Posted by: itsleisa | 10/31/2009

Five Ways to Fight Focus Fatigue

I have been struggling with a new challenge recently. Since June, I have been very focused on changing my eating habits and losing weight. I have enjoyed training myself to eat in new and healthier ways, and have seen slow, yet steady progress toward my goal of fitting comfortably again into size 10 clothes. But over the last few weeks, it has been harder and harder for me to focus on building, maintaining and expanding my new habits. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have started eating burgers, pizza and ice cream instead of protein salads and broiled broccoli.  I have maintained the majority of my new habits, and so maintained my weight (the good news), but I haven’t been losing (the bad news).

It seems like I only burn extra fat when my mind is 100% focused on that goal, and firing on all cylinders to make it happen – and I am currently suffering a severe case of focus fatigue.

I just haven’t been able to get quite as enthusiastic about envisioning myself at goal each morning, tracking every single thing I eat, putting in two extra workouts a week, really pushing myself on the workouts I am doing, keeping my fridge stocked with protein and veggies, preparing and packing my food for the day, drinking buckets of water, or forgoing my beloved vino at every outing or party with friends.

I know all those things really work – I have the results to prove it. But my enthusiasm, which has carried me for four months and down 15 pounds, seems to have left the building. So I am at that point when I need to ask myself (and you) how do I keep focused when it no longer seems fun or exciting or new?

I am still in the middle of struggling with this and finding the answers for myself, but here are some strategies I’m trying so far:

  1. Narrow my focus – Instead of trying to implement all the good habits I’ve learned into every single day – just pick one, like 120+ grams of protein per day, and focus on doing that for one or two weeks. The ‘just focus on protein strategy’ is what successfully started me on the journey in the first place. Could it be as simple as just going back to that?
  2. Learn strategies for maintenance – Eventually I will be at my final goal, and when I get past this challenge and get there, I will need to know how to maintain. I can use this time as sort of a mid-point maintenance stop, and gain confidence that when I ultimately do get to my goal, I’ve got the skills to maintain it for life.
  3. Let my mind do the heavy-lifting – Instead of trying to brow-beat myself into doing all the things I am (for whatever reason) resisting, I can take some time to just picture myself at goal and how I would feel, and picture doing everything it would take to get there effortlessly, with ease.
  4. Become a raving fan of all I’ve achieved so far – Instead of lamenting because I am challenged right now, I can take this opportunity to go back and review, and revel in the success I have achieved so far. Truthfully, if I just stopped now and maintained, it would still be a triumph considering the way I was headed.
  5. Give up and go back to my old fat-storing, high-carb ways – What??? Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. Although I am not recommending this, it is a legitimate option.  When I recognize that while not ideal, it is an option – I oddly get an extra dose of freedom and power in choosing to continue on my new path, rather than having it seem like an obligation that I must endure.

What about you – have you suffered from focus fatigue? What strategies have you used to overcome?



  1. Great ideas Leisa! These will be very helpful to your readers. Here’s another one: “Focus fatigue” is quite normal, and is usually an indicator that you are on the right track (ironically). It’s typically caused by old nerve pathways that are dying off and fighting for their survival. Losing focus is another sneaky way those pathways can sabotage your progress and get juice again by making you fall off the wagon. Once you are back into your old patterns, they are being activated with impulses again, and continue to get deeper like they are used to, instead of shallower which makes them defend themselves.

    Keep a list of reasons with you that remind you why you are doing this in the first place. Pull that list out when you are losing focus and then take a moment to imagine what you will feel like and look like when you do reach your goals. Taking this mini-fantasy break in your brain will give it juice to press on.

  2. I don’t know if you are or not, but TAKE A BREAK!

    My favorite results producing way of eating says that Sundays (or whatever 1 day/week you want), you can eat whatever you want.

    This works for me (and you’ll find that you don’t eat as much crap as you think you would). It provides a mental break, reminds you that your body doesn’t actually want the foods your mind thinks it does, and physiologically, you will burn better when giving your body variety.

    In a eat a lot/muscle building context, the day off provides a necessary break for the body. Taking the day off with lower calories allows your body to do more with the calories it gets later. I didn’t say that very well….

    More of the story, breaking routine and varying input is very important for results, and ongoing results.

  3. Joshua & PJ – Thanks for the great suggestions. I will be incorporating those into my strategy.

  4. Hey Leisa – I just emailed PJ about how much I love your blog. I’ve added it to my RSS feeds as a daily dose of extra motivation.
    I too have been dealing with about 4-6 months of focus fatigue. A couple of weeks ago I decided to get serious again.
    It was re-invigorating to read about someone else going through the same thing.
    My favorite suggestion of yours?
    “Give up and go back to my old fat-storing, high-carb ways”. There is something powerful about realizing this is a choice I’m making, not something I’m being forced to do.
    Thank you!

  5. Hi Barb – thanks. I am glad you found something useful, and I really appreciate that you told me. My hope is to continue to share what I am discovering in a way that makes a difference to people in a similar spot.

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