Starting a new diet or lifestyle change often comes with a burst of excitement. You might feel this amazing energy at first, imagining all the good things that will come from this change. And this is good and important. But keeping that excitement high all the time is tough, especially when you're trying to change habits that have been part of your life for a long time. If you've had issues with dieting before or struggled with eating disorders, this journey can feel even more complicated. For you, ups and downs in motivation can do more than just slow you down; they can bring up a lot of unwanted thoughts and emotions that can be challenging to tolerate and ride out.

When your self-esteem is tied up in how you eat or how you look, starting a new way of eating or relating to food and your body can feel overwhelming. If you've tried to make changes before and it didn't go as planned, trying again might bring up feelings of fear or failure. It's tough to keep going when every setback feels personal, like it's saying something about who you are. This can make your relationship with food really stressful, turning meal times into something you might dread instead of enjoy. Recognising these emotional ties to food and eating is really important when you're trying to make a change, especially if dieting has been a struggle for you in the past.

Dealing with the ups and downs of motivation means being kind to yourself and understanding that it's normal for motivation to come and go.

If you're working on eating healthier or changing your lifestyle, it's okay to have days when you're not feeling 100% committed. This does not mean that you are broken, hopeless or a failure. This means that you are a human being.

When you have a history of tough times with food and your body image, it might be a good idea to get some extra support, maybe from a counsellor or dietitian, who can help you see food in a more positive light. Remember, it's about making progress, not being perfect.

Learning to ride the wave of motivation, and not being too hard on yourself when things aren't perfect, can help you keep moving forward, one step at a time. When motivation for making positive health choices drops, it's important to approach the situation with understanding and strategies that can help reignite your motivation. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Reflect on Your Reasons: Revisit the reasons why you wanted to make these health changes in the first place. Remembering your goals and the benefits can reignite your motivation.

  • Set Realistic Goals: Ensure your goals are achievable and realistic. Setting too ambitious goals can be overwhelming. Break down your goals into smaller, manageable tasks.

  • Create a Support System: Share your goals with friends, family, or join a support group. Having someone to share your progress with can boost your motivation. But only the people who you know are supportive and have your best interest at heart.

  • Reward Yourself: Set up a reward system for achieving your milestones. Make sure the rewards do not counteract your health goals. Avoid food awards, though, and make it more about your interests or perhaps something that feels more special than usual (e.g. getting some super nice hand cream)

  • Find Your Inspiration: Reading success stories, watching motivational videos, or listening to podcasts about health (just not the diet culture ones!) can provide a new perspective and inspire you to stay on track.

  • Change Your Routine: Sometimes, boredom with your routine can lead to a loss of motivation. Try new exercises, recipes, or change your environment to keep things interesting.

  • Focus on Progress, Not Perfection: Understand that setbacks are part of the journey. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and don’t be too hard on yourself for slip-ups.

  • Consult a Professional: If you're struggling, consider seeking advice from a somebody who can provide guidance and support. Just make sure they are qualified and experienced!

  • Practice Self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that making health changes is a challenging process. Self-compassion can reduce the risk of burnout and increase long-term motivation.

  • Mindfulness and Stress Management: Practices like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help manage stress, which is often a barrier to maintaining motivation for health goals.

Remember, motivation ebbs and flows. It's normal for your drive to fluctuate, and adapting your strategies to stay motivated is part of the process of making sustainable health changes.

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