The beginning of a healthy lifestyle change can be an exciting time. But after a while, life often starts to get in the way. We travel for work. The holidays come up and so do our stress levels. Old habits can slip back into place before we even realize.
How do we stay motivated when the initial excitement wears off? Is motivation the best strategy for us to reach our goals? We asked the Virta patient community for their best advice.
#1. Find Your Why
For any change, there’s probably a reason you want to make it. Identifying exactly what that reason is and reminding yourself of it often can help you stay focused when times get hard. Write it down in a journal or even on sticky notes around your house as a reminder.
There are different kinds of motivation to keep in mind. Extrinsic motivators are external, like a reward or a fear of punishment. Intrinsic motivators are internal. You’re motivated to do something for its own sake, for personal satisfaction. Extrinsic motivation can be a powerful tool to stay on track when getting started, but intrinsic motivation tends be more meaningful and last longer.
Here are few of the “whys” that Virta patients identified:
Eyesight: "I was primarily motivated by increasing health issues. My eyesight and other things were causing me great concern. I also had the feeling that I wouldn’t live very much longer if I didn’t do something drastic and soon!"
Family: "I knew type 2 diabetes was wrecking my health and my loving family needed my TLC."
Feeling better: "Initially my motivation came from being sick and tired of being sick and tired. The prospect of having to take medication for the rest of my life was depressing and seemed inevitable after battling with my diet for five years. I was at my wit's end. Nothing was working...After making all of the necessary lifestyle changes, we can't imagine ever going back! My motivation now stems from feeling so much better and experiencing all the wonderful health benefits that being kinder to my body have to offer."
#2. Embrace Challenges
No matter how much we plan ahead, unexpected things come up that challenge our commitment to healthier choices. By taking a mindful approach and welcoming the situation as it is, we can diffuse negative emotions around our habits.
Difficult times are an opportunity to cement your commitment to a healthier way of life. If you do lapse, remember that it’s a part of the process. Recommit to your goals and move forward with what you’ve learned.
"I still feel very motivated, but I do get tired of the fight sometimes. I feel like I have had to wage war in order to get healthier, but it’s definitely a war worth fighting!"
"We all have moments of temptation or weakness, because we are human. For me it's different now. Instead of temptation and weakness having the upper hand, I am in control. I choose what I will eat and when I will eat it. The benefit of making good choices overrides the temptations and this in turn fuels my motivation to continue loving myself and helping my body heal."
#3. Find a Community
A support system can be essential to making healthy lifestyle choices stick for good. If you don’t have people in your life that support the changes you’re making, try looking online for communities in your area or on social media.
Virta patients connect with one another in a private community. We asked them who also keeps them going when times get hard. Here’s what they said:
"Many people! Me, my husband, my family. We all deserve to be the very best of ourselves. I must love myself, first and foremost, in order to fully love those around me. I am motivated to share the best of myself with all of my family."
"My grandson. I want to be there for him."
"I do what I do not only for myself, but for my son. I have family and friends that have so many nice things to say about my progress and that is very motivating, but the person that motivates me the most is my health coach! I couldn’t have done this without him!"
#4. Own Your Story
It’s completely normal for motivation to wane over time. If it does, it’s important to focus on the actions you can take moving forward to stay true to your goals. Building a habit of discipline will help you stay strong in the face of challenges.
"Don’t give into any lack of motivation, but try to think of all the good things that are happening. I also play a visualization game. I picture the results of what will happen to my BG and how bad I will feel if I don’t stay the course."
"I feel like there are so many good things that keep me motivated and I just try to always keep those things in mind and to know it’s a process. A process which I have to concentrate on daily, sometimes even by the minute if I’m having a rough time."
"I give thanks and praise every day for each day that I am blessed with, even in times of challenges. As long as I am doing what is right for me for the right reasons things will move in the direction as they are intended to. I focus on the forward motion, I don't allow myself to be derailed by the little bumps along the way. It's a journey, not a race."
Accepting ourselves, lapses and all, is key to making healthy choices a part of a sustainable lifestyle. By putting in the work to make healthy habits, you’re making a long term investment in yourself.