Mind & Lifestyle
 min read

Motivation vs Discipline for weight loss

The words motivation and discipline are often used interchangeably but in fact, they are both different, but necessary, components of maintaining long term lifestyle change.

Written by
Sanchia Parker
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist
Reviewed by

Motivation is what gets you started, discipline is what keeps you going

We shared what it takes for permanent motivation for weight loss here. But another important component of long term behaviour change is discipline. 

While the words are often used interchangeably, their meanings are quite different. Motivation is what drives us towards making health goals and spurs us to initially make change. On the other hand, discipline is the action that we take to cement our new, healthy habits. 


Motivation is the internal drive to make changes, take on new challenges and pursue new directions in life. 

However, motivation is fleeting. There are times motivation is high, and then times motivation drops and it’s low. It’s inevitable that motivation has peaks and valleys, this is a completely normal part of lifestyle change.

When motivation is high, great! Use it to your advantage and make the most of the energy and inspiration to push your new, healthy habits. 

But when it dips (as it inevitably will), this is when you can focus on using discipline to maintain your healthy habits.


It’s unrealistic to rely on this motivation alone to achieve our goals. This is where discipline comes in. 

In this context, discipline is setting up a structure to train yourself to build healthy habits. Discipline uses structure and routine to build and embed new habits, rather than relying on motivation.

Making new habits

Forming new habits can be difficult. When we set ourselves a new habit, such as going to the gym, it takes a lot of brain power because we are learning a new behaviour. 

Comparatively, consider an automatic habit, like putting a seatbelt on when you get in the car. You probably don’t even notice you do it, and it requires minimal thought or focus to fulfil this habit. 

It takes time to get to the point that a habit is automatic!  But as you continue to practise the new activity (whether it’s going to gym after work, meal prepping or meditation), it takes less energy and focus as it slowly becomes more automatic.

So to successfully form a new habit, it takes motivation to spur the initial change, and discipline to build and cement the habit. 

Putting it all together

Step 1: Set your goal

First of all, consider what goal is motivating you to make a change. Is it wanting more energy? Feeling more confident? Going on holiday with your family?

Finding a powerful motivator is important!

Step 2: Develop a plan

Now consider what needs to happen for you to reach your goal. Is it losing weight? Doing more exercise? Practising meditation? 

Write down exactly what steps you need to take to reach your goal. If your goal is weight loss, it might look like this: 

  • Walking 30 minutes x 3 times a week
  • Having half a plate of salad/vegetable at lunch and dinner
  • Drink 2 litres per day
  • Cut down alcohol to 2 drinks on Friday

Step 3: Power with discipline

Now it’s time to use discipline to schedule these steps into your week. If you want to drink 2 litres of water per day, perhaps you can buy a water jug to put on your desk at work. If you are cutting down your alcohol intake, perhaps you make up some tasty non-alcoholic drinks to have in the fridge. 

Step 4: Review

Set time aside each weekend to review your goals, and the week ahead. 


  • Use motivation to inspire you and provide an initial burst of energy
  • Focus on building disciplined actions that will help you cement the habits that will help you reach your goals. 
  • Get specific in what discipline will look like for your specific goal.

If you’re looking for a fresh, more mindful approach to weight loss, Rosemary Health can help. We have doctor-guided weight loss programs that consider your lifestyle, goals and your approach to food and wellbeing.

Lose 10% weight, feel better
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Lose 10% weight, feel better
Medical weight loss that works.
Start Online Visit
Lose 10% weight, feel better
Medical weight loss that works.
Start Online Visit
Lose 10% weight, feel better
Medical weight loss that works.
Start Online Visit
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