If you feel you know exactly what to do to lose weight, but just can’t seem to get yourself motivated to lose weight over 50, this is the post for you.
Perhaps like many women I work with in the Stress Less Weight Mastery you’ve:
- Tried every restrictive diet under the sun only to struggle with overeating
- Tried many different weight loss programs
- Taken various supplements and prescriptions aimed at weight loss
- Visited doctors and dietitians looking for help to lose weight
- Maybe even had bariatric surgery, or are considering it
At this point you could write a book about how to be “good” with eating and physical activity… but you’re not implementing what you know.
It’s not your fault that you can’t implement the strategies you’ve learned.
The first thing I want you to hear about low motivation to lose weight over 50, is this:
It’s not your fault.
By now you likely feel like you’ve tried and failed so many times, it’s a perfectly reasonable self-preservation instinct to be discouraged about trying again.
And, as you’ll soon learn, the very diets that you are trying to lose weight are actually killing your motivation.
A note of caution before we get into the juicy stuff
Before we get into what is responsible for low motivation, I want to make clear that this article isn’t helpful for people who are struggling with:
Pursuing weight loss is harmful for people who struggle with some types of eating disorders. You can access a free screening tool to see if you need professional help for an eating disorder. In the US you can get help for eating disorders from the National Eating Disorder Association.
2.Depression or other mental health concerns
Low motivation can be a symptom of mental health issues that need to be addressed differently than what I layout below. If you are struggling with mental health, in the US you can access resources through this National helpline.
The #1 Killer of Motivation is…
The biggest block to motivation is PRESSURE. That pressure we put on ourselves to be a certain way or do certain things.
This extra pressure comes from All or Nothing Thinking.
All or Nothing Thinking convinces you that you either have to do things “just right” or you might as well not do them at all.
Every misstep is labeled a failure. And the bar is so high, it feels impossible to achieve… thereby killing motivation.
You know you are struggling with All or Nothing Thinking that makes it hard to lose weight over 50 if you have thoughts like these:
When you go over your calorie or point allowance and think “I blew it, I’ll eat whatever I want now and start again tomorrow… or next week”.
Your thoughts are preoccupied by how you need to exercise more consistently every time you exercise (because doing it once is not good enough).
You use Sabotage Words like “good” or “bad” in relation to what you eat or “failure”, “success”, “blew it”, “messed up”, “never”, “always” and the especially-damaging… “should”.
How your past success is setting you up for failure now to lose weight over 50
For women over 50 who have experienced success with making changes to lose weight before, you are particularly susceptible to All or Nothing Thinking.
Because you tell yourself you’ve experienced the near-perfect “All” before, where you are doing all the things you need to do for weight loss consistently – you may expect yourself to jump right back to those routines.
But it doesn’t work that way. Habit change takes time and effort. Something All or Nothing Thinking teaches us to ignore.
How diets set you up for self-sabotage to lose weight over 50
When you are counting calories, points or grams of carbs – if you go over your allotment, then you have failed for the day.
This is taken to its extreme in the ketogenic diet where if you eat too many carbs you leave ketosis and all of your hard work is for naught.
Diet mentalities train you to think about your health in All or Nothing terms. This sabotages your motivation by causing you great amounts of pressure, and sabotages your weight loss by causing you to constantly restart from ground zero, rather than make consistent progress.
All or Nothing: not just for perfectionists
You don’t have to consider yourself a “perfectionist” to fall victim to this thought pattern.
Have you ever sworn off cookies, or other sugary treats, only to give in to half or one, and then think, I already blew it I may as well just finish the rest off?
That’s all or nothing thinking and the very act of swearing off cookies puts unrealistic pressure on you which then kills motivation.
The second biggest killer of motivation for weight loss after 50
The second biggest motivation killer is self-criticism. When you mess up, if you beat yourself up for it, your subconscious will try to protect you by lowering motivation so you don’t have the opportunity to mess up and take an internal beating for it again.
Self-criticism also sabotages weight loss. For people who use food to comfort or numb their emotions, self-criticism creates difficult feelings that lead to eating for comfort.
That extra eating often results in more self-criticism, and the cycle continues, resulting in weight gain, low motivation to change and poor self-esteem.
The sabotaging brain chemical that is motivating you to eat
The third barrier to motivation are low levels of the brain chemical, dopamine.
Dopamine is often discussed for its role in stimulating reward and pleasure pathways in the brain after eating. This is why food can make you feel good, which of course can make weight loss more difficult.
Dopamine has another function, which is to create motivation, by anticipating what will make you feel good.
Doing things that rev up dopamine levels can help motivation.
On a logical basis this makes sense, when you feel good, it’s easier to make healthy choices. When you are feeling bad, you’re more likely to try to convince yourself you don’t really care about making healthy choices and comfort yourself with food to feel better.
Relieving the pressure so you can feel motivated to make change
To eliminate the pressure from all or nothing thinking you have to make room in your mind for the “grey” area between success and failure.
You can do this by celebrating partial successes, small wins, non-scale victories.
Take the example of walking for 5 minutes on a break from work.
Maybe you wanted to get a 30 min walk in. All or nothing thinking says anything less than 30 minutes is a failure. In reality, there are benefits to getting out for 5 minutes.
Taking a moment to feel proud, grateful and happy that you got a 5 minute walk in instead of spending your energy thinking about how you could have done better, will help train your brain to focus on similar wins and take the pressure off.
Celebrating your 5 minutes will help you feel motivated to get out and walk again, even if it’s only for another 5 minutes.
How curiosity contends with motivation-killing self-criticism so you can lose weight over 50
If self-criticism is killing your motivation, the first step is to pay attention to your thoughts. When you notice you are beating yourself up for mistakes:
Pause. Stop the mental tirade.
Take a deep breath and get curious.
Think for a moment what you would say to your best friend in this situation? What would it feel like to consciously stop the mental berating and choose to say nicer things to yourself?
Replace the self-criticism with the words you would speak to a friend.
Thanks to neural plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to change, the more you stop this cycle and practice saying nice things, the more routine that will become – leading to more motivation.
3 tips to boost dopamine to motivate weight loss after 50
Good news for weight loss! There are other ways to boost dopamine besides eating a tasty snack so you can feel more motivated.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
Getting a good sleep has been linked to better ability of the brain to sense and use dopamine.
Sleep is important for weight loss in general, one meta-analysis showed for every hour of sleep you are deprived, you eat an additional 380 calories.
Sleep for women over 50 can be a challenge. If you’re struggling with menopause-related sleep disturbance, you can use code CASSIE20 for a telemedicine consultation with a doctor who specializes in menopause symptoms at Gennev.com.
2. Blast your favorite tunes
Another proven dopamine-booster is music!
Whether you’re a top hits or oldies kind of gal – listening to music you love raises dopamine and may help you feel more motivated.
Good music can pick up your mood, and make you feel better – it’s so much easier to follow through on your plan when you feel good – so turn up those tunes!
Members of the Stress Less Weight Mastery created their own inspiring and empowering playlist, so if you’re looking for some new music, check this out on Spotify.
3. Create a brain-enhancing to-do list
Lastly, you can harness the power of dopamine for weight loss by setting and achieving small, realistic behavior goals… essentially creating a brain-enhancing to-do list.
The act of checking items off your list gives you a little surge of dopamine.
To set yourself up for success, pick doable targets that are within your control.
For example, “lose 5 lbs” is not a good item to put on your list because weight loss is not entirely in your control. Hormones, metabolism, and diet history can all complicate weight loss…
So choosing items that you have more control over, like taking a walk break or eating a hearty breakfast – are good check-list items that can give you that dopamine boost and help you feel motivated.