If making better choices was as easy as knowing what to do and then just doing it… we’d all be at our goals by now. But what keeps us stuck in the same old place over and over again? Why do we lose our motivation to eat healthy, work out, get up, or go out?
We have all heard that positive motivation always works better than threats, so therefore we need to get excited about something instead of scared. We cannot motivate ourselves for a very long time to do something we really don’t want to do, so knowing what we truly long for is crucial for getting motivated over and over again.
Are you really passionate about the upcoming change or do you just think you should do it? In order to achieve your goals, it’s so important to really, really want it – not just because “it would be cool”. This doesn’t get you through the marathon of changing your diet, behavior, and perception.
While patience is one of the most important parts of finishing a task, we sometimes cannot bring ourselves to not just expect quick results. When we can think of it as building something that should last us a lifetime ideally, it’s clear why changing our diet may take longer than expected.
There’s some solid and good foundation behind it, we need to learn how to deal with different cravings, eating out, social situations, and old comfort eating habits. If you don’t see the results you want soon, don’t give up – just give it time.
The only thing that ever got me to change a habit was inspiration – really wanting to achieve something. It didn’t come with a “should” but rather a “wow I really want to”. If you’re not feeling it so far, then research more about health, nutrition, and the great results others have achieved until you feel it tugging at your heartstrings – that’s where you can really begin to make real change. That’s where the magic happens.
But let’s take it step by step. Here’s how to stay motivated to eat healthily or live healthily:
1. Find Your Reasons
Okay, this seems like an obvious one. But have you actually written down why you want to eat better and what you want to achieve? Try to really come up with some concrete things that you want to be able to do like climbing the stairs or a mountain without getting out of breath, getting better at your favorite sport, healing your digestive issues or skin problems.
Having this vision in mind will make it a lot easier during tough times to stick to your initial plan. It also enables you to track your progress, rather than just aiming for the abstract goal of “being healthy”.
Get clear on what you want and why you want that – having the wrong reasons might set you up for failure in the long run. Try to think who else besides you would benefit from the changes you’re about to make because that makes it even more powerful.
Since motivation isn’t a constant thing that is always there for you, having your reasons with you wherever you go can be just what you need during these low points that will come eventually. So put the list of your reasons into your bag or take a picture with your phone.
When your motivation comes and goes, like a tide, realize that even though it can be completely gone in one moment, it won’t be away permanently. It will come back if you stick it out. In the meantime, follow some of the steps below to find your focus and energy again!
2. Read About It
Surrounding yourself with the possibility of eating a very healthy diet – and doing so effortlessly – makes it a lot more likely for you to try it out and eventually stick to it. When you don’t even know where to start making changes or what a truly healthy and delicious diet looks like, how are you supposed to make any reasonable changes?
Education is key. Find some credible sources that make sound claims about how successful people are on a particular diet. Stay critical and keep your BS radar on – because cutting out one macronutrient, forcefully restricting calories, eating chemical-laden food that comes from a lab or a diet that consists of a ton of different powders and supplements aren’t good options.
When you go back to whole foods, many things take care of themselves. You won’t need supplementation usually, you won’t need to count calories or fight with your hunger.
There are so many amazing people following slightly different healthy plant-based diets who get great results – so check out some of them and see what they eat, how they move and talk. Anything that speaks to you, try it out as well!
Both education and inspiration work so well together. You can also get a few books on this topic and dedicate yourself to read 10 pages every day! On Forks Over Knives, there are a ton of success stories that might just give you that little kick you need.
3. Focus On Positivity
Start by making a list of things that make you smile. This makes your experience better on a daily basis and your focus on “stuff you have to do” shifts over to “things I love”. Write up a few moments that bring you joy and that excite you. Track what makes you happy and let this carry you over to your goals.
Add anything to your list you can think of and whenever motivation is low, take a peek and pick out anything that gives you back your energy and drive.
But there’s also a point at which you can get too excited and this can steal a lot of your energy in the long run. So hold yourself back deliberately in the beginning to honor the fact that you do have some limitations (mentally and physically) and when you jump right into something, you’re pretty likely to jump right out of it too.
So don’t let yourself do everything you want to do right away – only do 50-75% of what you want to do. Increase your action over time. Start monitoring your thoughts and recognize negative self-talk. Once you’re aware of them, you can replace each one with a corresponding positive thought.
