How do you stay motivated to eat healthy? That’s the golden question.
With a myriad of hurdles that can potentially get in the way (time, money, etc.) it seems losing motivation to eat well is common. So, what is the key to success? While I can’t speak for everyone or every situation, here are 10 tips and ideas to keep your motivation and follow through going strong throughout the year.
Tip #1: Know Your “Why?”
I know this seems obvious, but once you set a nutrition goal, take time to realize the reasons you’re pursuing this goal in the first place. Remember why you want to eat better, what you want to achieve, and why you started. Since motivation isn’t a constant thing always there for you, having your vision and reasons will make it a lot easier to stick to your initial plan during tough times.
#2: Confront Your Barriers
Many different emotions can be connected with the foods you eat – some happy feelings, some sad feelings, and everything in between. Food nourishes our mind and soul, as well as our body, which is why changing eating habits can be such a challenge.
Making changes means it’s time to start questioning your relationship with food. But be aware, some strange or scary things can come up, but you’ve built these walls and you’re the one who has to get rid of them. Stop limiting yourself or setting yourself up for failure by falling back into your old, unconscious ways of eating and doing things.
Confront your fear of letting go and changing things up by making it a challenge: take one food you think you couldn’t live without and stop eating it for an entire week. For two weeks. It’s okay to fail, just keep on trying. The purpose is to take the power that certain foods may have over you away.
Tip #3: Deprivation Backfires
Deprivation is such a motivation killer. Eating better is not a punishment, but strict deprivation can make it feel that way. Restricting yourself from every "bad" food or ingredient out there is going to backfire. If you let yourself indulge every once in a while, you will feel more fulfilled and you're more likely to succeed. Just because you eat something unhealthy doesn't mean you failed, and it certainly doesn't mean you have to "start over" tomorrow. There is no need to start over. Get right back on your path at the next meal or snack.
Tip #4: Avoid Triggers
To become a healthier eater, what will the path look like in order to get from where you are now to where you want to be? Some days your path will be straight forward, and other days it will be messy and confusing. That’s OK. Don’t let that kill your motivation. Everyone has different food triggers or a trigger environment. A trigger food is any food that quite literally "triggers" an emotional compulsive response that normally leads to overeating.
In most instances, a trigger food will contain one, or all, of the “big 3”: salt, sugar or fat. If the food is processed, it will rank even higher on the trigger scale. My trigger food is sugar and trigger environment is in the evening, on the couch. So what do I do about it? I don’t purchase any of those types of foods, I practice mindfulness around eating, and I try to upgrade the quality of the trigger by choosing a healthier “sweet” treat.
With that said, there are days I do eat my trigger foods (no deprivation allowed), and the next meal I start over and move on. I have learned not to dwell on the guilt and negative feelings often associated with certain foods.
Tip #5: Get Your 7-8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
First and foremost, if you want to stay motivated to eat well, you must sleep well or your decision-making ability declines. This can lead to less than healthy food choices. Not getting enough sleep is a huge problem, but don't fret, here are some suggestions to get better sleep naturally.
Tip #6: Try A New Food or Recipe
Find a new recipe, even if it’s a really simple one. Variety really is the spice of life. I like to add in new smoothies, healthy snacks, and dinner ideas.
Tip #7: Drink Plenty of Liquids
Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Staying hydrated gives you energy and keeps your body working as it should. When I’m not motivated to drink water, or plain water gets boring, I like to add sliced cucumber, orange or ginger to my water. I definitely drink more. Link to Flavored water.
Tip #8: Tackle Cravings
If cravings for sweets and high-glycemic carbs are unbearable and throwing you off track, it’s likely because of candida. Take a quiz to determine how likely you are to have yeast overgrowth. As a sidenote, stress is also related to an increase in gut candida. Reducing the candida overgrowth will help decrease cravings, and I like to use Whole Formula's Candida Cleanse before meals. I've noticed a big drop in cravings since using it.
Tip #9: Stay Focused On Your Refrigerator
Keep your fridge stocked with fresh or frozen produce. Notice I didn’t say, keep your pantry stocked. The pantry usually contains more processed foods – opposite of the refrigerator. When you need an afternoon snack, stick with something from the fridge (Greek yogurt, fruit with cheese or peanut butter, veggies with hummus, carrots and guacamole, etc.)
#10: Do It Together
Buddy up with someone – join a cooking class together, cook a new recipe together, take pictures of your healthy foods and send them to each other, talk about your successes and struggles. It’s motivating to have someone else to hold you accountable, but make sure that person is there to push and encourage you to SUCCEED (not bring you down).
You can do this!
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods