fats from processed foods. They still needed the food to taste good so when they removed the fat, they added sugar.

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Look for added sugar.

Rather than counting calories alone, the article recommends choosing food with a low glycemic index, which rates food 1 – 100 based on the spike of insulin and blood sugar levels after eating a particular food. Healthy fats like nuts, avocado, and olive oil, are good choices, even though they’re high in calories.

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Nuts are a good choice for healthy fats.

The article concludes:

“Counting calories alone doesn’t work because ultimately it matters where those calories come from; this matters more than the number of calories ingested….Dr. Ludwig, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says, ‘It was this calorie-focus that got us into trouble with the low-fat diet in the first place.'”

My experience with low glycemic

This article caught my attention because the low glycemic approach helped me take control of my health and weight about 4 years ago.

I had struggled with my weight for years, pretty much all of my adult life. Diets and programs didn’t seem to help much, but sometimes I would lose weight, then slowly gain it all back. My goal was to reach and maintain a healthy weight, not to be skinny. Even though I worked out and ran regularly, I was pre-diabetic and so frustrated that I couldn’t keep the weight off. I started thinking there was something wrong with me. 

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Huffing it to the finish line.

As I approached 50, I was ready to give up and accept what I heard over and over: It’s just part of getting older.

Then I heard about low glycemic and I was amazed that it was so simple to integrate into my lifestyle. I was able to use the low glycemic approach to lose weight and keep it off.

In the end, it’s really about choosing nutritious food and when you think about making good food choices for a healthy body, it makes sense to look at the nutritional value of the food, not just the calories.

For example, compare a 100 calorie chocolate bar with a medium apple, which is also about 100 calories. If you only look at calories in, calories out, they’re the same.

But when you look at the nutritional value of a chocolate bar and an apple, it’s pretty obvious which will be better for your body. No, not the chocolate bar! The apple : )

Apples are a good source of fiber, vitamins, etc.

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All calories are not the same.

The choices aren’t always that obvious.

While you’re considering the glycemic index

  • Choose foods in their natural form or minimally processed foods when you can
  • Read food labels when choosing processed foods
  • Be aware that food labels can be confusing

Portion control is still important, so be mindful of portions, eat mindfully and eat to feel satisfied, not full. Eat more veggies, choose whole grain, and limit the sugar.

You can check out Glycemic Index of 100 Foods and there are Glycemic Index apps available for download as well.

Every body is different

Maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor for overall good health. If you’re ready to commit to taking steps toward losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, sticking to low glycemic foods most of the time may work for you. It worked for me.

I’d love to hear from you. What are some strategies you use to maintain a healthy weight? What are your thoughts about choosing low glycemic foods?

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Somewhere Between Fat and Thin

On a recent 3-hour drive home from Galveston to San Antonio, I listened to an episode of “This American Life” hosted by Ira Glass in which he looks at a topic from lots of different angles and talks to people who are connected to the subject in various ways. The episode was entitled “Tell Me I’m Fat”.

Hmmm. The title intrigued me.

Being fat in America

The episode explores being a fat woman in America from 4 different perspectives. Their experiences were different, but they shared some common themes – judgment, discrimination, and shame. Each of the women told how they were subjected to negative comments, rude stares, judgmental conclusions that they had no self-control, got passed over for a job promotion, date, or group activity, and even one woman who, in the 80’s, attended a University with health standards and was not allowed to re-enroll for her fall semester because she missed her summer weight-loss goal by 4 pounds.

Each of these women also talked about the choices they made in dealing with the weight discrimination. The choices are to do nothing, to change themselves, or to change the minds of others.

The story got me thinking about what I believe about the subject of weight, weight loss, discrimination, and what motivates people to change or not.

It’s personal

For me, it used to be about being thin. I thought that if I could just lose weight all my problems would be solved. I tried lots of different diets and really wasn’t clear on what I wanted or why I wanted it.

Not anymore. Now, what I want is to be healthy, happy, and strong, especially as I get older. It’s no longer about being thin or fat and that’s why maintaining a healthy weight is important and worth the effort, not just for me but for my family. I want to do my best to stay well, active and mobile for as long as I live.

