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Use Small Wins to Motivate Yourself For Weight Loss

Updated: May 23, 2023

Building on small wins is key to creating permanent healthy behaviours. You can use the progress you’ve already made to motivate you toward your larger goal, whether it's living healthier, losing weight or having more energy and zest for life.

The key is Baby Steps!

Baby steps are at the heart of my change success philosophy because you don’t create success in one sudden overwhelming swoop unless you win the lottery. Succeeding at anything is about using each small win to motivate yourself to the larger goal. It works that way with weight loss and healthy living too.

When I am coaching, too many times I hear women bully themselves with negative self-talk like:

"I’m so overweight I should just give up."
"It’s no use. I can’t change."
"Why bother eating a salad for lunch when I ate Pop Tarts for breakfast."
"I have so much weight to lose. It’s impossible."
"It's the menopause, I have no chance!"
"My knees are too sore to exercise. I may as well give up."

The list goes on! However, every one of those women has had good moments. Every one of them has made healthy choices on some days. Every one of them is capable of making lasting changes that will make them feel and look better. Whether or not they took two steps back, they have all taken steps forward to living a healthier life. The key is to get them to use those small victories to push toward the larger goal.

You don’t run a marathon by focusing on the finish line. You turn your attention toward the road in front of you. You propel yourself forward by setting small goals that build momentum and motivate you to the finish line because winners don’t actually think about winning; they think about performing in the moment.

Staying in the moment is an amazing life skill, and it does take practice. These days, we're not too good at staying in the moment or 'being present'. It's actually a challenge, but it's a worthwhile one, not only for your health but your whole life. You may want to read my article about mindfulness here if this interests you.

It’s what small wins and baby steps, are all about. So from a healthy living perspective, let’s take a look at your small wins and see how to use those to build the healthy lifestyle you want and deserve.

Let’s break it down into three easy categories: Number Wins, Movement Wins, and Food Wins.

Celebrate Your Number Wins

In honor of the New Year (ok so we're already in May when I'm writing this, I's gone so fast!!!) and the fact that usually the number one New Year’s resolution is to “Lose Weight,” let’s begin with Number Wins. Also, with summer now just around the corner for us in the Northern hemisphere, it's usually something at the forefront of many people's minds.

Sadly, when you are trying to lose weight, you usually have to face your numbers (although don't start here if it fills you with dread). You could use a scale, a tape measure, or your clothing size (or feel of your clothes), but when it comes to reducing, you’ll ideally need a means of measurement of some sort.

Every time you see your number drop, whether it’s a lot or a little, CELEBRATE!! You are making progress. You can buy yourself a new dress, tell a friend, get a fitness tracker, or put a star on your calendar.....but celebrate, because half a Kg or a pound, a quarter of an inch, or one less hole in your belt is a big win! Also, it doesn't have to be about the weight side of things! Maybe you want to work on improving your sleep and the number of hours you sleep for? Or maybe your energy levels? Or something else you can use a scale or number for!

Did you get a little buzz from seeing that number? How about a smidge of self satisfaction? Enjoy it, savour it!

Now, while you are still feeling the happy glow from that moment of self congratulation, set your next goal. Keep it small. Keep it easy, and pursue it.

Every time you allow yourself to celebrate a small win, set a new goal and keep moving forward, one step at a time. Use the joy of watching your numbers drop (or change) to keep you focused on the bigger goal which is your healthiest life.

Just remember, we all hit plateaus, and if this is the case we also need to give ourselves a break, don't be hard on yourself!

Celebrate Your Movement Wins

Movement Wins operate the same way. You use the enthusiasm from one success to spur another. Be creative and make it fun.

For instance, put a gold star on the calendar for every three days in a row that you work out or move more for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Once you’ve collected ten stars, buy yourself new workout clothes or something else you can enjoy that's not food related (make a list of ideas before you get started).

Plus, in some studies psychologists agree that it takes twenty-one days to establish a new habit. Once you’ve awarded yourself ten gold stars you’ve become a Habitual Exerciser. Ok I'll be honest here, there's loads of different time frames for habit change, but consistency is key, so the more you hit those stars, the more likely this new action will change in to a habit and stick.

We spend so much time feeling blasé about life. We don’t let ourselves get too excited. It seems to be an unfortunate side effect of being a grown up. Do you remember when getting a gold star was a thrill all by itself, you couldn’t wait to get another?

If you increase you movement or work out time, degree of difficulty, or frequency, that’s a win! You deserve to feel proud. Let that pride be the push you need to step up your game and to keep going.

Celebrate Your Food Wins

Like moving more, or working out, eating healthy is really about creating new habits. You have to create a new pattern of making healthy food choices to replace the old habits that you want to change. Like working out and losing weight, learning to eat healthier is best done in baby steps.

On your road to a better diet (not going on a fad diet etc but to a better way of eating) there may be mornings when you feel derailed by a danish or when late night pizza makes you feel like a failure. Set that judgement aside. On that same day you may have chosen a grilled chicken salad for lunch or passed up the chips in favor of a side of veggies. Focus on the wins again. Then make a plan to start the next day with a bowl of something else nourishing.

When you make a good choice, take note of it. Think about how you feel after eating well. Personally I feel so good and so energised after about three days of eating well. I feel leaner, lighter, stronger, more in control and just generally better. I feel like I am doing my body justice. I use those feelings to push myself to improve my diet over the long haul.

You can do that to. When you have a great eating moment, meal, or day, remember how you feel both physically and emotionally. Use those small wins to motivate healthier behaviors.

We all want to embrace a healthy lifestyle. We all want a better life for ourselves and our families. Most of us want to be fit and happy and that’s a great goal.

The trick is to identify the small wins you are already achieving and to use those wins to motivate yourself to keep going. Focus on the moment. When you take the time to celebrate your success you’re really taking a baby step toward living the happy, healthy life you deserve!

I also use Functional Imagery Training (FIT) to work on these things, and move forward with goals, especially when it comes to weight loss. FIT has an excellent evidence base and there was even a TV programme made about it here in the UK. It's been compared with the use of Motivational Interviewing alone, and has been found to be very successful (article available here). If you want to know more about working with me and how this may help you, then send me an email to

Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.

I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.

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