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  • Writer's pictureFelicia Newell, RD, MSc

4 Tips for Staying Highly Motivated to Stay on Track with your Diet

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Something that we can all struggle with from time to time - motivation. Especially when it comes to making healthy choices, with the ultimate goal of developing a healthy relationship with food so you can feel your best and improve your quality of life.

One of the major things that has a crappy effect on our motivation is our mindset - you know, the 'all or nothing' mentality that causes you to feel guilty when you get hangry and demolish a donut or two, and/or a whole bag of chips?

Before we get into some tips that help keep the motivation flowing, let me tell you a little secret. At least, this will be a secret to many people (I know it because they tell me, and even I've told me this before). You are not flawed, and you are not a failure. If you don't currently feel like this, maybe you can relate to feeling this at at least one point in time.

It goes something like this. You try to make a lifestyle change such as getting healthier. Maybe you try a 'diet', and it goes well for awhile. You feel better. Maybe you even lose some weight. Then, it gets more and more difficult to follow, and you go back to old habits, maybe gain some weight back. This might make you feel like a failure, and that you're flawed. "Why can't I stick to this?" "Other people can do it".

For one, scratch those thoughts right away when they come. They do not serve you or help you reach your goals. You'll hear me say this over and over again. You are not flawed, you are not a failure, and you are not, nor do you have to be perfect (none of us are).

You might compare yourself to someone else you see on social media, but they have probably had the same or similar setbacks as you, but you just haven't been shown them. Maybe you're just not using the right strategies that work for you and your life (which is why I think personalized nutrition plans are so important).

One of the very first (and most difficult) steps to making a lifestyle change is finding the motivation. You can want something, and you could have all of the knowledge in the world, and know what you should do, but not having the motivation can significantly get in your way (among other things of course, but this is a big one). You, like many others (including me!), might struggle with self-motivation from time to time. This means you may have a hard time getting yourself to your regularly scheduled workout, or will try and find more and more reasons to choose unhealthy foods more than you choose healthy ones. But guess what? Like I said…you’re not alone! We all struggle with motivation sometimes, but I have some tips that can help you self-motivate and reach your goals, and that I have used to help countless clients achieve their goals. A healthy dose of motivation coupled with determination will get you almost anything in life. So how do you know if you’re genuinely motivated?

  • Motivation will nag you to put down the donut (most of the time).

  • Motivation makes passing on fries a reflex (again…most of the time).

  • Motivation makes a sweat drenched workout exciting.

  • Motivation constantly reminds you why you do what you do (health, energy, playing with kids, feeling stronger, digestive wellness, etc!).

  • Motivation will tell you to schedule your workouts, and then get to it no matter what.

The key to staying motivated is similar to fuel in a car—you don't need the motivation tank to be full to drive, you just need to prevent it from running (too long on) empty. Do not waste precious time and energy on staying highly motivated because motivation has a natural rhythm.

Most people see a drop in motivation as a signal of failure, but it's not. Weight loss and lifestyle changes are not a linear process; it is an up and down roller coaster ride – as with success in anything in life.

Self-Motivating Tip #1: Find Your Motivator.

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Motivation stems from having a goal. What is your goal? Why do you want to get into great shape and/or make a lifestyle change? Once you uncover your personal motivator you’ll find that motivation flows quickly your way. If you need help setting small goals and accountability working towards them – that’s where I come in!

Take a minute to really uncover the reason that you want to lose weight, or be healthier, or have more energy, or feel better. Don’t say something vague like you want to 'Be thinner' or 'Look more attractive.' Dig deeper – there is a very specific motivator in your life, you simply need to uncover it.

Here are some possible motivators…

  • I want to have more energy to keep up with the kids/grandkids/dogs/cats/life.

  • I want to improve my health through weight loss to extend and improve my life.

  • I want to restore my confidence.

  • I want to figure out why my digestion is off, and manage my symptoms so I feel better.

  • I want to balance my hormones so I feel better.

  • I want to set a good example for my kids and/or significant other so they can hopefully follow suit

  • I want to look back years from now and be thankful I worked hard to make this change

  • I want to manage my food allergy or intolerance so that I feel better.

  • Etc!

Keep reminding yourself why you started in the first place, and that continuing to push forward in any way will get you further 3 months, 1 year, 5 years from now (yes, even if you have setbacks you will still be better than not making any changes at all!).

Many people find asking the following questions help:

  • If I stop making changes, how will I feel in six months or one year from now?

  • If I stop making changes, what will my health be like? How will my body feel?

  • If I stop making changes, how will my family and friends be affected?