While I know what to do to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight, it’s still a struggle. Many times, but specially during holidays and vacations, I tend to choose food that I know isn’t the best for me. What’s the problem? I know what to do and I know what I want. The problem is between my ears. My mindset.

Mindset is the biggest factor when it comes to this issue “weight”. It doesn’t matter how much you know what you should be doing or what great tech devices you have to help you along the way, you have to have a mindset to make it a lifestyle. No more lose weight then gain it all back. Get mentally prepared.

Here are 3 things to do when you’re ready to make a change:

know-your-whyDecide what you really want and why you want it.

There’s more than being fat or being thin. A woman recently told me she wanted to get to a certain weight and I asked her why that number. She said she felt best years ago when she was at that weight – healthy, strong, and happy and carrying the extra 20 pounds she’s gained in the past few years makes that hard for her. So really, what she wants is to feel that way again. This type of reflection is the beginning of discovering your “why” – getting to the essence of why you want to make this long-lasting change.


Decide to be happy, no matter how much you weigh.

What most people want is to be happy and we pursuit happiness, as if it’s out there somewhere. I used to think, “If I could only be thin then I’ll be happy.” In the radio story, one woman decides to love herself as she is and doesn’t care what people think. She’s happy. Another woman decides to lose weight with a doctor’s help and she loses more than 100 pounds in less than a year and even though she’s thin and a lot of good things have come her way, she’s not happy.

Being thin doesn’t guarantee happiness and health, just like being fat doesn’t guarantee unhappiness and sickness. Choose happiness.

Love is the absence of judgement. Dalai Lama XIV

Show yourself some love.

Be kind to yourself and never beat yourself up about your weight and instead show yourself some love by being grateful for your body and all it does for you every day. It took me a while to get to this point. I think about my younger self and I wish I’d have shown myself more love back then. If I felt fat or some one else called me fat, I wasn’t strong enough to not be ashamed. Shame is personal and lingers. It’s a by-product of judgment and rejection. That only motivated me to find comfort in food.

You can transform yourself and your life when you shift your mindset toward away from shame, unhappiness, and finding comfort in food. Don’t let how much you weight keep you from living your best life. You can do it.

Is there more to it than being thin or fat? I’d love to hear what you think about the subject.

To Weigh or Not to Weigh?

To weigh or not to weigh: that is the question.

Hamlet – To be or not to be…

If you’re trying to lose weight, this question becomes an important one.

There seem to be 2 philosophical camps: the weight-not-ers and the weigh-ers.

The weigh-not –ers say don’t weigh yourself because your weight can fluctuate daily and if you’re doing everything right and not losing weight then you’ll get discouraged and ditch the whole effort. They say it’s all about how you feel and not about a number on a scale because how does anyone pick an arbitrary number as an “ideal weight”? And just because a person is at his or her “ideal weight” doesn’t mean he or she is healthy. 

On the other hand, the weigh-ers say you should weigh yourself regularly – at most daily but at least once a week – to help you stay on track because your weight is a good indication of how you’re doing in the area of weight loss/management.

Dread the scale?

I recommend you take a little from each camp. I say definitely weigh yourself. Don’t hate the scale; it’s just a measurement device, like a thermometer.

While the scale is a great tool, try not to obsess over it. If your weight is up a couple of pounds, don’t decide that you can’t eat anything for the rest of the day or say, “Forget it! I’ve been perfect for a whole week and haven’t lost a single pound! I can’t lose weight!” and decide to soak your frustrations in a tub of ice cream.

That won’t help.

Remember your weight truly can fluctuate based on hormone cycle, hydration, etc. Make a note of the number and continue to eat lean meats or plant protein, whole fruits, whole grains, and plenty of vegetables. Eat low glycemic foods to keep your body well-fueled. Read my blogpost, Diet Roulette, for more information about eating low glycemic.

