Motivation to eat healthy

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4 Ways to stay motivated to exercise and eat healthy when you’re just NOT feeling it…

We’ve all been in those ruts before… you know what I’m talking about — no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get your butt to get off of the couch to work out!

Sarah PelcFollow Jun 23, 2017 · 5 min read image courtesy of

Better yet, the thought of cooking a healthy meal is just too daunting — the fast food down the street is a quicker and easier option for dinner, especially with the mental and emotional energy required to just live our lives!

Believe me, it happens to everyone! As a personal trainer and health coach, even I’m guilty of going through periods with no motivation to exercise or eat healthy… And it’s basically my job! However, finding the motivation to take care of yourself doesn’t mean spending hours in the gym or spending your entire Sunday prepping healthy meals. So, how can you make this easier? Check out these ways that you could stay motivated to work out, even when everything else fails!

1. Give yourself a REAL reward

Sorry, I’m not talking about eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting after you go for a quick jog. I’m talking about a reward that’s going to actually help you get closer to your goals. After a hard workout, allow yourself to indulge in an episode of your favorite TV show, because your muscles need time to recover. Or, if you’ve consistently exercised for one or two weeks, reward yourself with a 30 minute or hour long massage. After eating a healthy dinner, reward yourself with a hot bath or at-home spa treatment. Remember that no matter how hard you work out, you can never out exercise a bad diet, so try to steer clear of rewards that revolve around junk food.

Motivating yourself with an external reward is extremely powerful because your brain can actually latch onto the idea that you are going to get something immediately in return for your hard work. As exercise becomes a habit over time, your motivation will gradually switch from external rewards to internal gratification. You’ll notice how good your body feels after a healthy meal, and you’ll actually look forward to that feel-good endorphin high that comes at the end of a great workout… But in the meantime you get a reward!

Image courtesy of Unsplash

2. Sign a commitment contract

We can make promises to ourselves all day long, but research shows we are much more likely to exercise and eat healthy when we make commitments to our family and friends. For example, create a contract with your loved ones that states you will cook at least 3 healthy dinners per week. Or, you will exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time.

You can even up the ante by paying your family or friends $1 for each time you break the contract. For each time you stay committed to your exercise/health contract, put that $1 in a jar and either use it for your rewards, or donate it to your favorite charity.

3. Make your workouts social!

In today’s world where social media usage is booming, use that to your advantage and share your healthy meals and workouts with your social network. Post on your Facebook page, “I’m running 3 miles tomorrow morning. Does anyone want to join me?” Or, share one of your favorite healthy recipes, and ask your social network to post a copy of their favorite healthy recipe! Better yet, try writing a status post like this:

“Want to help me with my health and fitness journey? Tomorrow morning, I plan on completing 1 squat for every ‘like’ this post gets, and 2 squats for any other reaction! Please help make me work hard!”

You’ll be surprised by how many people jump at the chance to help you out!

By engaging your social network, you’re subconsciously committing to yourself AND to others to actually workout and eat healthy. Plus, you’re looking for a buddies to help hold you accountable. And let’s be honest, being healthy is just more fun when you do it with friends!

4. Always bring your workouts back to WHY.

During the first few weeks of working with my clients, we complete an activity together called the WHY game. Let’a quickly play a round right now!

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to exercise and eat healthy?”

Are you trying to lose weight? Are you hoping to stay active so that you can play with your children? Are you hoping to run a half or full marathon later this year?

Once you have your answer, ask yourself WHY four more times. For example, why do you want to lose weight? Why is it important to you to play with your kids? Or, why do you want to run a full or half marathon?

Each answer should get a little deeper towards your inner drive and motivation. Once you have your last answer (your fifth answer to the question why), THAT is your motivation to workout and eat healthy. This deep, intrinsic driving factor will keep you motivated when everything else fails.

Every time you feel like sitting on the couch instead of working out, or every time you’d rather order pizza than cook a healthy meal, come back to THIS answer. Remind yourself that your goals will be unattainable unless you workout and eat healthy.

Eating healthy, nutritious meals SHOULDN’T revolve around spending hours grocery shopping, meal prepping, and counting calories. If you’re looking for a free resource to help take the stress out of planning healthy meals, . This is the exact tool I give to my clients to help them cook healthy yet delicious meals that are perfectly portioned to their individual bodies.

In a similar way, being active DOESN’T mean spending hours in the gym. In terms of exercising, it doesn’t matter what you do, just move! Find something active that you enjoy, and go with it!

Remember it’s normal for motivation to come and go for all of us! If you’re in one of those periods where you feel stuck without any motivation, remember WHY (the deep meaning… not the quick and easy answer) you want to workout and be healthy. Consider signing a commitment contract with others, and allow the people who know and love you to help hold you accountable. Lastly, don’t be afraid to reward yourself and give yourself some credit! Remember results don’t happen overnight, but staying motivated long-term is the key to reaching your goals as safely and quickly as possible!

11 Steps that Spark your Motivation to Eat Healthy

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If making better choices was as easy as knowing what to do and then just doing it… we’d all be at our goals by now. But what keeps us stuck in the same old place over and over again? Why do we lose our motivation to eat healthy, work out, get up, or go out?

We have all heard that positive motivation always works better than threats, so therefore we need to get excited about something instead of scared.

We cannot motivate ourselves for a very long time to do something we really don’t want to do, so knowing what we truly long for is crucial for getting motivated over and over again.

Are you really passionate about the upcoming change or do you just think you should do it? In order to achieve your goals, it’s so important to really, really want it – not just because “it would be cool”. This doesn’t get you through the marathon of changing your diet, behavior, and perception.

While patience is one of the most important parts of finishing a task, we sometimes cannot bring ourselves to not just expect quick results. When we can think of it as building something that should last us a lifetime ideally, it’s clear why changing our diet may take longer than expected.

There’s some solid and good foundation behind it, we need to learn how to deal with different cravings, eating out, social situations, and old comfort eating habits. If you don’t see the results you want soon, don’t give up – just give it time.

The only thing that ever got me to change a habit was inspiration – really wanting to achieve something. It didn’t come with a “should” but rather a “wow I really want to”.

If you’re not feeling it so far, then research more about health, nutrition, and the great results others have achieved until you feel it tugging at your heartstrings – that’s where you can really begin to make real change. That’s where the magic happens.

Best Motivation to Eat Healthy

But let’s take it step by step. Here’s how to stay motivated to eat a healthier, more whole food plant-based diet. Feel free to skip one or two steps if they don’t apply to you and take what’s most powerful to make change happen.

1. Find Your Reasons

Okay, this seems like an obvious one. But have you actually written down why you want to eat better and what you want to achieve? Try to really come up with some concrete things that you want to be able to do like climbing the stairs or a mountain without getting out of breath, getting better at your favorite sport, healing your digestive issues or skin problems.

Inspiring Reasons to Go Vegan →

Having this vision in mind will make it a lot easier during tough times to stick to your initial plan. It also enables you to track your progress, rather than just aiming for the abstract goal of “being healthy”.

Get clear on what you want and why you want that – having the wrong reasons might set you up for failure in the long run. Try to think who else besides you would benefit from the changes you’re about to make because that makes it even more powerful.

Since motivation isn’t a constant thing that is always there for you, having your reasons with you wherever you go can be just what you need during these low points that will come eventually. So put the list of your reasons into your bag or take a picture with your phone.

When your motivation comes and goes, like a tide, realize that even though it can be completely gone in one moment, it won’t be away permanently. It will come back if you stick it out. In the meantime, follow some of the steps below to find your focus and energy again!

2. Read About It

Surrounding yourself with the possibility of eating a very healthy diet – and doing so effortlessly – makes it a lot more likely for you to try it out and eventually stick to it. When you don’t even know where to start making changes or what a truly healthy and delicious diet looks like, how are you supposed to make any reasonable changes?

Education is key. Find some credible sources that make sound claims about how successful people are on a particular diet. Stay critical and keep your BS radar on – because cutting out one macronutrient, forcefully restricting calories, eating chemical-laden food that comes from a lab or a diet that consists of a ton of different powders and supplements aren’t good options.

The 40+ Best Vegan Books →

When you go back to whole foods, many things take care of themselves. You won’t need supplementation usually, you won’t need to count calories or fight with your hunger.

There are so many amazing people following slightly different healthy plant-based diets who get great results – so check out some of them and see what they eat, how they move and talk. Anything that speaks to you, try it out as well!

Both education and inspiration work so well together. You can also get a few books on this topic and dedicate yourself to read 10 pages every day! ​

The Most Inspiring Transformation Stories →

3. Focus on Positivity

Start by making a list of things that make you smile. This makes your experience better on a daily basis and your focus on “stuff you have to do” shifts over to “things I love”. Write up a few moments that bring you joy and that excite you. Track what makes you happy and let this carry you over to your goals.

Add anything to your list you can think of and whenever motivation is low, take a peek and pick out anything that gives you back your energy and drive.

