People always ask about how we find motivation to work out and eat healthily.
Here’s the short summary of why I push myself to work out on a regular basis & do my best to eat healthily; I am terrified of cancer, heart disease, and all of the other (often preventable/reversible) diseases and illnesses associated with poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.
Another reason that I eat healthily and exercise is that if I want to feel well, I really have no other choice. I am not intrinsically, automatically healthy and I have more than one chronic health condition. If I don’t take care of myself, I can find myself completely miserable. I also have a full, chaotic, life where I can easily work over 60 hours a week. I only get to film about once a month, so I have to fight for the time and energy to stick to my workouts, as well.
I wanted to share my situation because I think there’s a misconception regarding being healthy or unhealthy. I feel like we see these two concepts as separate, independent states that a person either is or isn’t. I think too many people tell themselves something along the lines of “well if I was healthy I would exercise,” or “when I feel better, I’ll start my diet,” when in reality you have to take the initiative and make the first move towards your own health. It takes effort and it takes discipline; health does not necessarily just happen to a person, or skip a person over. I’m a face in the fitness world and I think that people just assume that I’m healthy, but the truth is that I have to work for it. I used to be very unhealthy and 40 lbs heavier, and I still struggle and occasionally have to deal with major setbacks, just like anyone else.
Two years ago, after being randomly very sick intermittently over the course of a year, I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, which is a chronic and sometimes extremely painful bladder condition. There are medications that sometimes work mildly well at keeping the pain and symptoms relatively under control, but they come with side effects and they do not address the root cause of the pain. I always try to avoid taking medicine because I’m afraid of long-term consequences and it’s a particularly unappealing option when the issue can be addressed with changes to my diet. I have kept myself healthy and symptom free without any medicine, and it’s now completely kept in check with diet modifications. I don’t tell many people but here I go, on the worldwide web; I have obsessive compulsive disorder. Not Hollywood’s “I like my shoes lined up a certain way and my peas and carrots not to touch” OCD, but real, sometimes robust, OCD. Over my lifetime I have also learned to manage that with a healthy lifestyle - just another way that a combination of a whole foods diet and exercise have made a huge positive impact on my life. In 2014, after a particularly stressful bout of life, I woke up one morning to find that I couldn’t open my mouth, at all. A disc in my jaw had slipped & my mouth was locked completely shut for over 6 weeks; mostly shut for 10 months, and it took an entire 16 months for it to return to normal. It was one of the most stressful health situations I’ve ever had to deal with; it’s very rare and no one had answers; no doctors could help me. Along with all of those setbacks, I’ve had injuries and sprains and muscle pulls and sciatic flare ups.
During all of the times when I’m sick or hurt, I might take some extra rest days, but I don’t stop exercising; I just change how I exercise. Even if I’m not feeling well, a simple stretching session will leave me feeling a lot better than if I’d done nothing at all. Exercise is not punishment for the body, and if you listen to your body, you can actually use movement to help heal yourself. Smart fitness is fluid and has to move with you through your whole life. It should be breathable and (relatively) enjoyable.
I’m sharing this with you because I wanted to tell you that all of us have setbacks. It’s life; things are going to happen. I know it can be easy to get angry with your body and to get frustrated and want to throw in the towel, but this is a lifelong ordeal, not a sprint. If you give up and stop trying, it’s not going to help anything.
Even when we try our best, we cannot control everything. Bad things can happen, no matter how well you take care of your body; I could get hit by a car on the way to check the mail and sometimes cancer and illness occur even in people with a lifetime of healthy habits. We have to make peace with the things that we have no control over (stress is not healthy either), but there’s no reason that we shouldn’t do what we can to put the odds in our favor to stay healthy.
I encourage you to switch your motivation from losing weight, getting a six pack, or a great butt, to aiming for good health instead (you can use those body goals as a runner up motivator). To be honest, not only is it a better motivator, it actually ends up naturally bringing you around to those appearance-oriented goals anyways. When you eat for your best health and exercise, your body will figure out the details and you’re highly likely going to like the way you look.
Other tips to stay motivated to work out:
- Start small; start with just 5-10 minutes a couple of times a day
- If you’re feeling depressed, know exercise can help (studies have actually found it to be more effective than any anti-depressants, with a bonus of no negative side effects). The hardest part is getting started; push yourself over that hump and it will get easier from there.
- Fake it until you make it; don’t overthink it just start. Go into autopilot and just do it and after a while you will start to feel better because of it & that will become a part of your motivation.
- Realize that this is not a race. This is something you need to be doing for the rest of your life. Get comfortable with that fact; it makes it more daunting initially but then when you realize how great it makes you feel, you will wonder how you lived without it.
- Make sure you are not starting off at a place that is too difficult; lots of people jump in with gusto, and promptly burn themselves out or injure themselves because they have started out too intense for their fitness level. There can be an advantage in slow, steady progress.
- Eat for good health; get interested in what you are putting into your body. Think of nourishing yourself instead of depriving yourself.
- Instead of thinking about all the foods you “can’t” eat (though I don’t recommend making any food “off limits”), think about the abundance of delicious foods that you can eat that make you feel good.
- Get your whole family on board. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be learning to eat well and exercise; you obviously care about their wellbeing, so get them to make changes alongside you.
- Make it easy for yourself; layout workout clothes & shoes ahead of time
- Schedule it, and don’t cancel on yourself. Working out is important, and it inarguably benefits your health. It is not superficial and it’s not something that you should feel bad about being firm with in it’s priority in your schedule.
- Find a workout buddy. The support of a friend can go a long ways in keeping you accountable.
- Find something you enjoy. If you have fun doing it, you will be a lot less resistant.
- Do a warm up workout; after 5 minute of light activity - once you get those feel-good hormones going - there’s a good chance you will be ready for more.
- Find a supportive community that helps you in creating a healthy mindset and pursuing your goals; open a free account on the free Fitness Blender website. Honestly, this is easily one of the most supportive communities I've ever come across and I'm very proud of the Fitness Blender family.
I'm sure that many of you have your own tips and tricks - I would love to hear about what helps keep you motivated to work out and eat well. Sign in & share below!