Have you ever overhauled your pantry, started a new exercise routine, or tried meditating every day? Change is hard, and staying motivated when you’re making big lifestyle shifts can be one of the biggest obstacles preventing new habits from sticking.
Thrive Market member Melissa can relate. Earlier this year she partnered with Andrea, an integrative dietitian, to start transforming her body, mind, and spirit from the inside out. Melissa’s been adjusting her eating habits and keeping her pantry stocked with healthy ingredients, but some days are harder than others. We checked in with Melissa to to have an honest conversation about what’s working and what’s been difficult. Here are her biggest challenges, plus some creative solutions she’s discovered along the way!
Challenge #1: Addressing emotional ties to food
When Melissa started her journey, it meant saying goodbye to past comfort foods and replacing them with alternatives. “I had to rewrite the script for how to enjoy healthy options with the same enthusiasm as the unhealthy versions.” Melissa decided to start with a cleanse, which she says helped her reset her body and “free it from the sugar demon!”
Challenge #2: Focusing on exercise
“I really concentrated on the food, health, and emotional pieces the first few months,” Melissa said. Now, she’s looking to amp up her exercise routine and increase overall strength. A new fitness tracker might help keep her motivated and focused, so it’s next on her must-buy list. “Both my girls love getting outside and playing, so I take advantage of that,” she shared. “We’re out walking the dog, going to the park, and doing yoga together. They helped me plant more veggies in the back, and I let them pick out the produce at the farmers’ market. I just say yes to all the fruits and veggies they ask for.”
Challenge #3: Addressing inflammation
“I removed all the foods I thought were contributing to the inflammation in my body,” Melissa said. That cut dairy, legumes, soy, and all grains, and processed foods. While it makes eating a challenge when she’s out and about, Melissa has found a good solution: batch cooking. “When you're really tired and hungry it becomes harder to make good decisions,” she said.
Other than losing some weight, Melissa didn’t immediately notice a difference in how she felt. But gradually, her joint pain began lessening and her allergies started clearing up. Melissa reports feeling more energetic overall, and doesn’t feel bloated after eating. “That’s huge!” she told us. “The weight loss is great and I'm sure it will continue but I feel that the health wins are even better!”
3 tips for staying motivated (even when it’s hard)
Melissa is committed to reclaiming her health and vitality, but as she shared above, it’s not always easy to work through old habits, unpack emotional ties to food, and make good food choices. If you’re struggling to make important changes in your life, there will be times when you’d rather give up, but to help push through these tough times, we asked Andrea for some expert tips!
“It’s important to reassess what you are trying to achieve and walk through the logistics given the new information. Get really real with yourself here. And start experimenting! Use trial and error to allow yourself grace as you figure out the next thing that will work for you.”
Tip #1: Don’t get bored
Andrea was quick to remind us how common it is for motivation to ebb and flow. “Generally, after a few weeks or months, the motivation to consistently make the better nutrition choice or to exercise or to meditate (or whatever the behavior is) can dissipate. And this is the perfect opportunity to tune in and evaluate what's going on,” she said. She finds a lack of motivation is often tied to three primary issues: 1) boredom; 2) broken design; and 3) disconnecting from the real reason that the change is truly important.
To address boredom, Andrea suggests switching things up with different recipes, a new form of exercise, or introducing a creative outlet to help manage stress. “It’s important to reassess what you are trying to achieve and walk through the logistics given the new information. Get really real with yourself here. And start experimenting! Use trial and error to allow yourself grace as you figure out the next thing that will work for you,” she said.
Tip #2: Remember your “why”
“It’s important to tap into your purpose simultaneously, that’s what helps a lifestyle change to become solidified as a part of your identity,” Andrea said. Here’s an example you can apply to your own circumstances.
Why do you want to lose weight? Because you want to feel better.
Why? Because you want to feel more confident in your body.
Why? Because you want to know you are taking care of yourself and making choices that align with who you are and what you want to do with your life.
Why? Because you intend to travel/play with your family/change the world/[insert your passion here] for as long as possible.
Bam. Now you’re getting somewhere!
Andrea encourages people to continue asking "why" until they get to the response that really lights a fire within them. “That’s where your true purpose lives,” she said, “and that’s what you need to remind yourself of, return to, and ground your behavior change in.”
Tip #3: Celebrate small wins
It’s easy to give big wins all the attention, but it’s important to celebrate victories of all sizes along the way. Andrea suggests writing down some of your small achievements, then drawing comparisons to where you were a month, a week, or even a few days ago. Next, just sit in that feeling of trusting yourself and your ability to create change in your life. “Big change is really about small wins, small choices, and day in and day out, knowing progress is possible.”
But if you’re the type of person who needs something more concrete, she suggests trying fun, non-food rewards like signing up for a new exercise class, buying a new gadget for the kitchen, or scheduling a creative workshop or retreat.
If you’ve been working to improve an area of your life, what are some of the ways you stay motivated for the long-haul? Share your experiences in the comments!
Andrea Harrill is an integrative nutrition & lifestyle coach who has helped over 3,000 people play their lives big by overcoming health and wellbeing hurdles. She gets to the root cause of issues using whole-person science and feel-good strategies to address nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep health, emotional resilience, and purpose to help individuals create a lifestyle that feels authentic and sustainable for the long haul.