Self-Motivating Tip #2: Be Practical.

It’s game plan time. You know what you want, and now you need to map out exactly how you’ll achieve it (with my help if you need it!). It is important to be practical in your planning, rather than throwing out ideas that you know you won’t stick with.

With any health and wellness goal it is important to set SMART (small, realistic, attainable, goals that are action-oriented and time oriented) goals. This way, you can check them off once you have achieved it. Not only will celebrating these small successes make you feel great, but small steps add up to big changes, and are way less overwhelming then completely overhauling everything at once.

Habits can be hard to change, so when people try to change too many at once, it can be overwhelming.

Pick one area you're struggling in, then set a SMART goal to help you focus on one goal at a time, then once you have comfortably changed that habit - on to the next!

Examples of SMART goals are:

  • I will pack my lunch from home 3 days this week instead of eating at a restaurant. 

  • I will spend an hour on Sunday planning meals for the week and preparing ingredients.

  • I will cook a meal from scratch for dinner this week. I will do this on Friday.

If you plan on increasing your physical activity, plan a routine that will fit into your schedule and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. It’s important to sit down and find the best days and times to fit workouts in (even if it’s just 15-30 mins to start!). Then write it in a schedule and treat it like a job or an important meeting that you cannot miss.

Self-Motivating Tip #3: Call for Backup.

Enlist the support of 'others' - this can be friends, family co-workers, an online or in person group with similar interests, etc.

Tell these 'others' about your goal to focus on a healthier lifestyle. You’ll be surprised how supportive most people will be. By being open about your goals you’ll likely be an encouragement to others to make healthy changes in their own lives. And if they don't that's okay! But finding at least one person and supporter and accountability partner could help significantly.

This could again be an online support group, but it is even more helpful to have someone one on one, that has similar goals and you can keep each other accountable. Working with a health professional such as myself also counts as your backup and someone to keep you accountable. In my programs we do weekly or bi-weekly check-ins to help clients with accountability and motivation while they are working on changing their habits.

Self-Motivating Tip #4: Be Easy on Yourself.

Being hard on yourself for not being perfect is one of the biggest self-sabotaging habits you can do!

Self-sabotage breeds demotivation. If you take a normal setback as meaning you’re a failure, it can really hurt your motivation and prevent you from keeping going. Setbacks are a normal part of achieving any goals, and if change your perspective and look at it from a new way - a learning experience rather than a failure, it's going to help you not only continue to keep growing and getting better, but help keep your motivation higher for longer periods of time.

Sadly, I’ve seen it happen countless times. C’mon, no one is perfect all of the time, so if you’re having a couple of off days or an off week (or even an off month or year) – that’s okay. Just pick yourself back up and keep going, even if you have to set another small goal to get back to where you were.

If you notice that your motivation is waning, give yourself a break from working on your goals for one to three days. The problem with motivation is that the more people try to ‘catch' it, the more elusive it becomes; by allowing it to run its natural course and at the same time having a set of habit-changing skills (such as a meal plan for the week, an accountability partner, etc.), you'll stay on track and your motivation levels will run their natural course.

Self-Motivating Tip #4: Practice Integrity in Other Areas of Your Life.

For example, clean out your closet or that room that you call the abyss, work towards paying off your debts, make good on your promises to friends, family, co-workers, or yourself. Practice sticking with promises or commitments you've made in other areas of your life in order to strengthen your own subconscious belief that you are able to uphold the promise of losing weight that you've made to yourself.

Again, it doesn’t have to all happen overnight, but even slowly checking off those obligations that you have been wanting to get to for a long time, can boost your confidence in other areas of your life. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a step back. Set one personal goal and one health goal a month. Focus on that, check it off a list, and then on to the next! You will feel better for doing it AND more motivated.

If you need help with developing goals realistic goals and crushing them, finding your motivation, or someone to provide you with the knowledge and support to help you with your journey, visit here to see an overview of the services I offer. (My 6-12 week programs are the most popular, or just the initial assessment).

Weight Loss and Nutrition Counselling Services
Weight Loss and Nutrition Counselling Services

Felicia is a Nutritionist, a Dietitian, Personal Trainer and a mom of 4 boys under 6. She wears many hats, and knows what it is like to live healthy in a busy world, where our environments aren't always supportive of making healthy choices. Felicia has over 10 years of education and experience in Nutrition, and is passionate about helping others.

Between completing her Bachelor and Masters in Nutritional Sciences, working at a food security research centre, teaching university courses, years of nutrition counselling, and being a busy mom of 4 young boys, Felicia has the passion, skills, education, and experience to help you reach your health and nutrition goals.

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