How to Maintain Motivation to Eat Healthy
How many of you have made the commitment to eat better only to get derailed a few months/weeks/days into it? With a myriad of hurdles that get in the way (time, money, desire, etc.) it seems that losing motivation to eat healthy is common.
So how do you stay motivated to eat well? That’s the golden question. After years (and years and years) or vowing to “eat better” and always falling back into bad habits, I was amazed to see real change and progress happen a couple of years ago. And I am happy to say that those changes have been pretty permanent.
So what is the key to success? What really keeps you going? While I can’t speak for every person or every situation, here are some tips and ideas to keeping you motivated.
8 Ways to Maintain Motivation to Eat Healthy
1. Get educated
Trusting food labels, diet commercials, or magazine headlines will not give you the foundation you need to stick with any sort of life-style healthy eating. The thing that really keeps me and my family going is real education.
Learn what artificial ingredients are (and what they do to our bodies). Learn how modern disease is rampant with the introduction of things like rancid vegetable oils, GMOs, and pesticides. Learn about the food you eat.
An important reminder: Knowledge can make you want to change for good. It can also overwhelm and frustrate you to no ends. Don’t go so overboard that you are afraid of food. Change what you can and learn to let go of what you can’t.
2. Make it personal
Let’s be honest, we are all different and different things motivate us. Rather than trying to use the motivation that worked for your next door neighbor, find what motivates you.
Consider some of these “healthy eating” motivating ideas:
Cutting back on health care costs
Having more energy to play with your kids
Improving your immune system, over-coming health issues, etc.
Improving the environment
Whatever really helps you get excited about real change is what you should focus on
3. Stop villianizing food
How often do you hear someone turn down a “bad” food with some sort of “oh, I shouldn’t” or “it will just go right to my hips” comment? Many people think these kind of thoughts about shaming “bad” foods is a tool of motivation, but I would actually say it’s the opposite.
When we place real food in a “good” or “bad” category we turn on that diet mentality that says food we enjoy will make us fat, sick, or unhealthy. We believe we have to suffer for our health (which is kind of the opposite of what health is). When we let go of the idea of forbidden food we open ourselves up to a much healthier relationship with our food.
Some people think they might go crazy and eat everything in sight if given permission to do so. Maybe. But that’s usually a sign that we have some serious food issues… usually because we make some things forbidden. Once we give ourselves permission to just eat food without guilt or shame we can begin to see food as just that: food. When we have a healthy relationship with food we don’t feel the need to binge, sneak, or avoid.
A healthy relationship with food goes a long way to making us want to do what makes us feel best… and that’s usually going to be eating right most of the time and enjoy our indulgences the rest.
4. 80/20 rule
Connected to the last point, giving yourself permission to not be “perfect” about your diet goes a long, long way to maintaining a good diet. Many find that giving themselves permission to eat whatever they want 20% of the time (in a week, not a day) eventually gets them to a 90/10 rule without even trying.
Again, when we take out the guilt of healthy eating most people ease into a real food diet without too much effort. Let go of the all or nothing mentality.
5. Be responsible to someone
The first few weeks/months of transitioning to a real foods diet can be hard if you are used to a very processed diet. That’s because processed foods are designed to be addictive. To get over that initial hump it might be useful to check in with someone about your progress. Just talking about your goals and having to be responsible for them can make a world of difference.
6. Let go of the “diet” mentality
Eating healthy is not a diet. It’s a life style. Don’t make any sort of “eat well for 30 days” or “eat well until I lose 10 pounds” promises… just eat well. Start slow if you need to and realize that any “mess ups” is just part of life. Carry on.
Remember: You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to give up if you eat something “bad.” And slow and steady really does win the race. If, for example, you hate vegetables start out by just eating one bite a meal. You don’t have to jump in fully if you aren’t ready. You’re more likely to stick with something if you gradually get used to as a lifestyle.
7. Find real food that tastes good TO YOU.
While I urge you to try a variety of foods, don’t let any one “super food” be your demise. For example, I hate kale. There I said it. I’ve tried it a million different ways (almost) and I just don’t like it. (Occasionally kale chips are okay.)
Guess what? I can still get plenty of other tasty, healthy food into my diet. I let kale go. And it’s okay.
Along those same lines, find real food that tastes really good to you. That’s the number 1 way to keep at it. Make healthy eating delicious (which is most certainly can be) and you’ll never want to stop.
8. Make a plan that fits YOUR lifestyle.
Maybe time is an issue. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s skill. Be realistic about what’s keeping you from sticking to a real food diet and adjust. Your meals don’t have to be gourmet. You don’t have to spend millions of dollars. And even if you absolutely hate cooking you don’t have to resort to McDonald’s.
Generally you will need to give either time, money, or skill. If you don’t have time but have money you can buy quality food that’s easily (or already) prepared. If money isn’t an option you’ll probably need to invest some time (although keeping your meals simple can help).