What you can learn from Olympic athletes to reach your weight goals
We’re only a few days into the London 2012 Olympic Games, but we’ve already watched on as the Olympic Games brings triumph and heartache, joy and upset, disbelief and disgruntlement. Although all Olympians have outsized athletic talent and event-specific skills, what often separates medalists from non-medalists comes down to a larger-than-life mindset that they can hone for exactly the right moment to achieve Olympic glory.
As a sports lover and erstwhile elite triathlete – I was a top ten UK triathlete at my peak and qualified for three World Championships – I am fascinated by the mindset of Olympic athletes, particularly when we get to hold a magnifying glass to their performance and their psychology every four years. Over the last few days, glued to the television set, I’ve been watching and listening to how athletes deal with their successes and their failures, and how that can be applied to getting in control of your weight.
Five Olympic secrets for weight loss success
1. Intrinsic motivation
If you listened to our recent Weight Loss Motivation webinar, you’ll know how important it is to find your intrinsic motivation when you’re trying to lose weight. Intrinsic motivation comes from inside of you – it means you’re driven by a passion, enjoyment or value in the activity you’re doing rather than a desire to receive some form of reward or acknowledgement.
Olympic athletes would never remain motivated without this internal drive because their lives are consumed with relentless training schedules and tremendous sacrifice -with only the smallest fraction of a chance of an extrinsic reward, an Olympic medal. And yet, year after year, they find an intrinsic motivation to keep reaching for their goals.
Research consistently shows that intrinsic motivation is a far more powerful motivator than external motivation, and yet weight loss is often all about external motivators. Too often, weight loss hopes are abandoned after just one week of not hitting the right number on the bathroom scale or finding a diet change too hard to handle. Imagine if Olympic athletes gave up after just one bad race or training routine, rather than reassessing, regrouping and coming back for more?
The first Olympic secret for weight loss success is to tap into your intrinsic motivation.
Perhaps the most important strategy for success, especially when it comes to achieving a long-term goal, is having a routine, and adhering to that routine even in the face of chaos and distractions.
Multiple gold medal swimmer Ian Thorpe used to get up at 4.27am every morning so he could eat breakfast and get to the pool exactly on time, year after year after year. A precise time, a tight schedule, but he knew that every moment counted when it came to performing at his best. All Olympic athletes have fine-tuned their routines both in training and at the games themselves so they can squeeze as much out of their day, and themselves, as they can.
One of the most common excuses we hear from people who are trying to lose weight is that they don’t have time to exercise, cook, buy groceries or focus on their health. The first thing to realize is that a ‘lack of time’ problem is usually a ‘poor routine’ problem in disguise, and with a good hard look at how you structure your day, you’ll probably soon realize just how much extra time you can find once you optimize your routine.
The second Olympic secret for weight loss success is to establish a routine that allows you to put yourself, and your health, higher on the priority list.
One of the biggest challenges for any Olympian is all the distractions from media, fans, sponsors and team pressures. Olympic athletes have a lot thrown at them right when they need to concentrate the most. Just yesterday, Emily Seebohm admitted that she missed a gold medal because she wasn’t focused: “I don’t know, I just felt like I didn’t really get off [social media] and get into my own mind. I obviously need to sign out of Twitter and log out of Facebook a lot sooner than I did.”
Although losing weight should never dominate your life, when you have a weight goal to reach you have to give it some focus. You need to have plans about how you’re going to deal with distractions, pressures, setbacks and temptations because life goes on even when you’re trying to lose weight! Without focus, you’re unlikely to reach your weight loss goal.
The third Olympic secret for weight loss success is to have a plan in place about how you’re going to stay focused.
4. Dealing with setbacks
Already in these London 2012 Olympics, many athletes’ events have not gone how they wanted or expected. Years of meticulous planning, and in one fell swoop everything can come undone. For some, this literally means that their Olympic dream is over. For others, depending on the sport and qualification process, they have to quickly find a way to get themselves back on track. Those athletes who deal best with setbacks are often the ones who end up standing on the gold medal podium.
As much as you’d like your weight loss plans to go as smoothly as clockwork, I’ve never known anyone to glide smoothly through a weight loss programme without having to deal with setbacks. Setbacks come in many guises – not reaching your weight goal, a week of work functions, illness or injury, or a bout of low motivation can all play havoc with your weight loss goals.
When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to accept that setbacks will undoubtedly happen…it’s your ability to deal with them that will make or break your weight loss success.
The fourth Olympic secret for weight loss success is to develop your ability to bounce back from setbacks.
This final Olympic secret is the most powerful, so I’ve saved it til last. If you’ve yet to watch the Olympics, switch on and listen to what athletes say when they’re interviewed before and after their race. Listen to the words they use, the way they describe themselves, the language they’ve adopted for talking about their performance and chances of a medal. It’s fascinating stuff.
Admittedly, some are better prepared for media than others, and some are great at self-promotion while others are more introverted, but in general you can pick how athletes think, their level of self-belief and their ability to deal with setbacks just by listening to what they say in a few minutes of an interview.
What do you say about yourself – in the privacy of your own mind, or to anyone that will listen – about your weight and health? Do you talk in positive language and acknowledge your successes, or do you constantly beat yourself up for all the things you don’t do well? Chances are, if you’re trying to lose weight and not succeeding, you have a strong inner critic that’s getting in the way of you reaching your goals.
If this is the case, it’s vital that you change your self-talk. Stop bashing yourself up and start some self-praise. Expect great things of yourself but also acknowledge every little thing that you’re doing right along the way. How you speak about yourself is a tell-tale sign about whether or not you’re going to reach your weight loss goals.
The fifth Olympic secret for weight loss success is to re-set your self-talk for success, not failure.
Hope you enjoyed this Olympic edition of weight loss motivation! If you have any other Olympic secrets that could help with weight loss, leave a comment below!