width=200With any big goal that takes daily effort, you need to stay motivated. This is especially crucial when you're trying to change your lifestyle to lose weight or get fit.

Spend five minutes today thinking about why you want to lose weight (or maintain your current weight, or get fitter). And don't feel bad if your motivations aren't all worthy ones. Being desperately keen to fit back into those jeans you wore as a teenager just might be the thing that keeps you on track when the chocolate cookies are calling your name!

Do you...

  • Want to lose weight for a special occasion? (Mark it on the calendar, and think about how great you'll feel on the day! Don't try to rush things, though. Maybe you can't lose 100 lbs by Christmas 2009, but Christmas 2010 might be a realistic goal.)
  • Want to get fitter to take part in an event? If you're struggling to stick to your exercise routine, how about looking for a bike ride, walk or run that you could take part in? It doesn't have to be the London Marathon - but make it something that challenges you.
  • Want to maintain your current figure? Focus on all the things you love about how you look now: I really like being able to find clothes that fit (and suit) me in any shop. I also like being fit enough to do plenty of walking and cycling.

If you're struggling to stay motivated, one way to give yourself an extra boost is to use your goal to help someone else. I recently received an email about the Pound for Pound challenge where Americans can sign up with their weight loss goal and track their progress. For every pound you lose, 10 cents (enough for one pound of food) is donated to a food bank to help families in your area who might otherwise go hungry.

(You can also donate directly, or collect Pound For Pound lids and seals from specially-marked General Mills products.)

For those whose goal is to get fitter, why not find a charity bike ride (such as the London to Paris Big Issue one) or a run which you could do to raise money for those in need?

Whether your motivations are a little bit selfish (like I want to impress my relatives with how much slimmer I am, next Christmas) or utterly selfless (I'm training as hard as I can for this marathon so I can make lots of money for charity), keep them in mind. Next time you're tempted to have a second slice of cake, or to skip your planned workout, you'll find that you're that bit stronger.