Eating healthy: When motivation is lacking
We all know that we should drink more, eat less sweets, more vegetables and fruit, or even cook fresh food more often. Because all of this contributes to a healthy diet and lifestyle. But even though we know all these things, we often lack the motivation to improve. Sometimes it happens that we start out motivated, but after a week we fall back into our old, unhealthier behaviors and habits.
Today we're looking at why it can be so difficult to maintain motivation and what we can do about it.
Why is it so difficult for me to stay motivated?
Motivation is such a thing. When it is there, we feel unstoppable, confident and full of energy. When it disappears, everything changes very quickly: we no longer manage to overcome our inner weaker self, we quickly become tired and exhausted and invent all sorts of excuses and reasons not to have to continue. What's behind it?
An important point is the reason that originally motivates us to establish a new habit or change a behavior. People who have formulated a strong “why” for themselves find it easier to stick with it. Goal setting also plays an important role. If we set goals that are too high, they quickly seem unattainable and we have the feeling that we are barely making any progress.
You may have heard of the “ SMART ” goal setting method. The word “SMART” helps you make your goals realistic. “S” stands for “specific” , “M” stands for “ measurable ” , “A” stands for “attainable” , “R” stands for “realistic” and “T” stands for “time-bound” = time-bound . Our goals should not be formulated too generally, should be measurable in order to recognize progress, should not be too ambitious and can be implemented, and should contain a time dimension. If you would like to know more about this method, please take a look here .
In addition to our goal and the “why” behind it, it is also important to recognize what obstacles, stumbling blocks and distractions could distract us from our path. If you are prepared for these difficulties, it is easier not to let them demotivate you and to keep going. Finally, overwhelm is also a big factor. At the beginning we usually take on too much. If we don't manage to do that, it will be difficult to stick with it and not give in.
In summary, all of this means:
- Find your personal “why”.
- Define possible obstacles, distractions and stumbling blocks that you may encounter on your path.
- Develop concrete solutions and ideas on how you can deal with these difficulties.
- Don't overwhelm yourself and start small. Let's say with 50% of what you set out to do at the beginning. You can still improve.
- Document your progress to regularly remind yourself of how far you have come.
You can apply these points to all sorts of goals and areas of life: sports, eating habits, self-care, (creative) projects, hobbies... And in theory, that sounds pretty good at first. But how can these points be put into practice?
Let's go back to our initial topic, healthy eating. Below I will give examples for each point so that at the end of this article you can really take something tangible with you and have concrete suggestions to increase your motivation. 🤗
1. Find your “why”.
When we don't have real direction, comfort and old habits can quickly catch up with us. If we want to stick to our goal of eating healthier, we need a strong and specific “why.” Your why is something like your basic motivation and shows you the way.
Important: Formulate one or two concrete sentences that get to the heart of why you want to change your habits. These sentences should be formulated positively (“I would like to feel more energetic”; a negative formulation here would be, for example, “I don’t want to feel so tired and drained anymore”) and written down . Just thinking about it is half as good. For example, if you write your “why” on a post-it note and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day, you’re much more likely to stay motivated than if you just had it floating around in your head once!
Possible “why”s could be:
- Eating healthy makes me feel more energetic
- I want to be a positive role model for my children
- When I eat less sugar, I have fewer headaches
- A healthy weight reduces the risk of diseases such as _________
- When I eat healthy, I am more concentrated and focused
- If I eat less in the evening, I can sleep better
- Eating a balanced and conscious meal makes me feel more balanced and comfortable in my body
2. Define obstacles & distractions
If only there weren't these stupid stumbling blocks... Unfortunately, there are always things that try to seduce you, that your inner bastard reacts to or that are difficult to endure. Think about what possible obstacles could be in your situation:
Not enough time to cook a whole meal? Not enough money for healthy food? The convenience of a quick kebab from the snack bar around the corner? The self-imposed pressure to either do it perfectly or not do it at all? Do you prefer fatty or sweet foods? The feeling of not knowing enough healthy alternative foods?
Think about what has stopped you from eating healthy in the past and what might make it difficult for you in the future . Define 1-3 possible obstacles and write them down too.
Important: tackle one obstacle at a time . If you try to get rid of every potential stumbling block right away, you end up burdening yourself with too much weight and end up making progress more slowly or giving up because it's too hard. So for the next step, just concentrate on one of your defined obstacles.
