The Motivation Equation

Aah, January. Probably my least favourite of the 12 months. Christmas and New Year are gone, you realise the weeks of planning and expense materialised into a week, at most, of seasonal fun, and now we’re just left with winter, a living room without a Christmas tree and the pressure to make something of 2012.

As much as I complain, I do fall hook, line and sinker for the New Year, New Start mantra – you get drawn into the neatness of a new year, the blank slate stretching before you – no matter what the problems, dramas and mistakes of 2011, you can become a perfect human being in 2012.

My most important resolution this year is to get back to the healthy, slim, active person I was at the back end of 2009. Two years ago I was considerably lighter, a regular gym-goer and stuck to a healthy eating plan with ease and dare I say it even pleasure. I lost two stones in weight, dropped a dress size and generally felt amazing.

Then I got cocky, fell into bad habits again and over the past two years, almost 2 stones have crept back on. Clothes I adored in 2009 no longer fit, or if they do, look dreadful. So I am determined to find that happy, healthy person again and introduce her to 2012.

Obviously my wedding is a motivation – dress now ordered, I am keen to be a certain weight and shape for the big day and I have 9 months to get my act together.

My official start is Monday – I’ve written the Slimming World menu for the following week, stocked up on healthy snacks and after writing this post I’ll be making a huge batch of low-fat vegetable soup for work lunches.

And I bet, across the country, scores of women are doing exactly the same, determined to make this year the year they feel good about their figures.

But what happens 3, 4 weeks from now? When the shiny New Year canvas appears less exciting, tarnished with that Indian takeaway you shouldn’t have ordered and the post-Christmas chocolate you discovered at the back of the fridge?

Then, one phrase is key: every day makes a difference.

That’s it. Thats the difference between yo-yo dieting, falling off the wagon and endless ‘fresh starts’ – that, in my view, is the difference between succeeding and failing at making meaningful, lasting change.

We’ve all been there – you eat one slice of cake at work because it’s someone’s birthday, or devour a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Saturday night, and you write your week off. “Well, I can’t lose weight this week now, I’ve ruined it! May as well sack the rest of the week off and begin fresh on Monday.” You then eat rubbish for the rest of the week, undo the previous week’s weight loss, and your motivation melts away like that those squares of Galaxy you kept popping into your mouth.

But it doesn’t work. One bad day does not mean the end of the world. Be realistic – are you never going to eat out again? Have a takeaway? Share a bottle of wine with a friend? Of course you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that – but the trick is to get up the next day, having enjoyed yourself, and get right back into the swing of things.

It’s not just weight loss this applies to – if you’ve resolved to get fit, don’t let the first time you miss going to the gym lead to 3 months of nothing. Sorting your finances? An unexpected bill or cost (of which we’ve had two this week, what with the tumble dryer and fridge freezer both deciding to pack up) does not mean you can’t continue; keep calm and carry on.

The motivation of the blank canvas of the New Year can be stretched out until December – just view every new day as another blank page. Another chance to stick to your plans and achieve your goals. And goals are important too – if you can’t visualise or take inspiration from the very reasons you made your 2012 resolution (becoming slimmer, healthier, fitter or better with money) how will you convince yourself the sacrifice is worth it? Eyes on the prize, people.

Call me juvenile, but I find the best way to keep my goals in sight is to track my journey towards them. Namely rows of blank boxes I can colour in for every pound lost, slowly building up the final block that is my target weight. It seems daft, but I get no greater push forward than shading in three boxes after a good weigh-in and watching myself creep closer to the end.

Others treat themselves at every milestone – a new handbag after half a stone, new underwear after a stone’s loss, and new clothes when they reach target and realise clothes shopping can be fun, instead of a tactical, self-esteem-shattering nightmare.

However you inspire yourself, whatever your resolution, see every day as a new opportunity. No matter what the mistakes of the day before, here’s your fresh start.  For the one bad day you have, six good days can move you closer and closer to your target.

Every day makes a difference.

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