But there’s also a point at which you can get too excited and this can steal a lot of your energy in the long run. So hold yourself back deliberately in the beginning to honor the fact that you do have some limitations (mentally and physically) and when you jump right into something, you’re pretty likely to jump right out of it too.

So don’t let yourself do everything you want to do right away – only do 50-75% of what you want to do. Increase your action over time. Start monitoring your thoughts and recognize negative self-talk. Once you’re aware of them, you can replace each one with a corresponding positive thought.

Be your own biggest fan and supporter! Don’t focus on how hard your changes will be but rather on finding a way to make them work anyway.

4. Track Your Progress

It can be as simple as marking an X on your calendar when you hit your goal for the day or creating a simple spreadsheet on your computer. You can track this online or print your sheet and fill it out with a pen – whatever you’re more likely to do, choose your favorite version.

It will be very rewarding to look back on your progress and see how far you’ve come when it feels like on a daily basis, nothing changes. And of course, you don’t want too many days without an X! Instead, try to see how many you can get in a row.

Building on these successes is much easier than not seeing any positive changes or progress after a while. Because honestly, every little step along the way is a success, every milestone deserves a little celebration!

Take that positive, uplifting feeling and build on it, use it to carry you to your next micro-goal.

It doesn’t matter if you miss one day, just make sure not to skip two days in a row – not following through one time is just a sign where you need to work harder to make your change happen, it’s not a complete failure that means you can just stop any effort because you won’t ever make it. View it as a teacher and vow to learn this small lesson.

5. Make Tiny Steps

Let’s be honest: we all want to have our desires fulfilled right at this very moment – but you can’t just wish for a healthy, lean or strong body and instantly get it. Change on a physical level happens much slower than on a mental level in this case.

By programming what you really want into your mind, you keep looking out for things that will make it actually happen in the physical realm.

In order for you to not get frustrated about the gap between where you are and where you want to be, acknowledge your current situation and understand that manifesting that change, making it second nature, will take a little more time.

So make little goals that will result in achieving your big goal. Change single components of your meals or just one whole meal at a time! Either focus on cutting things out (like processed food) or adding new foods in (like a handful of greens). Once you don’t have to think about this tiny change anymore, and thus not requiring any willpower, take your next step.

14 Easy & Tasty Food Swaps →

I know it’s easy to dismiss little changes as “not enough” or ridiculous, but they can be very powerful once they add up and ensure your success much more than just being overwhelmed.

Increase the amount of change you want to implement slowly so it always seems very doable. Going after that one huge goal alone can be draining after a while, so having different small goals makes things a lot more exciting!

6. Program Your Mind

This cannot be emphasized enough, so it gets its own mentioning here. We make so many decisions on a daily basis that we don’t even think about – no matter if they serve us or not.

Getting clear on that fact can be both frustrating and empowering! Because once you know that you can just rewire your brain by repeating the same behavior (especially when connected to a daily trigger), you can use this to your advantage.

And before you know it, you’ll reach out for some fruit as a snack. Or you feel like something is missing when there aren’t any veggies on your plate.

Make yourself do a certain thing regularly, even if it’s just for a few seconds or a minute each day (like checking all the ingredients of the food you’re about to buy at the store). If you feel like you’re constantly stuck in the old habits, then just step away from the situation and change your surroundings. Take a walk and reconsider things, increase your sense of enthusiasm and energy!

And since it’s a huge thing to transform your patterns, keep it one goal at a time. Most of us try too much and get overwhelmed before the day is done. You cannot maintain energy and focus if you are trying to do several goals at once – rather focus on one right now.

7. Confront Your Barriers

There can be many emotions connected with the foods you eat. Some remind you of an innocent childhood memory, your grandma’s cooking, or how you got over your toughest breakup.

Food nourishes our mind and soul as well as our body and getting someone to stop eating one type of food can be the most frustrating challenge ever.

This is why it’s time to get real and start questioning your relationship with food. Be aware that some strange or scary things can come up – but you’ve built these walls, and you’re the one who has to get rid of them. Stop limiting yourself or setting yourself up for failure by falling back into your old, unconscious ways of doing things.

Confront your fear of letting go and changing things up by making it a challenge: take one food you think you couldn’t live without and stop eating it for an entire week. For two weeks. It’s okay to fail, just keep on trying – nobody makes a plan and just follows through 100% forever.

Take the power that certain foods may have over you away and find that you can make good decisions for yourself! Don’t allow fear to paralyze or intimidate you. There will come a point at which you feel like you can’t push any further or that it doesn’t seem like the right time and place to implement a positive change – do it anyways.

The hardest part is to move beyond your limiting thinking of how much of a hassle it will be.

8. Make It Enjoyable

Don’t force yourself too much and aim for something you don’t really see the point of or wouldn’t enjoy achieving. It’s not just about the end goal, it’s always about the journey.

In order to become the person who eats super healthy, you need to walk from where you are now to where you want to be – meaning you need to give things up, to add things in you don’t like so much yet. You need to be more aware, you need to connect with your body and make your own meals.

If all of this doesn’t sound very appealing to you, go back and check in with your goals. Are they important enough? Then look at the tiny steps that will take you there.

But don’t reward yourself with a huge piece of cake after trying some kale – joy can exist outside of rich food. Likewise, start eating more foods that you know are good for you and that you actually enjoy! Because switching over to broccoli and beans for every dinner might not be as appealing as a veggie curry over steamed rice.

Delicious & Simple Plant-Based Beginner Recipes →

If you don’t like what you do, it’ll be nearly impossible to work it into your lifestyle long-term. Find beauty in your new ways of being – we’re just naturally resistant towards change and the urges to quit will come up here and there.

Beating yourself up over these moments won’t help, so just focus back on what you enjoy about your new meals and how they make you feel. Let that deliciousness sink in and find deep satisfaction in being able to implement a whole new diet after many years of eating very differently.

9. Use Your Calendar

Grab your old-school planner and take a look at the little gaps in your day. Maybe you’re very busy in the morning and won’t be able to prepare a proper breakfast – then do it the night before.

Or maybe you don’t have time to cook dinner when you come home from work so you just need to look for another gap that will allow you to look for recipes and chop up some food in advance. Then all you’ll have to do in the evening is pop something in the oven, relax, and take it out again.

You can also block an hour every week to organize your fridge and prep or plan your meals! What’s more, when you feel like nothing is changing on a daily basis, schedule weekly check-ins to help you see the results you’ve been getting over time. Then evaluate what’s helping and what you’re not so excited about (let that go for now) so you can stay tuned into your endgame.

A little anticipation can go a long way too, so let your excitement build up before jumping right into your new diet. I get it, many of us get excited and want to start today – but that could be a mistake. Set a date in the future (a week or two) and make that your “Start Date” in your calendar.

Get excited about it and make it a very important date in your life. In the meantime, you start writing out a plan: what do you want to change, how will you be able to achieve it, and when will be the right time – these are the most important questions.

10. Work With Images

Did you just discover an amazing recipe that you prepared for yourself and that was delicious? Take a photo and a note regarding how you made it. Then keep a list of your favorite healthy meals, preferably with pictures.

If you want to take it a step further, make a scrapbook or vision board filled with pictures (maybe of your younger and fitter self?) and words that really motivate you! The key is to not just be inspired to make this change, but to actually take that excitement and build on it.

See the benefits of your goal in your head, imagine how it would feel, how you would go about your day, how you would treat yourself and others. Then it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.

You can also write your goals in a fancy font on your computer and either print it out and hang it up right next to your other images of beautiful healthy food or make it your wallpaper on any electronic device.

Internal images work too of course! By visualizing your successful outcome in great detail, you can already make sure you’ll follow through. It’s highly motivating to see, feel, smell and hear what your goal will be like. Form a clear mental picture and get back to this every single day for a few minutes – right after waking up is a great moment or before you fall asleep.

Make sure to have some kind of inspiration around you each day in the form of positive images, words, success stories, forums, or your support system.

11. Do It Together

Buddy up with someone and join a cooking class together! Or find recipes and put it in a Google Doc to share, take pictures of your healthy food and send it to each other. Even better if you can meet up and make emphasizing eye contact when choosing what to eat.

We also don’t want to look bad in front of others, so making it a public commitment can be powerful – so tell your friends and co-workers about what you’re going to achieve and tell them several times. This could mean giving them updates on how things go, asking for their advice, maybe even motivating them to join in! Way to hold yourself accountable.

Go to Facebook groups or forums where people come together and talk about healthy plant-based eating. See if you can find anyone who wants to be your buddy and partner with you! Make sure you’re dedicated to pushing and encouraging each other to succeed.

Maybe there’s even a vegan meet-up close to you and you can find people to help you out there! Don’t be shy to ask for support because it’s hard to accomplish something alone. It can just be something like your partner asking you each day how you’ve been doing or preparing you a healthy snack when you’re completely pooped one day.

Find your support network, whether that be in the real world or online. If you feel like you need some more help, take a class or get a coach that provides counseling – even though this is more expensive, it could be the answer for you.

