You probably know that you should eat healthy, but that’s often easier said than done when the stress of work and life get in the way. Here are four ways to motivate yourself to eat healthy, even when everyday life stacks the odds against your success.
Think in halves
Counting calories, adhering to strict diets and even reading nutritional labels may actually derail your efforts to eat healthy before they begin if the time and effort required causes you to give up. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there’s an effective way to eat healthier that requires little thought or planning: Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables and at least half of the grains you eat whole grains. When you approach healthy eating with simplicity, the ease of it all can motivate you to stick to a strategy that leads towards real lifestyle change.
Identify the big picture
The temptation not to eat healthy is nearly everywhere, and you’ll need a deep-seated mental and emotional commitment to stay motivated in the face of challenge. Ditch the superficial reasons to eat healthy, and attach a meaningful and clear definition to your goal. Are you treating a medical condition? Do you want more energy to play with your kids? A mood boost? To shed extra pounds so you can lead a more active life? Now think about the impact your healthy eating will have on others you care about, whether that’s family, friends or your pets. Goal-setting research by LeadershipIQ revealed that identifying a specific reason behind your goal, especially when it extends beyond yourself, is a powerful motivator.
“Exercise and healthy eating are crucial to a healthy lifestyle. Choose activities you enjoy, like going for a walk with your family, joining a sports team, dancing or playing with your children. If you don’t have a full 30 minutes, carve out 10 minutes three times a day.” Andrea Giancoli, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Take baby steps
Researchers at California State University, Sacramento found that how and when you define your healthy eating mission is also critical in maintaining motivation. Be realistic about your current eating habits, what triggers you to eat the foods you do and what small changes you can make that will lead to larger ones over time. For example, if sweets are your Achilles’ heel, identify the times you feel most tempted and set goals to resist those exact times — whether it’s a few nights a week or the weekend. Once you’ve conquered that peak time, add another layer to your healthy eating mission. Setting specific sights on what your exact challenges are will keep you motivated to face and conquer them head on.
Visualize the benefit
LeadershipIQ research also indicated that visualizing the goal you’re working towards will keep you motivated in the face of challenge. When you’re left to choose between a healthy dinner or a fast-food fix, go back to your original reason for striving to eat healthy, and visualize how great that milestone will feel when you reach it. Focusing on the lasting benefit of your hard work will help you resist the short-term satisfaction of eating junk food.