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Written by Ana Jones

Have you made your obligatory “new year, new me” resolution? It’s almost an annual tradition after a festive season of indulgence and yet it’s fair to say these spur-of-the-moment intentions generally fall flat once February rolls around. Very quickly, motivation levels drop as “diet fatigue” takes hold and as challenges present themselves.

Most nutritionists will agree that losing weight or eating healthier is not about cutting out a food group, counting calories/kilojoules or exercising 24 hours a day – it is about making healthier food swaps, and moving more to increase your energy levels. That said, this too won’t work unless you are committed and motivated!

New year, same you (better health and wellbeing habits)

Fad diets are out; self-awareness and a holistic approach is in. A combination of food, movement and emotional wellbeing is key to successful and sustainable weight loss, as is your readiness to change and your approach.

And, while a higher protein, low GI eating plan is scientifically proven to achieve long-term weight loss results, that sustained length of time can’t be achieved without a clear understanding of what motivates you to succeed.

Dieting mindset explained

According to the Cambridge Dictionary online, motivation is defined as the reasoning, willingness and goals of action and the process that guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviours.

For example, if you believe you are likely to fail, you may be more likely to give up on a weight-loss program when you hit setbacks along your journey. That’s because self-defeating thinking patterns can make weight management difficult.

By contrast, if you believe you are capable of adapting to change and picking up new healthy habits successfully, that may help with diet motivation. Making sure setbacks and struggles don’t adversely affect a positive attitude about your weight loss journey is one aspect of a helpful weight loss mindset.

A recent survey of over 11,000 CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet members* found that most people enter the program with high levels of motivation and commitment to lose weight.

Amongst those members, 93 per cent said they were motivated to lose weight in order to feel good and improve their quality of life; a close second was health as a driver, with 89 per cent of people motivated by this also. Other kickstart reasons included appearance (79 per cent) and for themselves (70 per cent).

Most people who were classified as obese were motivated to lose weight for their health (92 per cent). 41 per cent of this group were motivated by their family, while trigger events such as a wedding or a death motivated 19 per cent, which is almost double the number of people classed as normal weight who were motivated by a trigger event. Being recommended to lose weight by someone in their lives, such as a doctor was 6 times more likely to be a reason for people classed as obese.

Armed with this data, CSIRO went about looking for ways to help improve the mindsets of those on their diet journey and keep them motivated throughout.

What does all this mean for success?

The behavioural scientists at CSIRO have decoded motivation and developed a 3-point plan to help us embark on a weight loss program this year.

This includes: 

  • Find out what motivates you best and how to succeed: take the free, three-minute, science-based assessment to discover how ready you are to lose weight; what motivates you to lose weight, and the personal skills you need to master for weight loss success. Also find the approach that suits you – make sure it’s evidence based and backed by science.

Keep motivated by creating an inspiration board that gives you a visual reminder of why you’re making changes to your diet and exercise. This helps you enjoy the journey and not just the destination! You can then remind yourself of the why and rewarding achievement of small goals along the way. 

  • Stay motivated by an inspiring community: whatever approach you take, seek out others who’ve had a positive experience and are supportive and encouraging as well as the support of family, friends and health professionals.

No-fool tool for weight loss success

Based on psychology and behavioural science, the new Start Strong Diet Quiz assesses participants' values and readiness for change and provides a motivational map to guide those seeking to improve their overall health and wellbeing in 2021.

woman drinking from bottle

The quiz is free and readily available to everyone, not just its members. It assesses what motivates the individual to make healthy changes to their lifestyle, including if they are more motivated to change their diet, increase their exercise or monitor their measurements and provides practical tips based on lifestyle choices, passions and aspirations to help them personalise their weight loss plan.

Achieving weight loss can be a difficult and long-term journey, so it makes sense that a degree of motivation is required to be successful. Higher levels of better-quality motivation are likely to be associated with greater weight loss success.

About Pennie McCoy

Pennie McCoy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with over 16 years of experience in a range of practices, including hospital dietetics, research as well as corporate nutrition, and is passionate about empowering people to make healthier choices to meet their health and nutrition goals.

Currently, she provides online coaching sessions for the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Online program to hundreds of members, delivering nutrition counselling for general healthy eating, menu planning and dietary advice.

* “Motivation and intention for weight loss in a cohort of Total Wellbeing Members.” January 2021 (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RkRmmx_2WA7fvjWSjlJjjSZnndN34EUL/view)

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