Motivated to Eat Healthy?

In the end, we all have to find it in ourselves and want to change for the better. Don’t let others tell you how things should be done or that you won’t ever reach your goals! These long-term goals are worth the effort and you’ll end up creating the life you truly want, the life that really fulfills you.

This is about more than just healthy eating – it’s about making things possible and being the conscious creator of your life.

Have you been trying to switch to a healthier diet? Which steps did you take and were you successful? Have any of our ideas inspired you? Let us know in the comments below.

Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.

10 Strategies for Staying Motivated to Eat Healthy

Why is eating healthy important? There are certainly so many compelling reasons to eat healthily, and if you’re here reading this right now… I’m sure you know many of them and have your own personal reasons. So, finding the motivation to eat healthy is all around us, however STAYING motivated is quite another story! Life creeps up, we default to old habits, and stress and temptation are always lurking. Not to mention the excessive nutrition and diet advice out there that can derail us from focusing and beating ourselves up to achieve the perfection that simply DOESN’T EXIST. What does exist and what is possible? The ability to create healthy lifestyle habits over time. That’s what sticks and that’s what’s do-able for the long haul so it’s a lifestyle and not a fad.

You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy, or fake.” ~Unknown

In my recent webinar, From Fed-up to Well-fed, (watch here) I discussed 4 major pillars on how I support my clients constantly with these struggles and in this post, I’m breaking it down to 10 actionable steps anyone can take to create these healthy habits.

10 Strategies for Staying Motivated to Eat Healthy

  1. START WITH YOUR “WHY”. This might sound like a throw-away, but it’s not. Ask yourself what a healthy lifestyle and healthy food does for you, your body, your relationships, your goals in life… DIG DEEP here and don’t stop until your jaw drops and you realize it’s much deeper than any surface-level story you might already be telling yourself. Then, write it down and keep it all over the place! In your medicine cabinet, on a mirror, on your phone, sticky notes on your laptop or kitchen cabinets — whatever it takes to keep it top of mind.
  2. Add time to your calendar to prioritize grocery shopping, meal planning, and prepping. If you’re like me… if it’s not on my calendar, it’s not going to get done. I mean it! Use your calendar to time block and prioritize. This sets the intention to get these tasks done, while creating the space and time it will realistically take you.
  3. Clean House. Don’t get frustrated with a messy, inefficient kitchen. A little Marie Kondo action never hurt anyone! Spend some time to clean and organize your kitchen and invest in time-saving tools to make you more efficient. Toss any triggers (like snacky items, etc.) that seem to derail you and honor if you simply can’t have them in the house at this point in time, it may not always be a trigger but call it out now if it is and chuck it.
  4. Work smarter, not harder (+ save money where you can). A major blocker or perceived blocker can often time be MONEY. But the truth is, you can eat healthy on a budget. It’s also worth it in the long haul (see it as an investment in your health). Read my article for eating healthy on a budget for a ton of resources on where to shop and what to do in order to save more money. Commit to some budget tips to try so they can be your new norm and it gets you working smarter! Also – check out any grocery or pantry delivery services in your area to help you save on time as well, for the weeks where getting to the grocery store simply aren’t possible. Examples: Amazon Fresh or Instacart.
  5. Crowd Out. Instead of staying so focused on what you can’t have… why not focus more on all the goodness you can have?! You can make a game out of it to “eat the rainbow” and get as many colorful fruits and veggies into your day as you can for example… vs. wishing for some of the donuts sitting in the break room that everyone is freaking out over! Enjoy nourishing your body with a positive attitude, flip the script, and most days it will be so helpful (not to mention, delish)! Need ideas on whole foods to crowd out with? Check out my grain-free swaps article here! Always opt for whole foods vs. processed, and read labels on everything to ensure the ingredients are simple and understandable to you.
  6. Give Mindful Eating a chance! This has everything to do with you getting more in tune with your body’s cues and farther away from chasing diets. We are all so unique, no one diet will work for everyone all the time, it’s just not that simple. So practicing being more present with yourself both at meal times and while cooking by slowing down, breathing, and savoring to start — is a game changer (in fact, all my clients say so!) As another major benefit, it does wonders for your DIGESTION. Slowing down and breathing when you start your meal and chewing it well, means better nutrient absorption, less bloating, and more pleasurable experience. Do remember though, like all of these strategies, this is a PRACTICE, not an overnight learned tool! Be patient with yourself. I provide weekly mindful eating tips in my MINDFUL MEALS meal plan and prep guide – check that out here!
  7. Need help? OWN IT. There’s no shame in delegating and asking for help, seriously. I’m sure you have plenty on your plate and when you’re overwhelmed, it’s all too easy to order takeout and eat poorly. Ask your family, friends, roomies for help with chores… can anyone take turns cooking with you or helping you prep? Are there some quick and healthy freezer meals you can have on hand? Figure out what will move the needle and be there to support you. If you know structure and plans are the best for you… I’ve got you right here, too. And never be scared to reach out for help with accountability! Whether from a friend with like-minded goals as you, or a practitioner.
  8. JOURNAL IT OUT. If sensitivities are causing you major frustration and making you sick, the BEST thing you can do is to keep a food and mood journal. Document what you ate, when, how it made you feel (physically, mentally, emotionally = all are important). Try it for a week and review it at the end to see if something obvious is causing you harm. Experiment with ditching it for a while! This is free and better than any food sensitivity test, promise. Journal any reflections too! New things you tried, how it felt, and if you’d like to keep up with it. This is a learning process!
  9. Enjoy snacks and desserts in moderation, not as a crutch. I’ve got plenty of healthy and allergen-friendly dessert recipes on here and in my Mindful Meals book. Have fun making 1 or 2 a week to look forward to. Always prioritize whole food snacks above processed (yes, even the “health bars”) and if you do have a processed snack… be sure to read the labels, as with all your food. The less sugar and questionable ingredients, the better.
  10. Bring JOY into your cooking and your journey. You could let these tips become just another chore, or you could bring a positive outlook to everything and break these out into small, attainable chunks to try so that overtime… they add up (and that’s what I’d highly recommend doing). When you’re meal prepping and cooking, play some awesome tunes to make it more fun… if you get bored and don’t love doing it alone… call up a friend and catch up on speaker phone. You can make it a recurring date and knock out so many birds with one stone! Whatever you think will help to make this something to look forward to rather than dread… it’s worth a shot, baby!

I hope these tips have been helpful for you to stay motivated! Remember to be kind to yourself, there is no such thing as perfection. Enjoy the process and journey, learn from it, and KEEP GOING!

Want more? Watch my recent webinar on this topic, From FED-UP to WELL-FED!

We’re in trouble.

WALL-E knows it too, which is why he looks so sad.

Poor WALL-E 🙁

We are spending more money on fitness quick-fixes, gym memberships, “health food”, personal trainers, and other ‘life improvement’ products than ever before. Thanks to the power of the Internet, we’re hit on a daily basis with “Top 10 healthy foods,” “foods to avoid for optimum health,” “6-pack abs in 15 minutes a day!,” and millions upon million fitness sites extolling expert advice. Super markets like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and even healthy “fast food” places are popping up everywhere that make it incredibly simple to eat healthy foods.

Despite ALL of this, we continue to get bigger, slower, and lazier.

More than 2/3rds of America is overweight, over 33% of us are considered obese, and the numbers continue to grow with each passing year. At this rate, we could be headed for an actual WALL-E type future within a few decades.

Ruh roh, Shaggy.

I’ve been running Nerd Fitness for over three years now, and I can say without a doubt that the question I get asked above ALL else goes something like this:

“I know what I should do, I just can’t motivate myself to do it. Can you help?”

My answer has always been “I can’t give you motivation, only the tools to use once you FIND your motivation.”

However, I’ve come to a realization over the past few weeks – although I cannot provide you with motivation, there is another way I can help.

Today, you’re gonna learn why most people suck at getting in shape, and how to avoid that trap.

Admiral Akbar would be proud.

Be More Like Yoda

Personal finance blogger Ramit Sethi (one of my blogging/finance Yodas, whose book completely changed how I looked at finances) talks extensively about the concept of “motivation” and “should” when it comes to self improvement.

Essentially, when you read an article about exercise and fitness and diet, if you say “man I really should do that,” you’ve already lost.

“Should” is a defeatist word.

And here’s why:

You are a smart person.

You know what needs to be done in order to get in shape.

You know that you should eat REAL food and stop eating junk food. You even know that a majority of “healthy” foods out there are crap. You know that your diet is 80% of your success or failure. You know HOW to build a workout, or you at least know that there are free workout resources available through the site. There are even products available through the Nerd Fitness Store that do everything short of holding your hand when getting started with exercise!

On top of all of that, we ALL know that eating better and exercising improves your life in about a MILLION ways, so I won’t even bother listing them.

And yet, people come to me every day and say “I know I should exercise, and I know I should eat better, but I just don’t have the motivation and don’t know where to find it.”