Be your own biggest fan and supporter! Don’t focus on how hard your changes will be but rather on finding a way to make them work anyway.
4. Track Your Progress
It can be as simple as marking an X on your calendar when you hit your goal for the day or creating a simple spreadsheet on your computer. You can track this online or print your sheet and fill it out with a pen – whatever you’re more likely to do, choose your favorite version.
It will be very rewarding to look back on your progress and see how far you’ve come when it feels like on a daily basis, nothing changes. And of course, you don’t want too many days without an X! Instead, try to see how many you can get in a row.
Building on these successes is much easier than not seeing any positive changes or progress after a while. Because honestly, every little step along the way is a success, every milestone deserves a little celebration!
Take that positive, uplifting feeling and build on it, use it to carry you to your next micro-goal.
It doesn’t matter if you miss one day, just make sure not to skip two days in a row – not following through one time is just a sign where you need to work harder to make your change happen, it’s not a complete failure that means you can just stop any effort because you won’t ever make it. View it as a teacher and vow to learn this small lesson.
5. Make Tiny Steps
Let's be honest: we all want to have our desires fulfilled right at this very moment – but you can’t just wish for a healthy, lean or strong body and instantly get it. Change on a physical level happens much slower than on a mental level in this case.
By programming what you really want into your mind, you keep looking out for things that will make it actually happen in the physical realm.
In order for you to not get frustrated about the gap between where you are and where you want to be, acknowledge your current situation and understand that manifesting that change, making it second nature, will take a little more time.
So make little goals that will result in achieving your big goal. Change single components of your meals or just one whole meal at a time! Either focus on cutting things out (like processed food) or adding new foods in (like a handful of greens). Once you don’t have to think about this tiny change anymore, and thus not requiring any willpower, take your next step.
I know it’s easy to dismiss little changes as “not enough” or ridiculous, but they can be very powerful once they add up and ensure your success much more than just being overwhelmed.
Increase the amount of change you want to implement slowly so it always seems very doable. Going after that one huge goal alone can be draining after a while, so having different small goals makes things a lot more exciting!
6. Program Your Mind
This cannot be emphasized enough, so it gets its own mentioning here. We make so many decisions on a daily basis that we don’t even think about – no matter if they serve us or not.
Getting clear on that fact can be both frustrating and empowering! Because once you know that you can just rewire your brain by repeating the same behavior (especially when connected to a daily trigger), you can use this to your advantage.
And before you know it, you’ll reach out for some fruit as a snack. Or you feel like something is missing when there aren’t any veggies on your plate.
Make yourself do a certain thing regularly, even if it’s just for a few seconds or a minute each day (like checking all the ingredients of the food you're about to buy at the store). If you feel like you’re constantly stuck in the old habits, then just step away from the situation and change your surroundings. Take a walk and reconsider things, increase your sense of enthusiasm and energy!
And since it’s a huge thing to transform your patterns, keep it one goal at a time. Most of us try too much and get overwhelmed before the day is done. You cannot maintain energy and focus if you are trying to do several goals at once – rather focus on one right now.
7. Confront Your Barriers
There can be many emotions connected with the foods you eat. Some remind you of an innocent childhood memory, your grandma’s cooking, or how you got over your toughest breakup.
Food nourishes our mind and soul as well as our body and getting someone to stop eating one type of food can be the most frustrating challenge ever.
This is why it’s time to get real and start questioning your relationship with food. Be aware that 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 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 – nobody makes a plan and just follows through 100% forever.
Take the power that certain foods may have over you away and find that you can make good decisions for yourself! Don’t allow fear to paralyze or intimidate you. There will come a point at which you feel like you can’t push any further or that it doesn’t seem like the right time and place to implement a positive change – do it anyways.
The hardest part is to move beyond your limiting thinking of how much of a hassle it will be.
8. Make It Enjoyable
Don’t force yourself too much and aim for something you don’t really see the point of or wouldn’t enjoy achieving. It’s not just about the end goal, it’s always about the journey.
In order to become the person who eats super healthy, you need to walk from where you are now to where you want to be – meaning you need to give things up, to add things in you don’t like so much yet. You need to be more aware, you need to connect with your body and make your own meals.
If all of this doesn’t sound very appealing to you, go back and check in with your goals. Are they important enough? Then look at the tiny steps that will take you there.
