Why you struggle to stay motivated on a healthy eating plan
No one starts out a new eating plan wanting to fail. You have great ambitions and dedication to your new plan.
But then life happens and it gets hard to stick with it...and then eventually you fall back into your old patterns.
Because we all tend to take on more than we can handle. We think we are able to make more changes than are humanly possible.
The truth is, it’s not your motivation or willpower that is lacking. It’s that you don’t have the right strategies to keep yourself motivated.
Ways to stay motivated when following a new eating plan
If you want to stay motivated when following a new eating plan, here are 6 specific things you need to do:
1) Start small
As I mentioned, the most important thing you can do is create small victories for yourself. If that means that the only change you make in your diet is to drink one glass of water when you wake up, awesome.
It just needs to be something that, no matter what, you WILL be able to do. Nothing builds momentum and motivation better than winning.
So when you are starting out, write down all the things that you think would help improve your diet. Once you have a list, see if you can break these into smaller goals.
For example, if one improvement is “eat more vegetables,” this can be broken down by meal, such as “eat more veggies at lunch.”
Alternatively, you could break it down by servings. So you could say “eat one more serving of veggies.”
Now that you have your list, it’s time to organize. Try to order each of these actions by how easy it will be to implement.
So, if having a glass of water in the morning sounds more doable than eating more veggies, that goes higher on the list.
Once you have your list, all that is left to do is start taking action. Pick the first item and start doing it today!
Once you feel like that is going well, add the next.
This will help you build momentum and actually make changes in your diet that will stick.
2) Have a reset button
I am sorry to say it, but you will fail. There will be a day when you wake up and the dog just ate a shoe and you have to run her to the emergency room and all your plans will go out the window.
This is how life works.
That is why the goal is not to be perfect, but to always allow yourself a “reset.” If you miss something one day, just get back on track the next day. This is where having an “all or nothing” mentality will really hurt you. No one is capable of doing everything right all the time.
So instead of having this unachievable expectation, it’s better to think about diet changes as targets.
If your target is to have a glass of water in the morning, then you either hit your target for the day or you don’t. It does not mean you failed at life, or that you are a bad person.
On days that you don’t, you can either get in extra water later, or just wake up the next day with the intention to have that glass of water.
It’s like brushing your teeth. No matter how strong of a habit teeth brushing is, there will come a morning or night that you miss.
Does this mean that you stop brushing your teeth until you feel motivated again? No!
You just pick it up the next time it comes around. And this is how you should treat all habits, including eating habits. Just pick up where you left off and keep on going.
3) Think ahead
If you have ever tried to change your diet before, you probably already have a good idea what types of things throw you off track.
Parties, vacations, Talenti ice cream…whatever they are, they can be a real motivation killer. They can stop all progress in its tracks and make you feel sad, guilty, or angry.
So, it is up to you to plan ahead to keep your mind right. It doesn’t mean you have to avoid any of these things, but go in with a plan A, B, and C!
And set up a plan for how to get back on track AFTER. If you go on vacation and decide that you are not going to follow any particular eating plan, no worries!
Just make sure that you have a grocery shopping trip planned for when you get back (or even better, order your groceries to be delivered the day you get home).
Another way to think ahead is to think about what your triggers are that send you down an unhealthy path.
Stress and overwhelm are probably the most common reasons people give up on new habits. So, instead of diving head first into a new eating habit, maybe you need to first focus on habits that will mitigate stress.
Maybe instead of trying to force yourself to eat salad at every meal, you can spend some time meditating, or think about all the responsibilities you have and let go of some of them.
We are often too willing to add more onto our plates, but never take the time to clear space. We just pile on more and more, and then wonder why we are exhausted and stressed out.
You have control over what you say yes to, and if you are ever going to be able to say yes to your health, you have to say no to something else.
4) See the big picture
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to take a step back and see that changing your diet is just a small part of your health journey.
There is no such thing as a perfect diet, only a perfect diet for YOU. And even that is ever-changing with age!
So, if you are going to be playing with your diet for the rest of your life, there is no reason to get upset if you do fall off track and there is no reason to rush anything.
Diet, exercise, stress management - these are all areas that require ongoing tweaking and experimentation. You are truly unique and while there are some basic principles that can help guide us all, the specifics are often different.
The more you can see this as a lifelong adventure, the better you will do. There is no such thing as a quick fix, because if it happens quickly, it will not stick.
Instead, enjoy the process of learning about your body and your mind. Enjoy the process of seeing what fills you up and what depletes you. And enjoy the process of getting just a little better each day.
There is no finish line and no prize when it’s all said and done, so just do what you feel is best for you and no one else.
5) Know your “why”
All change begins with a purpose. The clearer you are on why you want to make a change, the more likely you are to stick with it.
Vague desires to be “healthy” or thinner or have more energy are not going to get it done. You need SPECIFIC reasons why to change.
What does health mean to you? And how will being healthy enhance your life?
And don’t just focus on the big things. The small things will often be more powerful when it comes to moment to moment choices.
Yes, it is great if you want to be healthy so that you are around to see your grandkids grow up. But when it comes to whether you are going to go for a run when you are tired, it is all too easy to rationalize that one missed run won’t be that big of a deal. Or that you will just make up for it tomorrow.
If, however, you also tie your behaviors to short term/immediate goals, then you will start finding it much easiest to stick with your plan.
What does this look like? Let’s stick with running as our example.
The question you want to ask is what are the pros and cons that you will experience today if you decide to skip the run.
- More time for other things
- Don’t have to do something hard
- Feeling lethargic and tired for the rest of the day
- Feeling guilty for skipping
- Missing out of the mood boosting endorphins and being cranky toward your family
These are just some examples, but the idea is that you want to tie your behaviors to real life, in the moment consequences.
When you skip a workout, you aren’t just delaying (and undermining) your long term goals. You are negatively impacting your life today. You are going to be achy, tired, irritable, etc.
And the same goes for dieting. When you eat an unhealthy meal, you feel tired and groggy. The question is, do you really want to feel that way? Wouldn’t it be nice to have energy and mental clarity as you go through your day?
How you show up at work and at home is directly impacted by your day-to-day lifestyle choices. And the more you can focus on how you want to feel after you do or do not follow through on your plan, the easier it is to stick with it.
How to stay motivated to be healthy when life gets tough
While all of these tips are helpful, sometimes, life can throw a curveball (or 10!) at you. When this happens, the best thing you can do is take a step back and just make sure you are doing the best you can.
You remember that you always have a reset button. You know that small is better than nothing. And you remember that in the end, you are in control of what happens in your life and you get to decide where you put your time and attention.
As you are on this journey, you may also decide that you need support. In truth, we all need support. We lean on friends and family in times of need and we lean on professionals to help in areas we are not skilled in.
And that is where we can help.
If you are feeling stuck, not quite sure what to do, or just seem to have a hard time sticking to your plan, just know you don’t have to do it alone.
Our team of coaches really cares about helping and supporting others as we all work toward better health and fitness.
So, if this sounds like something that could be helpful, I would like to invite you to check out our 28-Day Kickstart Program where you will have a coach to help keep you accountable to your exercise and eating plan.
In this program you will get:
- Full fitness and goals assessment
- Personalized fitness coaching to teach you the exact exercises you need to safely and effectively move better and build stamina
- A simple meal plan to help you decrease inflammation
- 1-on-1 success coaching to help guide you as you work to change your diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits
You can stay on track and reach your fitness goals, you just need a plan that is designed with you in mind, and a coach to support you along the way.
Click here to learn more and take back control of your health and fitness today!
Mint Condition Fitness empowers people to take control of their fitness and fully enjoy the life they have built.