My goal with Nerd Fitness is to remove every single barrier and excuse you might have to level up your life. I try to write motivating articles that inspire action and give you the desire to change, but I know their influence can fade as soon as the laptop closes and the Xbox/Netflix/Hulu beckons.

Today’s article is for the people who know they SHOULD change but don’t.

Yoda said it best:

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

There is NO “should” either!

It’s time to stop sucking, stop saying should, and start DOING it.

Start here: Every time you say “should,” drop and give me 10 push ups. I don’t care where you are or what you’re doing. Trust me, it’ll be funny.

Stop searching for motivation, start building systems

Do any of these situations sound familiar?

  • “Just one peanut M&M” or “Just one piece of cake” becomes the entire bag/plate.
  • “I skipped yesterday’s workout, why bother today? It’s useless.”
  • “Meh, next month is better for me anyways.”

Most out of shape folks have said at one point or another, “I should get in shape but I __________.” Whatever your excuse may be, we BOTH know that you’re the only person who believes it. We might tell ourselves that we don’t have time, or that we had a bad day at work, or that we just don’t feel like exercising or eating right for whatever reason.

It’s at this point we start to question our willpower, wondering how to get “motivation” or “inspiration.”

It’s not just a lack of willpower – it’s a lack of proper preparation and systems!

Although we can’t automate our workouts and our diets, we CAN automate our thinking to promote positive habit change.

As Leo will tell you, it takes around 30 days or so for a new habit to form. By automating our thinking for the first few weeks, we can remove emotion from the equation until we start to see positive change and build momentum.

As we also know from Sir Isaac Newton (All praise his scientific name!), “an object at rest tends to stay at rest,” and “an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”

In our case “somebody who sucks at being in shape will continue to suck being in shape…” until he/she becomes somebody who “is good at getting in shape will stay in shape.”

By automating your thinking, you can power through the slow, momentum-less weeks until you hit your stride.

Fix your diet

Your diet is 80-90% of your success when it comes to getting healthy and looking better.

Seriously, it’s that important.

We know from the Rules of the Rebellion that you can’t outrun your fork, and you can’t out train a poor diet.

And yet, we’ve all said at one point in our lives, “I should start eating better” while polishing off a bag of Doritos/popcorn/Skittles.

#Fail.

“I should (eat better)(eat less)(clean up my diet)” is a useless phrase that will result in no positive action. So stop saying SHOULD.

Instead, put systems and practices in place that remove any thought or action from your decision-process until you’ve heard “hey, have you lost weight?” and “you look great.” Once momentum is on your side, nothing can stop you.

If you are reading this right now and thinking “I should start eating better tomorrow,” I will slap you in the mouth.

Not tomorrow. Not tonight. Now. I can see that donut in your mouth, you know.

RIGHT NOW.

Build a system that removes emotion from the equation.

Create a yes/no list

Create a list of foods right now that you have zero self control over and or foods that you know are bad for you.

If you know those foods are derailing your efforts, then remove temptation and emotion from the equation by making a rule that YOU CANNOT EAT THEM.

Part of the reason the Paleo Diet is so successful for so many people is that it removes ALL of the guesswork! “No, I can’t eat that because it’s not paleo” makes everything incredibly simple! People on the paleo diet know they can eat meat, fish, fowl, veggies, fruits, and nuts. That’s it. If it doesn’t fit into one of those categories, then they can’t eat it.

It’s no longer a question of willpower, it’s just what you are doing.

If you want to start eating better and you know certain foods are bad for you, build a list that says what you can and can’t eat. If you’re a person that struggles with self control when it comes to unhealthy food (and we all are, to an extent), then “just one” doesn’t work.

“But Steve, people will give me funny looks for not eating birthday cake at the office, and I’ll get made fun for not eating the bun on my burger and replacing french fries with a salad.” A strong majority of this country is overweight, out of shape, in debt, and unhappy…do you really care what they think about you? Do what you need to do to only eat the foods on your approved list. Staci told everyone at her office that she developed a food allergy to avoid all of the unhealthy temptations at work. While lying sucks, they never asked again, and it made it super easy to bring in whatever she wanted without getting weird looks.

“But Steve, I eat out all the time, mostly at American style places with big portions. How am I supposed to eat healthy there?” As soon as your food comes to you, set aside 1/2 or 1/3rd of it as “not touchable.” Ask for a to-go box right away and put that portion in there. Don’t feel like taking it home but know you’ll nibble at it? Dump a pound of salt on it after you’re done

“But Steve, people will think I’m weird!” EMBRACE THE WEIRD. Fitting in with everybody else got you where you are now. Maybe doing things that others think is weird is precisely what you need to get back on the right path.

“No thank you” is a freaking powerful combination of words – learn to use them.

Clean house

Now that you have your list of “yes” and “no” foods, it’s time to remove temptation from the equation.

I know that if I’m in the same room as Goldfish crackers or Sourpatch Kids, I will not be able to focus on anything else until I have eaten every single one of them, so I make sure I’m not within a 500 foot radius of them. If you’re at your office and you can’t have just one peanut M&M, stop walking by the desk of the person who has a jumbo jar on their desk for the next two weeks! It doesn’t make you a bad person or weak if you can’t have just one; it makes you smart to avoid them.

“Just one” is no longer an option.

The same goes for unhealthy food that you can’t help but snack on in between healthy meals. So, go home today and throw out every single piece of unhealthy food from your house. If you can’t be in the same room as ice cream without eating an entire tub of it, DON’T be in the same room with ice cream!

I can already hear your excuses. Seriously, my hearing is that good. All the way from Ecuador. What’s up.

“But Steve, I already paid for it, I need to eat it.” At this point, it’s a sunk cost. Eating it because you already paid for it just compounds the unhealthy problem…if you’re truly serious about turning your life around, the few bucks you spent on this junk food is a small price to pay. Throw it away, give it to neighbors, donate it to a food shelter, whatever you need to do. Get rid of it, and maybe only go out ONCE this week, or bring your lunch in twice to make up for the extra money spent.

“But Steve, I can’t afford healthy food.” Really? Or is it just easier to say “I can’t afford it” than it would be calculate how much money is wasted on soda, chips, candy, coffee, drive-through meals, vending machine stops, etc. each week? HMMMMM!? Yes you can!

“But Steve, my family still eats these things, I can’t just throw them out.” Have you had a talk with your family about the NEW YOU yet? Have you proposed trying to get the whole family eating better yet? Maybe your family will be eating differently than you…work with them and have them help keep you accountable.

“But Steve, my roommates still eat these things!” Ask them to keep these foods in their rooms or in a cabinet that’s not yours. Create a rule that says “I will not eat anything that I did not pay for.”

Don’t leave exercise up to your brain

We nerds are smart, but we’re also quite imaginative – which means there’s no limit to the number of excuses we can create to justify not working out “just today.”

First are foremost, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Yes, you do have time to work out.

Anybody who says they cannot find 30-45 minutes a day is full of crap. Your workout might have to be early in the morning, in the afternoon, during your lunch break, or at night after the kids have gone to bed, but I guarantee if you do a TRUE evaluation of where you’re spending your time, you can find 30-45 minutes.

That might mean one less episode of _______ each night on Netflix. Or, it might mean during every comercial break you have to do five pushup, three pullups, and ten squats.

Even if it’s spread out during the day, it is better than nothing!

Okay, so we know you HAVE time, but it’s still tough for you to get yourself off your butt and into workout mode, right?

Which means we need to remove the “yes/no” option from your brain. Instead of focusing on the misery of the workout until you start to see progress, put your focus on building good habits, not accepting ANY excuse, and just doing it. It’s what Joe did – 10 months and 128 pounds later, he’s a completely different person.

These are my suggestions:

Start small – Commit to five minutes of exercise a day. Five minutes of push ups, pull ups, and/or squats. That’s it! No matter what happens, every day, you need to do 5 minutes of exercise. You’ll quickly learn that getting started is the hardest part – once you finish your five minutes it’ll be easy to keep going.

Work out in the morning. Sleep with your running shoes next to your bed, and in your workout clothes. When you wake up, there is NO thought involved. You are going for a run/yoga/to the gym and that’s that. If you wait until the afternoon, life is bound to get in the way and excuses are easier to sink in.

Flip it. This is a trick I learned from Leo as well. Right now, the pain associated with working out and the benefit of sitting on your couch is what keeps you sedentary. Make a mental shift: focus on how GOOD a workout can make you feel, and how painful SKIPPING a workout can be.

“How can skipping a workout be painful?” you’re wondering…

Have an accountability system. Tell your friends that you are going to get in shape, start a blog and publicly declare your intentions. Send one of your friends $200 on PayPal. Every time you work out and check in with them, they will send you $10 back. Every time you skip a workout, he gets $10. Do you really want to fund your friend’s drinking money for the weekend? Do you want to see the smug “I told you so” look on his face a month from now when you’ve given up? Hell no!