3. Find ways to overcome these obstacles
Awareness is half the battle, as I like to say. Once you are aware of the circumstances that can make your life difficult, you are already well on the way to healing and change. The key here is to prepare yourself as best you can for the obstacles and think about possible solution strategies.
Let's say one of your top obstacles is that you don't have enough time and therefore tend to eat unhealthy but easily accessible meals. What can you do to prevent this?
For example, you could try meal prep . An hour of time invested on the weekend can save you several hours of time during the week. You can make healthy muesli yourself, chop or roast vegetables and then have them on hand for a curry during the week. You could also cook several portions once a week and then freeze the leftover portions. So next time you just have to defrost them. You can prepare your overnight oats the evening before so you don't have to worry about breakfast the next morning. You can search online or in cookbooks for 15-minute meals.
Further examples of obstacles and suitable solutions
If your obstacle is that you can't spend too much money on food , you can research online which foods are particularly cheap and where. You could buy larger quantities of grains, lentils or beans because then it will also be cheaper. In particular, you can buy seasonal fruit and vegetables, or use frozen vegetables. This is often cheaper, but just as nutritious.
If your obstacle is that you often snack unhealthy , you can prevent this by stopping buying sweets or choosing healthy alternatives. A small can of nuts, an apple or a healthy bar can curb cravings and be taken to work or somewhere else without much effort.
If your obstacle is that you think you just don't know enough about healthy eating ; or you think that healthy eating is tiring or simply doesn't taste good, then you can get a lot of inspiration and knowledge on the internet. I think YouTube videos in particular are a great way to get into the topic. And there are great healthy alternatives for almost all unhealthy snacks like brownies or chips! Dare to try new things!
As you can see, there are a lot of options here. You just have to take the time to look for solutions :) . As I just said: please tackle one obstacle at a time. If you feel ready to move on to the next obstacle, then great. But please don't think that you have to have everything perfectly under control right from the start...
4. Baby steps!
Big goals are all well and good, but it's important for our reward center in the brain to remain realistic. Because whenever we complete a task, our reward center kicks in and dopamine is released. This makes us feel good. But if we work towards something for a long time without really reaching the goal, our brain remains unrewarded for a long time and we lose our motivation.
For this reason, you should really take it slowly and take small steps. Only then will your progress become visible.
Let's say you want to eat out less because then you tend to eat unhealthy foods. Instead of trying to eat at home every day, try praising yourself for every time you manage to eat at home . If you used to order food five times a week and now only do it three times a week, that's a huge step forward!
Another goal could be to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Instead of forcing yourself to eat oven-baked vegetables every day without anything, you could first try to add vegetables to the dishes that you already like to eat: add peppers to the tomato sauce with your pasta, instead of fries you make rosemary potatoes or Your cheese bread is decorated with a bit of cucumber, tomatoes or baby spinach...
If you like to prepare your breakfast the evening before and have never done it that way before, then do n't expect yourself to be able to do it seven times a week. Maybe start with three evenings a week.
5. Document your progress
This is a point that is often ignored and passed over for reasons of convenience. Still, it's really important. Only when you document your progress will you truly realize how far you have come. Of course, you don't have to write down everything you eat. You don't have to count calories or weigh yourself every day. Quite the opposite. Try not to focus on optimizing any number (as that can quickly lead to an unhealthy relationship with food), but rather on establishing new, healthy habits.
For example, it can be very motivating for you to document and record the points we discussed in the previous step (“4. Baby steps!”). For example, you can create a “habit tracker” in which you check the box whenever you have completed the task. However, it should be said that it's not about being able to tick a box every day - because if you don't do it, that can lead to internal stress and demotivate you. It's about just being aware of your personal progress.
No matter whether you write a little note every day about what went well and what you can optimize in the next week, or whether you use a classic habit tracker - stick with it! Focus on what you have accomplished. Even if some days that “only” means that instead of eating a whole bar of chocolate, you only ate three quarters. That is also progress!
Reduce your own demands on yourself; You're already doing a great job!
Last but not least...
...it can also help if you hold yourself accountable, for example by sharing your goals with someone who can remind you regularly. Or by looking for someone with whom you can travel the journey together. Professional help through nutritional advice can also be an important step and help you stay motivated.
You got this! 😊❤️
If you would like to find out more about healthy eating, mindfulness, sustainability or family and pregnancy, check out more exciting blog articles on these topics here .