So you’ve made the decision to make a change and improve your health. Congratulations! Whether you want to lose 5, 10 or 20 pounds, you could have a few weeks to many months ahead of you. But there are smart strategies for making the time pass faster—without getting discouraged.
Circling your deadline in the calendar is one way to keep your eyes on the prize and your final goal top of mind but what’s been shown to be even more effective at keeping weight-loss hopefuls engaged and motivated until the end is the small and easy act of celebrating small wins along the way.
That’s right, not waiting until the grand finale on the scale to take a moment to acknowledge the incremental steps and advancements you make is a habit that’s been proven by researchers to lead to the completion of even bigger goals.
The reason for this is because everytime we take a moment to celebrate a win—no matter how small—our brains release a feel-good hormone called dopamine which boosts focus and motivation, feelings of well-being—and most importantly—creates a reward loop that tells your brain to repeat the pattern.
For example, if you celebrate every five pounds lost instead of waiting to get to grand total, you’re more likely to succeed because your internal reward system is now motivating you even more to get there. Pretty cool huh?
There are plenty of ways to celebrate small wins on your journey to success.
1. Break your main goal into progress milestones
Take a big goal and chop it down into milestone steps. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, set targets for every five pounds lost. If your goal is to clean up your diet, aim to cook and eat at home five days out of seven and celebrate with a non-food reward every time you succeed.
Hitting these more frequent targets will help to curtail procrastination and will hardwire your brain to believe it’s successful and determined enough to make it through to the end.
2. Start a small win journal
Harnessing confidence is about a lot more than just the one primary goal that you’re working towards. It’s also about building yourself up to become an all-around more confident person in general, which in turn will help you overcome setbacks.
Take a few minutes every evening to recap what went right during the day. Log your successes, moments of pride and every small to big accomplishment. You’ll be surprised at how much went your way throughout the day and this will set you up for even more success the following day.
3. Take weekly measurements or progress photos
The scale is definitely not the be-all and end-all of success and doesn’t always show the full picture. You may be tightening up by adding lean muscle to your frame but still be losing inches due to a reduction in body fat, so try taking weekly or biweekly measurements or progress photos—in the same outfit, at the same angle and preferably with the same lighting—and compare them as you go along to notice incremental changes that excite you to continue.
If you backslide at any point, go easy on yourself and be careful not to get too consumed by this part of the process. If you have tendencies towards obsessive behavior, skip this step altogether!
4. Reward yourself
Who doesn’t love a little celebratory reward for a job well done? When you reach your small-win milestones, treat yourself to something that sparks joy—but isn’t food. Perhaps it’s a mani-pedi, a new book, concert or sporting event tickets or a night away with a friend or romantic partner.
Other non-scale small wins to celebrate
Seeing the number on the scale drop isn’t the only benefit of losing weight to get healthier. There are a ton of other side effects that are just as worthy of celebration. Pay close attention for these amazing side-effects to kick in:
- You have more energy
- You feel happier
- Every day chores and tasks suddenly feel easier
- You are experiencing less pain
- You sleep better at night and bounce out of bed in the morning
- Your clothes fit better
- You feel more comfortable in your skin
- You’ve hit a new fitness milestone
- You see more muscular tone in your physique
- You have more endurance while exercising
- You’re craving less junk food and sugar
- You have better digestion
- You have improved mental focus
- Your skin looks better
- Your more confident in form-fitting clothing
- You’re more excited about attending social events
- You feel more sexual with your partner
- People in your life have noticed positive changes in you
If you want to keep motivation high while chasing a goal, celebrating small wins is a proven strategy to get you there. Not only will it keep you engaged while you work towards your goal, but it’s also a good reminder to appreciate the little things in life in addition to the big ones, which is a big factor when it comes to overall happiness.
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