Have you ever flipped through the Victoria Secret catalog cutting out pictures of the prettiest women and pasting them to your fridge? If you’re a man, I hope not. If you’re a woman, I’d bet so. Almost every woman believes that being forced to stare at scantily clad models will release her inner health-conscious self. She’ll become, in the face of perfection, a nutritious eater and avid exerciser. It’s a common enough practice that you’d think it would work, but it turns out shoving beauty in your face might be the exact opposite of what you want to do.
When researchers at the University of Bath polled 281 undergraduate students (male and female), they found that picturing yourself as unattractive was the strongest motivator for exercise. Those who harbored a fear of becoming ugly were more likely to stick with a workout schedule until they saw results. And if signs of hideousness (a paunchy belly, flappy arms) were already appearing or still present, the self-loathers were even more moved to move. So try replacing the underwear models with pictures of you, at your ugliest, in your underwear. Make sure that the flab is really dominant and, if you can, highlight the cellulite. Turn going to the fridge into a horrifying slideshow, and you just might close the door, opting for the treadmill instead.
Of course, if you find that self-hatred is too much of a daily downer, there are other ways to motivate yourself, such as:
• Charge yourself – every time you miss a workout, empty your wallet. Give ten bucks to charity or to your kids. When the cash starts dwindling, you may find yourself jogging that extra mile.
• Set a schedule and make rules – if you think “I’ll workout when I can” is going to keep you on track, you’ve got another think coming. Making a schedule and establishing set rules will help keep you focused.
• Workout with your spouse – if you’re doing it together, you are both more likely to continue exercising. Besides, there’s nothing more annoying than having your significant other hold his victory over your failure.
• Turn regularly sedentary activities into . . . activities – if you’re stressed about fitting a workout into your schedule, you never will. Instead, turn meetings and phone calls into times to move. You’ll get your exercise without the time crunch.