My friend Saint said he would pay his friends $500 if he didn’t get to a certain body fat percentage by June. After two years of struggle and lack of results, Saint…faced with the prospect of giving up $500 he didn’t have….realized that NOT working out was going to cost him a lot more than working out….so he sucked it up, started training with conviction, and hit his goals weeks ahead of schedule. Now he’s a new man, in search of another dragon to slay.

Make it impossible to bail. Sign up for a class with your friends and make sure they keep you accountable. Sign up for personal trainer sessions and pay for them in advance. Even if you have to scam and trick yourself into working out, get your butt off the couch and doing something productive.

Adjust your targets – “I want to lose weight” is useless…but “I want to lose 50 lbs” can be equally crushing. The scale lies, and it’s easy to freak out if the scale doesn’t change or (gasp!) moves in the wrong direction for a day or two. Rather than dealing with numbers that don’t tell the whole story, put your focus on healthy habit building then you will build momentum.

    • I will work out 3 times a week and walk 3 times a week.”
    • I will eat only foods on the YES list for every meal except two, every week.
    • I will check in at the gym 3 times a week on four square. For every missed check in, I will donate $20 to a local charity.

Bring it all together, you will

To recap:

  • Stop saying should. Penalize yourself with push ups every time you do.
  • Create rules for yourself about what you can eat and what you can’t eat. Follow these rules without exception, and remove emotion from the equation.
  • Get rid of the foods that are holding you back. It’s really tough to eat something if it’s not in your cabinet.
  • Build in fail-safes and accountability systems that make it impossible to skip a workout. Make it suck more to skip than to not skip.

The first few weeks of getting in shape can be incredibly difficult. By planning and building in proper systems to avoid the pitfalls that trip everybody up, you can power through the slow-roll stage until your momentum and positive behavior start to snowball into an avalanche of awesome.

Yes, you heard me. An avalanche of awesome. Feel free to use it wherever 🙂

If you remember getting through the tough first few weeks, how did YOU succeed? What were your systems?

Help out your fellow rebels!

If you are stuck in the “I know what I should do, but I can’t do it” phase, what are you going to do RIGHT NOW to get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

-Steve

photo sources – WALL-E, X-Tyler , Schtumple, Robbie_V, icedsoul photography, nettsu, lucidtech, e.r.w.i.n.

No matter how much you want to commit to a healthy diet, it can be tough to get started, and even tougher to stick to it. All too often we find ourselves craving foods we’ve denied ourselves, or giving into temptations. Sometimes we feel so guilty or stressed we don’t even enjoy those diversions from the healthy eating path.

Eating healthy can put a strain on our social and family relationships, if our friends, family, and colleagues don’t share our commitment. Worse still, sometimes sticking to a healthy diet can seem so expensive or complicated it doesn’t seem worth the effort anymore.

Well, put that negativity aside. We’ve got eight great tips to help you find – and keep – the motivation to eat healthy. You don’t have to avoid social activities, you don’t have to give up your favorite foods, and you don’t have to suffer or spend a lot of money. Instead, these tips will help you take control of your eating habits, and even make healthy eating fun!

Tip #1: Keep a food diary

It’s well established that keeping a diary of what you eat is one of the best ways to help you stay on track with a healthy diet. If you have to write down your food, you’ll think twice about having that cupcake from the office party, and you can’t ‘sneak’ any junk food snacks. You’ll also see if there are any patterns to what you eat that might be getting in the way of your plans to eat right. You could see if there are certain times of day when you break down and have some chocolate, if you are getting hungry between meals, or if you eat better during the working week or on your days off.

It’s also a really good way to find positive motivation in your eating habits too. Having a record of every day that you made good choices and stuck to a plan is going to provide you with some immediate satisfaction that you can eat healthily every day. If you’ve hit a few roadblocks, your food diary can show you that you’ve been able to get back on track!

Tip #2: Make A Meal Plan

If you can’t find healthy food when you need a snack, or you come home from work tired and hungry and there’s nothing easy to prepare, you are more likely to take a shortcut and grab fast food or a take-out for immediate gratification. With a little planning though, you can make sure there is always a better choice handy!

Start with mapping out your main meals for the week. Take into account any change in your schedule – for example, is there a night when you will be working late and won’t want to cook? Or do you have a busy weekend running errands and will need to eat on the go? Make sure your weekly meal plan matches what is actually happening in your schedule, and you’ll be much more likely to stick to it and not choose unhealthy shortcuts.

Use your plan to make a shopping list, and when you go to the grocery store, stick to it! Don’t let yourself be swayed by special offers or tasty looking goodies that don’t fit with your plan. When you get home, sort out your food when you put it away, so you can find exactly what you need each day, and keep your meal plan where you can see it, like on your fridge.

Tip #3: Prepare snacks ahead of time

Snacks are one of the easiest places to lose track of your healthy habits. You are most likely to snack when hunger pangs sneak up on you, you are bored or sick, or you are under stress. Many people find that they have a regular snacking pattern, like when that afternoon sleepiness hits them. Others snack at more random intervals. Understanding your snacking patterns will help you overcome them. We’re not talking about not snacking at all – ‘grazing’ a little during the day is perfectly healthy if you nibble on the right foods!

Once you’ve planned your meals, look at your food diary and see what’s happening with your snacks. If you need to snack during the day – and that’s okay – make sure you have pre-prepared healthy options. Pre-cut raw veggies, tubs of berries, pre-measured and bagged nuts are all great, and by preparing them you can manage your portions. This way, you can easily snack without throwing your goals off track.

If you snack as a response to stress or fatigue, see if you can predict when you are likely to feel tired or anxious and have a healthy snack handy. Snacks that take some time to eat, or a bit awkward, are often best for these situations because they also keep your hands busy. Grapes still on the stem, pistachios still in the shells, anything that slows you down and gives you more to do are great snacks for stress or boredom snacking.

Tip #4: Have a Food Buddy

Chances are your friends, family and colleagues have a lot of influence on what you eat, and it may not be a positive influence. Frequent lunches out during the workweek, going for a drink after work, taking the family to the movies – all of these things may be great social activities, but they can wreak havoc on your food goals. Instead of denying yourself the opportunity to spend time with friends and family when you think it might tempt you away for healthy eating – or simply giving into temptation straying off your plans – try getting your friends and family on your healthy eating team.

The best way is if you have even a few friends who are also committed to healthy eating. They can help you feel okay about choosing the salad bar when everyone else is having pizza slices, or use their numbers to get colleagues to swap an after work trip to the bar for a game of frisbee once in a while.

Even if your friends and family don’t share your passion for healthy eating, letting them know about your goals, and helping them understand why your health is important to you, can turn them into allies. Even a simple thing as a friend moving the bread sticks to the other end of the table when you are out for a meal, or just not offering you a handful of Raisinets at the movies can be a big help. If they know you don’t see those actions as rude, but actually as really kind gestures, then they can keep a lot of temptations at bay!

If you are trying to lose weight or adapt to a food intolerance or allergy, a food buddy who shares your challenge with you can be a great motivator. You can turn to each other for support when cravings hit or you fall off the healthy eating wagon, and you can share healthy rewards when you’ve both had a week of eating well, like going to a spa together or to a game or a show.

Tip #5: Set Healthy Rewards

Having something to look forward to if you stay on track with your healthy eating goals is a great way to stay motivated. Being able to reward yourself with something special after a week, or a month, of good habits will not only help you feel good about what you’ve achieved, but it might keep you from cutting corners. If you set yourself a reward you really want, and you know if you have a sneaky candy bar you can’t – in good faith – reward yourself, then you are more likely to shake off the craving and pass up the candy.

The rewards should not be unhealthy food. We’ll talk about how the occasional indulgence can still fit into your plans, but it should never be a reward. That conditions your mind to think that you are withholding something yummy, rather than replacing it with something else just as tasty but also healthy!

Instead, your rewards should not have anything to do with food. It might be to buy something you’ve been saving for, but rewards don’t have to be expensive. Taking a day off to spend at the beach, going to see your favorite sports team, or a trip to a spa or a massage are all great rewards that don’t necessarily break the bank and don’t involve food.

Tip #6: Have Fun With Food

Too often healthy eating is seen as all about denying ourselves the foods we really want to eat. That doesn’t need to be the case at all. There are so many interesting, delicious food choices out there if you take the time to look for them. Healthy eating simply doesn’t have to be about sacrifice.

Instead, if you are feeling frustrated with your healthy diet, or experiencing increasing cravings for salty, sugary, oily snacks, try shaking up your eating a bit. All too often it’s just that we’ve gotten in a rut with the foods we are choosing, dropping back to the same shopping list week after week. Spend a little time looking for some new healthy food ideas that can inspire you and keep you motivated.

Searching online for creative cookbook ideas is a great place to start. Subscribing to a healthy eating magazine can bring new ideas to your mailbox every month. Social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook are full of groups and ideas that can put the fun back in your meal plan.

