Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Motivation! You either have motivation or you don’t. It can be hard to keep, but it is the key to consistent progress towards wellness.
In appointments I hear, “I don’t always feel motivated to do X. I’m struggling with consistency even though I know I feel better when I do it.” Or the perfectionist’s all-or-nothing mantra of “well, I stopped doing X, so then things really fell off track and I never got back on.”
Consistency applies to healthy eating, avoiding food sensitivities, exercise, stress reduction practices, taking supplements, and more. I understand that holistic healing can be complex. So many factors are at play, and it can be overwhelming to start the process, stay on track, and get back on the wagon when you fall off (notice not “if”). That is where motivation comes into play.
One thing that helps with motivation is knowing the “whys”.
Why do you want to be well?
Why are you feeling unwell?
Your clinician can help you understand and navigate the question of why you are feeling unwell. For example, is it a heavy toxic burden? Food sensitivities? Low hormones? High viral load? Nutrient insufficiencies? Histamine intolerance? Testing can help pinpoint the causes and provide concrete information for an effective program. The more you understand why you feel unwell, the more motivated you will be to do something about it.
As to the question of why do you want to be well, this is entirely personal. Is it for your children? Is it for you because you deserve it! Is it because you’re going on that girl’s trip and you want to enjoy it pain-free? Is it because you’re tired of feeling tired? Whatever your reasons, I encourage you to write them down or, better yet, find pictures that represent your hope and post them somewhere you will see them. Maybe inside your nightstand drawer, pantry door, or medicine cabinet. Don’t be like the many clients who jump into wellness halfheartedly. They may be doing it because they feel like they should or someone is “making” them (spouse, parent, etc.), but they don’t have clear reasons for why they want to be well. That makes it really hard to stick to a plan. Sometimes it can also be the feeling that they don’t deserve to be well. They may halfheartedly want it, but there is a self-sabotage piece and a low-confidence piece that is getting in the way. Knowing the whys and believing in yourself is crucial to success.
No one is 100% motivated 100% of the time—even if they enjoy it and even if it makes them feel better. There is no such thing as perfect. Your clinicians aren’t perfect. We do not expect perfection from you. We are here to help you stay on track. We are here to be your cheerleaders and we are here to help keep you motivated. Some clients cancel appointments for fear of judgment or “I fell off” or “I haven’t been able to follow the plan.” That is ok! The point of follow-ups is to help you through the process, to tweak plans if necessary to make them more manageable and realistic for you, and to help you understand the “whys” more.
Relying on motivation alone is a trap. Eating healthy, avoiding certain foods, or exercising only when motivated doesn’t lead to consistency. Life gets in the way. Schedules change. You get busy. It takes time for habits to get in place. It takes time for tastebuds to adapt and enhance. It takes time to heal from within. Sometimes you just need to push through.
Stop relying on yourself alone for motivation. Ask for help, not just from clinicians, but from friends and family. Be vocal about your wellness journey. Ask for support. Make your goals known. Get gym buddies. Do walks and talks with a friend. Share meal prepped meals with a friend. Share recipes. Have your kids help you chop food and prepare meals. Before family get-togethers, let people know what your restrictions are.
You need to start identifying your roadblocks. What are the things that make it easy to say “no” to exercise? Or make it easier to eat unhealthy? Or make it easy to forget your supplements? Examples: leaving exercise to the end of the workday, keeping your supplements in the upstairs bathroom, or never defrosting meat. Minimize those roadblocks whenever possible. Set yourself up for success.
Being prepared is the healthy person’s key to success and consistency. Here’s a checklist for starters:
- Did you grocery shop? Did you eat before going to the grocery store?
- Have you meal prepped?
- Did you make individual serving sizes of snacks so that you don’t overindulge?
- Did you stop buying the food that you binge on that you always feel crummy after eating?
- Do you have access to water?
- Do you have healthy work snacks and purse snacks?
- Did you lay your workout clothes out the night before?
- Did you get your supplements refilled?
- Did you make your intentions clear to your partner and family?
- Did you set your alarm early to allow a morning centering meditation?
- Did you book your follow-up nutritionist appointment?
These and more are keys to setting yourself up for success and being prepared. Sometimes, in order to succeed you need to act as if taking care of yourself is a nonnegotiable part of your day and to prepare for it in that way. If you “have” to do something, you prepare.
Ditching the “all-or-nothing” attitude helps with motivation. Again, you are imperfectly perfect, and life can happen. Get back on the “horse.” Also, perhaps your initial goal or plan may not be realistic for your current phase of life. Perhaps you tell yourself it is only worth working out if you can get a full hour in, but you only have time to consistently do 15 to 30 minutes. Or maybe you tell yourself you can never eat out ever and then you get so deprived that you end up stress eating something you didn’t really want just out of convenience. Or maybe you can only tolerate avoiding or minimizing certain foods to start out without getting overwhelmed. A key to consistency and motivation is a healthy dose of realism. This is where an objective third party who knows your health situation can be invaluable. Let your nutritionist help you create a realistic plan for you! It’s better to create a solid foundation of healthy habits instead of flip-flopping between all or nothing…or worse, doing nothing at all!
Going back to there being no such thing as 100% motivated all the time, sometimes you just need to do the healthy thing. Give yourself a chance. Show yourself that you can. You deserve it! You may not always feel like it, but most of the time once you do it, you feel better and are glad you did it. This applies to exercise, healthy eating, stretching, meditation, and more. You always feel better after you do something healthy for yourself, no matter how small. In the beginning, working on holistic healing can feel a little daunting and slow going. It takes time to undo years of inflammation and bad habits. Addressing root causes is often multifaceted and takes time to discover. Showup for yourself, believe you deserve to be well, and never give up!