If you think you’ve done everything right but still gained a few pounds, try keeping a food journal and write every single thing you put in your mouth, every morsel of food, drink, and even that tiny taste of candy, cookie, cake…you get the picture. Keeping a food journal helps us be more mindful of what we’re eating and may call attention to mindless snacking we hadn’t noticed before.

Keep in mind that your daily actions are what determine your outcome. Make reaching your weight-loss goal part of your healthy lifestyle. Make a conscious decision that you’re in it for life and you’re not on a diet. Diets are temporary; that’s why they don’t work. Be patient.

Now, let’s say you hop on the scale and you’ve lost a few pounds. Congratulations! That’s great! Maybe you expected the weight loss, maybe you didn’t. Either way, enjoy the weight loss and keep the good nutrition going.

Remember, that the scale is not the enemy. In my experience with weight loss/management, what’s hard to lose is super easy to gain, and, like it or not, the scale is a reliable tool for measuring weight.

Another great tool is a tape measure – Measure your waist, hips, thighs, and biceps. According to most health professionals, your waist measurement should be no more than half your height. Depending on your workout and nutrition routine, losses may show more in inches than in pounds.   apple

If you want to lose a few pounds or if you’re interested in maintaining your weight, it’s important to weigh and measure yourself to help you stay focused on eating healthy, nutritious food.

Most of the time, I really don’t need to hop on the scale or measure myself to know I’ve put on a few pounds. Last summer, after a 7-day cruise of eating rich food aplenty and indulging in dessert nearly every night, I dreaded getting on the scale. I knew I had gained weight. I could feel it. The only question was how much?

The scale confirmed what I already knew, but somehow, seeing that number burst my rationalization bubble and helped me get back on track faster than I would have without it.

Never give up! No matter what the scale says, never give up! Commit to a healthy lifestyle and use the scale to your benefit.

So, are you a weigh-er or a weigh-not-er? What works best for you?

6 Tips to Stay on Track Through the Holidays


It’s the holiday season and another year comes racing to a close with plenty of sweets, food, and drink to go with it. If you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain a healthy weight, the availability of holiday treats and trimmings can make getting to January without any extra pounds a real challenge.

 Here are a few tips to help you ring in the new year without any extra weight.

1. Eat more veggies. Make a conscious effort to eat 2-3 more servings of vegetables than you’re eating right now. Raw or cooked, it doesn’t matter. Try vegetable soup, steamed vegetables, stir-fried, sautéed, roasted. Vegetables are high fiber and nutritious. Buy seasonal if you can and try something new to mix up your routine.

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Stay on track by eating more veggies.

2. Stash snacks. Have low glycemic snacks ready to eat before a party, buffet, or formal dinner. Snacking keeps you from being over-hungry and sets you up for making more thoughtful food choices. Some of my favorites are apple with raw almonds, apple slices with peanut butter (no added sugar), carrots and hummus, and Greek yogurt with grapes and pecan pieces.

3. Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water (8-12 glasses a day) will help keep everything flowing like it’s supposed to and will help you feel satisfied when eating low-glycemic, high fiber foods. Flavor your water with fruit like lemon or lime juice, orange slices, or other fruit for a little variety.

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Stay hydrated.

4. Survey the buffet. Buffets are common for holiday parties because they’re easy and give you so much variety. If possible, before picking up your plate, look over the buffet and do your best to make good choices. Avoid the fried stuff and stick with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and protein.

5. Be selective. If you decide you want dessert, no problem. Serve a little, enjoy it, and be done with it. Just don’t go crazy and act like you’ll never be able to eat dessert again in your life. I speak from experience when I say the weight you gain can end up staying with you way past that moment of deliciousness and it’s probably not worth it.

6. Stay focused on your goal. Even though it may be tough to pass up rich and decadent food when it’s right in front of you, going crazy with mindless eating and drinking that results in extra pounds on the scale or not being able to button your pants can be discouraging and even depressing. Keep your mental image of success clear and at the forefront of your mind.

Food is an important part of many celebrations but keep food in perspective. Be mindful about the many things that make this time of year so special: time with family and friends, giving generously, helping those in need, spiritual renewing, and much more. Enjoy those things and make your good health another thing to celebrate.