If you find a recipe or idea that piques your interest, build it into your meal plan so you can look forward to shopping for, preparing, and of course tasting your new project. It can even be a great way to bring your food buddies into the mix – serve a new dish to your friends, or get your family to help you make the recipe.

Tip #7: Organize Your Kitchen

Not being able to find your healthy food, whether it’s a quick snack, a leftover that’s still safe to eat, or the ingredients for a meal – is a sure way to send your eating plans off track. If you are tired, hungry, or in a hurry, it’s especially important that you find a good choice quickly so you don’t sneak out for a takeout, order a pizza, or pop something into the microwave.

Set yourself a plan to get your kitchen under control. If you have the time and it works for you, take a day and get it all done at once. If that seems overwhelming, map out a plan to do just a few minutes each day. It will all fall into place faster than you think, and once your kitchen is under control you’ll be able to find what you need – and what’s good for you – quickly and easily.

Have some fun with organizing your kitchen too – this doesn’t have to be a chore. Investing in some stylish storage containers (especially if you’re like me and the lids to your containers are always missing) can make managing leftovers easy. I like to use different colored lids for each day I put something in the container and in the fridge. That way I know right away how long something’s been in storage, so I know what to eat first!

Pretty baskets or a bowl for fresh fruit will keep healthy nibbles handy. A new set of knives, or just sharpening your old ones, will make preparing snacks or ingredients a lot more fun.

Tip #8: Don’t Cheat, Eat

At some point, even the most motivated healthy eaters give in to a temptation. Well, maybe not the most die-hard vegans, but the rest of us break from time to time. Instead of thinking of these slips as you falling off the healthy eating wagon, take charge of your cravings – don’t wait for a craving to hit. Decide what foods you really want that don’t typically fit a healthy eating plan, and schedule them in. If you know you are going to have macaroni and cheese on Saturday night, you’ll be less likely to hit the pizza on Friday afternoon.

In other words, don’t let yourself think of occasionally having some less-than-healthy foods as cheating. Instead, think of them as part of eating. But don’t let yourself lose control of your goals.

Pick your favorite foods, the ones you really don’t want to live without, and schedule them into your meal plan. At the same time, really take the time to enjoy them. With careful planning, you can control your portions, and look forward to some guilt-free favorites. If you schedule your treats, then you can take the time to sit down and appreciate them, rather than rushing them because you grabbed them in a hurry or because you were stressed. Chances are you’ll also find that your ‘special meals’ aren’t really all that unhealthy, as you’re avoiding impulse eating that typically leads to more salts and sugars.

Conclusion

We hope these eight tips will help you find – and keep – the motivation to eat healthy. You’ll see that they are also about taking control, not just of your diet but of how food fits into your life.

That’s important to remember – eating healthy isn’t just a good idea, it’s a lifestyle. It affects your work, social, and family relationships, your budget, and we all know how food can affect our emotions and our energy. Apply these tips to help you take charge of your eating in a way that it fits into a healthy, positive mindset, where food is not a problem or a challenge anymore.

Have you got tips or strategies that have helped you stick to a healthy diet or some favorite recipes? We’d love to hear them!

9 Ways to Stay Motivated to Eat Healthy

If you’ve made a resolution to eat healthy and exercise more, you’re not alone. Losing weight and exercising are two of the most common New Year’s resolutions. But as time passes, it’s easy to forget your resolutions and your new nutrition plan, and let your bad habits creep back in. Here are nine ways to stay motivated to eat healthy and reach your goals for the next 12 months and beyond.

1. Have a Weigh-in

Weigh yourself every day or every other day at about the same time. Most people weigh less in the mornings before they eat, so that may be the best time of day to do it. “The reason I recommend weighing yourself daily is that you see trends, such as weight gain, sooner rather than later,” says Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, a nutritionist with a private practice in New York and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “And if you have gained weight, you can nip it before 2 or 3 pounds turns into 5 or 6 and become that much harder to lose.”

2. Put Money Down

Hire a personal trainer or nutritionist to help you reach your fitness and nutrition goals. Or pay for extra fitness classes at the gym. You need to truly invest in your success, Nolan says. “When you pay for something, you’re more willing to commit to it,” she explains. Consider it your holiday present to yourself.

3. Start Fresh

It’s a new year — not only for the calendar but also for your refrigerator and pantry. Purge the junk food from your cupboards and start with a clean slate as you move to healthier eating habits. “Don’t keep three dozen Christmas cookies in your freezer if you don’t have to,” Nolan says. Discard the unhealthy choices you made and restock with healthier versions.

4. Plan Ahead

Plan time to exercise and to cook and eat healthy meals. If you schedule time for exercise just as you do for doctors’ appointments, you’ll find it’s easier to stick with it. The same goes for eating healthy. Plan a healthy menu and write a shopping list to take to the store. It’s easier to stick to your nutrition goals when you have a list while shopping. You’ll also be better equipped to make healthy meals and snacks at home when the foods you need are handy.

5. Set Realistic Goals

You’re more likely to stay motivated when you have a realistic plan rather than vague wishes or overly optimistic ideals. First be specific. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose weight,” set a goal to lose 3 to 5 pounds in one month. Then, be realistic. For example, instead of giving up sweets entirely, say “I’m going to only eat dessert three times a week instead of seven.” If your nutrition plan includes realistic goals, you’ll be more likely to achieve them, says Nolan.

6. Reward Your Success

Your goal could be to lose 2 pounds or to not eat seconds at any meal for a week. Whatever it is, when you reach it, reward yourself with something small — just be sure it’s not a food-related treat. Go to the movies with a friend. Get your nails done. Buy that new sweater. Go for a walk in the woods with your dog. These types of rewards help provide the incentive you need to continue working toward bigger goals.

7. Write It Down

Putting your actions down on paper helps you focus what you’re doing to help (or hurt) your goals. If you keep a food journal, you can look back at what you’ve eaten, which could be more or less than you realize. Joining an online support group where you can share your food journal with others can help, says Nolan. “When you know other people are seeing it, you’ll be more motivated to stick to your healthy eating habits,” she adds.

8. Try New Recipes and New Gadgets

Look for healthy recipes online and in newspapers and magazines. Try the ones that appeal to you most. Breaking up your routine with new recipes keeps your healthy eating plan interesting. And if you’re not bored, it’s easier to stick to your goals. Buying new cooking items is another way to stay excited about healthy cooking, says Nolan. “Whenever I get a new kitchen appliance — pots, pans, food processor, or even a knife — I want to play with it, which can help me expand what I’m eating in a healthy way.”

9. Be Forgiving

What if you can’t resist and you eat that piece of pecan pie from Christmas or dig into a bag of chips? Don’t be too hard on yourself. You can’t change what you’ve eaten, but you can make better choices at your very next meal, Nolan says. If you wait until tomorrow or Monday to get back to eating healthy, it will be that much harder.

Adopting a nutrition plan at the start of the year and sticking to it as the months pass can be much easier than you think, especially if you employ these tricks to help you along the way.

How to Motivate Others to Get Healthy

How to motivate others to make some of the healthy choices you’re making? It’s not so easy. Anyone who’s found it difficult to get on the right path understands the frequent resistance of their loved ones to adopt similar lifestyle changes. Despite intellectually understanding the benefits of exercise, for instance, they may feel too busy or hopelessly behind to start a fitness routine. No one doubts the power of eating healthy, but many of people are caught in dietary ruts and haven’t been sufficiently motivated to change.

But your friends, family, and colleagues have a secret weapon: you. You’re proof that someone they know can break bad habits and start good ones. You’re actively looking for articles like this one, and therefore motivated to motivate them. Unlike well-being gurus they may see on book covers or television, you’re in their lives and in their corner. That’s incredibly powerful, as are some of the specific ways you can be a daily or weekly motivational presence for people who know they need to get healthier but haven’t had the right personal nudge in that direction quite yet. Here are some thoughts on how to motivate others:

    1. Help them find the “why.” Get clear on why better health is important to them. Maybe they’re tired of their clothes not fitting. Maybe they’re managing a health condition that requires better habits. Maybe it’s vanity. Maybe it’s a desire for more energy or better sleep or a prolonged life or higher performance. Maybe it’s general prevention. Maybe it’s something else. Regardless, the key is to connect them with a specific goal that feels personal. They will be more likely to take steps toward a destination when they’ve said, out loud, where they’d like to go.
    2. Listen. It may seem obvious, but it’s essential. Use your own suggestions as motivation where appropriate, but actually hear what the other person is saying about what they want out of a different habit. Don’t replace their story with your own. The more you understand their rationale, obstacles, fears, and desires, the easier the entire process will be.
    3. Incentivize the process. If it’s been a while since they exercised, you may suggest a small system of self-bribery. This is especially true in pursuing the small bits of progress that ultimately add up to something like a smaller waist size. Try to come up with a rewards system that’s built into your relationship with the person you hope to motivate. For instance, if you live with them, say you’ll watch a show or movie of their choice after a healthy dinner together. If it’s a friend, offer to take them out to lunch after they hit the gym. Figure out the best “habit loop” that makes sense for them. Habit loops involve a cue or trigger for the desired new behavior, the routine, and then the reward. If they’ve found that similar tricks haven’t worked when they’ve tried to use them, it’s possible that having someone else as the protector/dispenser of rewards will provide the extra incentive they need to actually get the job done.
    4. Don’t be a scold or perfectionist. There’s a reason you’re helping to motivate someone — because change is difficult, and progress doesn’t always go in a straight line. If and when there’s a hiccup in the process, use it as an opportunity to refocus the person you’re motivating on the big picture. While there’s no one right way to motivate, the least productive “how to motivate” approach is one that involves shame or negativity or asking the other person to reach impossibly high expectations. Build some looseness and flexibility into your motivation.
    5. Do be gently insistent. Try not to let them delay or slip out of their new commitment without explanation. Flexibility is good, but so are specific plans and start dates. Make it clear that life can interfere with plans and people are allowed the occasional day of laziness, but that this commitment is a commitment and means something to you. When they understand that you’re part of this, supportive but firm, they’ll take it more seriously themselves.
    6. Ask them to sign a contract committing to exercise or healthier eating. Act as a “witness.” When promises are put into writing, in the presence of another, they can feel more real. If feasible, put a (healthy, reasonable) penalty into the contract, whereby your loved one will donate to charity or take care of a long-delayed task if they skip a workout or ignore their nutritional goals during the week. The contract should be specific in outlining the exercise and/or eating habits. Again, externalizing and publicizing these goals can put the right kind of pressure on someone to follow through.
    7. Don’t trip over positive thinking. Positive thinking, or visualizing the results you want as a motivational exercise, is great. That said, there is a caveat to be aware of in order for their visualizations to work. Once you’re clear on the outcome(s) they want, like toned muscles or amazing energy, help them to identify their internal blocks or resistance to change, and strategize as to how they will overcome these barriers to success. If they know they’re more likely to follow through with exercise during a certain time of day, for instance, make sure they focus on that window of opportunity.
    8. Be a workout or meal buddy. This, more than anything else, is a practical way to help someone achieve real progress. Actually do the thing with them. Offer to go to the gym, take a fitness class, or share meals. Bicycle together or cook together. Mutual support and accountability are powerful ways to keep their momentum fired up over time. Research shows that fitness clubs, recreational sports teams, and workout partners increase exercise compliance, weight loss, and commitment to goals in the long term. Fitness buddies help you enjoy your workouts more and can offer support navigating slumps and discouraged moments along the way.

There is no doubt that that making changes for the better requires commitment, and there may be times when your friends and family feel uninspired or unmotivated. Know that you will encounter those moments, and set them up for success by implementing tools and strategies that will keep them moving, even when the going gets tough.

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How to maintain motivation to eat healthy

How many of you have made the commitment to eat better only to get derailed a few months/weeks/days into it? With a myriad of hurdles that get in the way (time, money, desire, etc.) it seems that losing motivation to eat healthy is common.

So how do you stay motivated to eat well? That’s the golden question. After years (and years and years) or vowing to “eat better” and always falling back into bad habits, I was amazed to see real change and progress happen a couple of years ago. And I am happy to say that those changes have been pretty permanent.

So what is the key to success? What really keeps you going? While I can’t speak for every person or every situation, here are some tips and ideas to keeping you motivated.

8 Ways to Maintain Motivation to Eat Healthy

1. Get educated

Trusting food labels, diet commercials, or magazine headlines will not give you the foundation you need to stick with any sort of life-style healthy eating. The thing that really keeps me and my family going is real education.

Learn what artificial ingredients are (and what they do to our bodies). Learn how modern disease is rampant with the introduction of things like rancid vegetable oils, GMOs, and pesticides. Learn about the food you eat.

An important reminder: Knowledge can make you want to change for good. It can also overwhelm and frustrate you to no ends. Don’t go so overboard that you are afraid of food. Change what you can and learn to let go of what you can’t.

2. Make it personal

Let’s be honest, we are all different and different things motivate us. Rather than trying to use the motivation that worked for your next door neighbor, find what motivates you.

Consider some of these “healthy eating” motivating ideas:

  • Cutting back on health care costs
  • Having more energy to play with your kids
  • Improving your immune system, over-coming health issues, etc.
  • Feeling better
  • Looking better
  • Improving the environment

Whatever really helps you get excited about real change is what you should focus on.

3. Stop villianizing food

How often do you hear someone turn down a “bad” food with some sort of “oh, I shouldn’t” or “it will just go right to my hips” comment? Many people think these kind of thoughts about shaming “bad” foods is a tool of motivation, but I would actually say it’s the opposite.

When we place real food in a “good” or “bad” category we turn on that diet mentality that says food we enjoy will make us fat, sick, or unhealthy. We believe we have to suffer for our health (which is kind of the opposite of what health is). When we let go of the idea of forbidden food we open ourselves up to a much healthier relationship with our food.

Some people think they might go crazy and eat everything in sight if given permission to do so. Maybe. But that’s usually a sign that we have some serious food issues… usually because we make some things forbidden. Once we give ourselves permission to just eat food without guilt or shame we can begin to see food as just that: food. When we have a healthy relationship with food we don’t feel the need to binge, sneak, or avoid.

A healthy relationship with food goes a long way to making us want to do what makes us feel best… and that’s usually going to be eating right most of the time and enjoy our indulgences the rest.

4. 80/20 rule

Connected to the last point, giving yourself permission to not be “perfect” about your diet goes a long, long way to maintaining a good diet. Many find that giving themselves permission to eat whatever they want 20% of the time (in a week, not a day) eventually gets them to a 90/10 rule without even trying.

Again, when we take out the guilt of healthy eating most people ease into a real food diet without too much effort. Let go of the all or nothing mentality.

5. Be responsible to someone

The first few weeks/months of transitioning to a real foods diet can be hard if you are used to a very processed diet. That’s because processed foods are designed to be addictive. To get over that initial hump it might be useful to check in with someone about your progress. Just talking about your goals and having to be responsible for them can make a world of difference.

6. Let go of the “diet” mentality

Eating healthy is not a diet. It’s a life style. Don’t make any sort of “eat well for 30 days” or “eat well until I lose 10 pounds” promises… just eat well. Start slow if you need to and realize that any “mess ups” is just part of life. Carry on.

Remember: You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to give up if you eat something “bad.” And slow and steady really does win the race. If, for example, you hate vegetables start out by just eating one bite a meal. You don’t have to jump in fully if you aren’t ready. You’re more likely to stick with something if you gradually get used to as a lifestyle.

7. Find real food that tastes good TO YOU.

While I urge you to try a variety of foods, don’t let any one “super food” be your demise. For example, I hate kale. There I said it. I’ve tried it a million different ways (almost) and I just don’t like it. (Occasionally kale chips are okay.)

Guess what? I can still get plenty of other tasty, healthy food into my diet. I let kale go. And it’s okay.

Along those same lines, find real food that tastes really good to you. That’s the number 1 way to keep at it. Make healthy eating delicious (which is most certainly can be) and you’ll never want to stop.

8. Make a plan that fits YOUR lifestyle.

Maybe time is an issue. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s skill. Be realistic about what’s keeping you from sticking to a real food diet and adjust. Your meals don’t have to be gourmet. You don’t have to spend millions of dollars. And even if you absolutely hate cooking you don’t have to resort to McDonald’s.

Generally you will need to give either time, money, or skill. If you don’t have time but have money you can buy quality food that’s easily (or already) prepared. If money isn’t an option you’ll probably need to invest some time (although keeping your meals simple can help).

If you’re not sure where to start to get a real plan I would definitely check out my new ebook: Processed Free. I have lots of tips for those not sure where to start. Whether you are cooking for ten or for one. Learn more about it here.

Tell me. What’s your motivation to eat healthy?

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It may be tough to keep a healthy lifestyle, especially if you hang out with people who are apt to eat for a nacho platter rather than a salad. But if you want to improve your life, you have two options: to make a progress or make excuses. The key to motivating yourself to have a healthy diet is to believe that you can do it.

You have probably made a lot of commitments to start eating health-giving foods regularly, but it seems that losing motivation to “eat right” is common. So how would you keep yourself motivated to eat only what is healthy? Well, worry no more because I have here 12 tips to encourage yourself to stick with a healthy diet.

1. Set a SMART goal and follow it.
Setting your goals is essential to your self-transformation. It provides focus, shapes your dreams, and gives you the ability to discipline yourself and achieve everything you desire in life. The path towards your aim may not be easy but setting your target is part of what makes life great and challenging.

Hence, to keep yourself motivated in eating beneficial foods, you need to set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and trackable (SMART) goals. Being specific and realistic with your objectives will keep you away from getting discouraged and will increase your chances of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

To track your progress and keep you motivated with the comfort of you smart phone, you may use mobile apps such as Fooducate and MyFitnessPal. Since we can always bring these stuff with us, we can also bring our goal with us.