But don’t reward yourself with a huge piece of cake after trying some kale – joy can exist outside of rich food. Likewise, start eating more foods that you know are good for you and that you actually enjoy! Because switching over to broccoli and beans for every dinner might not be as appealing as a veggie curry over steamed rice.
If you don’t like what you do, it’ll be nearly impossible to work it into your lifestyle long-term. Find beauty in your new ways of being – we’re just naturally resistant towards change and the urges to quit will come up here and there.
Beating yourself up over these moments won’t help, so just focus back on what you enjoy about your new meals and how they make you feel. Let that deliciousness sink in and find deep satisfaction in being able to implement a whole new diet after many years of eating very differently.
9. Use Your Calendar
Grab your old-school planner and take a look at the little gaps in your day. Maybe you’re very busy in the morning and won’t be able to prepare a proper breakfast – then do it the night before.
Or maybe you don’t have time to cook dinner when you come home from work so you just need to look for another gap that will allow you to look for recipes and chop up some food in advance. Then all you’ll have to do in the evening is pop something in the oven, relax, and take it out again.
You can also block an hour every week to organize your fridge and prep or plan your meals! What's more, when you feel like nothing is changing on a daily basis, schedule weekly check-ins to help you see the results you've been getting over time. Then evaluate what's helping and what you're not so excited about (let that go for now) so you can stay tuned into your endgame.
A little anticipation can go a long way too, so let your excitement build up before jumping right into your new diet. I get it, many of us get excited and want to start today – but that could be a mistake. Set a date in the future (a week or two) and make that your "Start Date" in your calendar.
Get excited about it and make it a very important date in your life. In the meantime, you start writing out a plan: what do you want to change, how will you be able to achieve it, and when will be the right time - these are the most important questions.
10. Work With Images
Did you just discover an amazing recipe that you prepared for yourself and that was delicious? Take a photo and take a note regarding how you made it. Then keep a list of your favorite healthy meals, preferably with pictures.
If you want to take it a step further, make a scrapbook or vision board filled with pictures (maybe of your younger and fitter self?) and words that really motivate you! The key is to not just be inspired to make this change, but to actually take that excitement and build on it.
See the benefits of your goal in your head, imagine how it would feel, how you would go about your day, how you would treat yourself and others. Then it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.
You can also write your goals in a fancy font on your computer and either print it out and hang it up right next to your other images of beautiful healthy food or make it your wallpaper on any electronic device.
Internal images work too of course! By visualizing your successful outcome in great detail, you can already make sure you’ll follow through. It’s highly motivating to see, feel, smell and hear what your goal will be like. Form a clear mental picture and get back to this every single day for a few minutes – right after waking up is a great moment or before you fall asleep.
Make sure to have some kind of inspiration around you each day in the form of positive images, words, success stories, forums, or your support system.
11. Do It Together
Buddy up with someone and join a cooking class together! Or find recipes and put it in a Google Doc to share, take pictures of your healthy food and send it to each other. Even better if you can meet up and make emphasizing eye contact when choosing what to eat.
We also don’t want to look bad in front of others, so making it a public commitment can be powerful – so tell your friends and co-workers about what you’re going to achieve and tell them several times. This could mean giving them updates on how things go, asking for their advice, maybe even motivating them to join in! Way to hold yourself accountable.
Go to Facebook groups or forums where people come together and talk about healthy plant-based eating. See if you can find anyone who wants to be your buddy and partner with you! Make sure you’re dedicated to pushing and encouraging each other to succeed.
Maybe there’s even a vegan meet-up close to you and you can find people to help you out there! Don’t be shy to ask for support because it’s hard to accomplish something alone. It can just be something like your partner asking you each day how you’ve been doing or preparing you a healthy snack when you’re completely pooped one day.
Find your support network, whether that be in the real world or online. If you feel like you need some more help, take a class or get a coach that provides counseling – even though this is more expensive, it could be the answer for you.
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In the end, we all have to find it in ourselves and want to change for the better. Don't let others tell you how things should be done or that you won't ever reach your goals! These long-term goals are worth the effort and you'll end up creating the life you truly want, the life that really fulfills you.
This is about more than just healthy eating - it's about making things possible and being the conscious creator of your life.
Have you been trying to switch to a healthier diet? Which steps did you take and were you successful? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.