2. Start small.
Don’t pressure yourself to achieve a healthy routine too quickly. It is important to remember that a balanced diet is not a one-time project but a lifelong goal. Begin with something small that you can surely achieve, like eating green leafy veggies or drinking 8-10 glasses of water every day. Once you achieve this, you may now move on to something more difficult. You need to start at the very tip before you get to the top.

3. Keep nutritious food on hand.
It is not only necessary to bring nutritious snacks with you, but you should also keep the right chows in your kitchen. Keep unhealthy foodstuff out of the house so you won’t get tempted. Also, maintaining a healthy food supply will motivate you to cook meals that are good for your heart and body.

4. Be responsible.
Healthy eating is not difficult to attain if we have self-discipline and self-responsibility. If you really want to achieve a hale and hearty lifestyle, be responsible with your own body and choose the right food to eat. Your body is the home of your soul. What you do and what happens to it is your own responsibility. You cannot blame other people when you become sick in the future. No one can force you to eat harmful foods if you won’t really allow it. Thus, you must use self-will to achieve your goal.

ALSO READ: 15 Tips to be more Mature and Responsible

5. Be patient and persistent.
Dealing with a healthy lifestyle requires patience, an important factor in weight management and maintaining a healthy way of life. Lack of patience will lead you to a short-sighted dieting decision. Take time to think and plan for a long-term success. You may experience some ups and downs while on the process, however, it takes patience and commitment to endure those challenges and establish a strong pattern. If you fail your objective in the first week, don’t be discouraged but start it over and over until you reach your goal. Remember that a plan is different from a goal. If your plan sucks, just change it but always stick to your goal.

6. Find someone to join you.
One thing that will motivate you to love healthy meals is asking a friend or your partner to join you on your healthy adventures. They will be your source of motivation and might even help you take your salubrious eating habits to a whole new level. You can encourage one another to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, you will realize that it is much easier rather than having it on your own.

If you are still single, find a partner who will inspire you to eat healthy. When you find someone who maintains a healthy diet, you will also likely find someone who has a sense of maturity, responsibility, and discipline. You can even challenge each other for a relationship goal. Exciting, isn’t it?

7. Be mentally strong.
When it comes to eating, we usually rely on our taste buds. We normally follow what our taste receptor cells want, whether they want something sweet, salty, sour, or bitter. However, our taste buddies only want what they used to taste. It’s difficult to force them to taste something healthy if they are not used to it. To transform your diet into a healthy habit, you have to rely on your brain cells rather than on your taste receptor cells. You have to think that healthy foods are good for your whole body, as well as for your life. Thus, let your mind teach your tongue. Eventually, your taste buds will get used to it and will thank your brain later.

8. Get rid of your frustration.
Your emotional frustration can weaken your mind, health, and well-being. When we are sad and frustrated, we tend to make eating sweets and other scrumptious foods as our last comfort. When we feel like all hope and excitements in the world are gone, we used to find joy in indulging ourselves with junk foods, sweetened chocolates, cakes, and other foods that can destroy our body if taken without moderation.

To avoid eating like there’s no tomorrow, overcome your frustration. Conquer your present self who is weak and battered by your own disappointment. To do that, imagine of and talk to your future self. The “you” in the future is affected by your current behaviors. If you will continue wrecking your body with unhealthy foods, your future self will surely become pathetic. Therefore, do something that will ensure the bright future of your beloved self.

9. Go to the gym.
If you have not tried going to the gym yet, try it! Not only that it will help you sweat to get in shape, but it will also force you to eat healthy. The reason is simple: when you invest some bucks for a membership fee and work like hell to burn your calories, you will be obliged to say goodbye to unhealthy meals, or else, your money, your muscle pain and your days of hard work will all be wasted. Spending time in the gym will also let you meet a lot of health-conscious people. You can even find some people who will inspire and motivate you to get fit and have a healthy diet.

10. Reward yourself.
Indeed starting a healthy diet is difficult, especially if eating without control has been your habit since birth. However, you don’t need to totally go hard on yourself. It’s okay to punish yourself to discipline it, but don’t forget to also reward it for its achievements. You may give yourself some rewards for every milestone you achieve. For example, if you can maintain a healthy diet for six days straight, you may treat yourself with a tasty chocolate on the seventh day. You may also set a cheat day to satisfy your cravings. However, even if it’s a cheat day, remember to consume any food moderately.

Eating the right foods does not only help you lose weight but it can also reduce your risk to diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. The way you eat is a reflection of the love and respect you have for yourself. It also manifests your love for others because when you’re healthy and well, you are giving your family, friends and loved ones a peace of mind.

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Mitch is a writer and photographer. She also does screenwriting for independent film producers and joins various film competitions. Mitch believes that “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

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It’s hard to maintain the lifestyle changes you want to make. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is weight loss, exercise, normal blood sugar, or decreasing stress — research has shown that simply learning about the value of lifestyle changes is insufficient on its own to help people maintain their goals.

Of course, few people are actually ignorant about the number of calories in a chocolate truffle, the benefits of exercise, or the incredible danger, discomfort, and inconvenience of diabetes and stress. Still, despite this awareness, maintaining these changes is an uphill battle. And that’s largely because habits are hard to kick.

The rewards of the changes themselves have their limits. On a cold, snowy day in February, going to the gym is far less appealing than staying in bed for one more hour. And when you return home tired from a day of work, the calories in that extra glass of wine may in fact suddenly turn invisible. So how can you get that extra motivation?

The two types of rewards — and what they can do for you

Despite a growing body of evidence on the value of reward-based systems in promoting health behaviors, they are notoriously ineffective. But these studies generally focus on one kind of reward. Having an understanding of the other category of rewards may provide additional motivation to maintain the changes that you want.

There are two kinds of rewards: hedonia and eudaimonia. Hedonia (H-rewards) includes superficial pleasures such as weight loss, looking good, and acceptance by others. These rewards are more concrete and often short-lived. Eudaimonia (E-rewards), on the other hand, refers to a sense of meaning and purpose that contributes to overall well-being. Connecting your lifestyle goals to E-rewards may help motivate you even more.

The greater the size of a self-processing region in your brain called the insula, the higher your E-rewards. Specifically, if you have a large insula, your senses of personal growth, positive relations with others, and personal purpose are high. It’s not hard to imagine how feeling this way can help motivate you in many different ways, let alone when it comes to making specific lifestyle changes.

E-rewards also motivate you by activating the brain’s reward region, the ventral striatum. You feel less depressed when this part of the brain is activated. In contrast, when you satisfy only your H-rewards (e.g., looking good and getting a massage), this can actually make you more depressed and less motivated in the longer term.

See the video below where I explain in more depths about the different types of rewards.

What are your E-rewards?

To stay motivated, ask yourself how you will enhance your sense of meaning and purpose. They can be strong motivators for achieving your goals. The following are all examples of people with strong E-rewards motivating their decisions:

  • A college sophomore obsessed with pizza and beer starts to eat and drink healthily when she realizes that her career in broadcast journalism will probably require her to be on camera day in and day out, so she needs to look (and feel) her best.
  • A grandfather won’t let anything stop him from going to the gym so that he can have the longest possible time alive to be with his grandchildren.
  • A doting husband ignores most of the buffet table at a cocktail party (except for the veggies and dip) because he knows that he wants to be there for his wife and kids.
  • A young woman decides to start skipping dessert when she recognizes that her work on eliminating poverty is too important for her to undermine her own well-being in any way.

It’s not just the service or job that inspires E-rewards either. The story is a little more complex.

The concept of E-rewards can be traced back to Aristotle, who believed that the highest level of human good was not about satisfying one’s appetites, but about striving to express the best that is within us. This could only really be achieved by self-realization, a continuous process that looks different for each person, depending on his or her unique talents and dispositions.

As Aristotle points out, the first and foremost ultimate goal of all living humans is this feeling of well-being, which must be the primary focus if we are to achieve any of our health-related goals. Contrary to other theorists on the subject, Aristotle points out that H-rewards — good friends, wealth, and power — help as well. Yet, there is more to it than that. To truly feel E-rewards, you need to feel like you are flourishing in your life. In this inspired state, you are more likely to be motivated to achieve your goals.

To start this process, ask yourself how much of your day you spend in activities that nurture this sense of self. According to Carol Ryff, there are six areas of your life that you can reshape to enhance these E-rewards: greater self-acceptance, higher-quality relationships, being in charge of your life, owning your own opinions even when others oppose them, personal growth, and having a strong intrinsic sense of purpose. If you work on these factors, you will likely feel more intrinsic reward, and therefore enhance your motivation to accomplish your lifestyle changes as well.

We tend to focus on H-rewards to motivate ourselves to achieve our goals. But E-rewards may offer an additional focus to maintain your motivation for the lifestyle changes you desire.

The creation of a healthy eating motivation score and its association with food choice and physical activity in a cross sectional sample of Irish adults

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