It’s easier to continue doing what you’ve been doing most consistently. If you have been successful with health behaviors, it easier to keep eating healthfully and integrating enjoyable physical activity and exercise into your life. You’ve got momentum. Likewise, if you have been in a pattern of moving less, skipping workouts, and eating poorly, it is also easier to keep doing that. You’ve got no-mentum—an increased likelihood of continuing to not follow health behaviors.
Blame it on inertia—expressed as resistance to change—which means a body at rest tends to stay that way while a moving body tends to keep moving. It’s Newton’s first law of motion, and it’s just as applicable to a ball rolling downhill as it is to your life.
Further, the law says the body will continue in its present state until it is acted on by an outside force. An outside force is like an external motivator, and could anything from bad results from a blood test, a spouse or partner who wants you to lose weight, or someone making fun of you for being out of shape. These external factors might get you started, but they almost never keep you going over the long-term. To do that, you need to use your internal force. It’s your inner motivation and strength.
Gather Your Inner Forces
Answer these questions to help identify the internal forces that keep you motivated:
Identity: What kind of person are you? What do you stand for?
Your sense of who you are as a person and what you stand for gives you a connection to what it truly important to you. For what matters most, you often find it easy to do what you need to do. When you care enough, the effort becomes almost effortless. Whatever your best qualities are, consider using them in the area of health behaviors. When health is something you “should” do—a chore, task or obligation—you will be more likely to struggle. When you make health a part of your identity, you will more easily follow through on it.
Strength: What is something you excel at doing?
You’re awesome at something. Perhaps even multiple things. All of the qualities that make you a terrific parent, manager, business owner, hard worker, community leader, etc., can also be used to ensure success with health. It is not unusual to meet people who own successful businesses, work in very demanding fields and successfully manage family needs, and yet are crippled when it comes to following through on a health plan.
You already have a lot of skills and abilities to organize complex and challenging tasks and achieve them—just use those same skills to improve your health instead of compartmentalizing them to the areas in which you are successful.
Meaning: What do you most care about in life?
Why bother? Why do any of it? Why work hard at anything? What and/or who truly motivates you in this life? Whatever you care most about in life, you will enjoy it more and do it more effectively if you do it in a healthy body. Whoever matters most to you in life—your friends, partner, spouse, pets—whatever time you spend with them will be richer and more enjoyable when you live in a healthy body.
Health has an almost magical ability to elevate almost all other experiences you have and to expand your view of the world. As the saying goes, “A healthy person has many goals; an unhealthy person has one.”
Enjoyment: What is something you have done (or would like to try) that puts a smile on your face while you are exerting yourself physically?
Stop engaging in forms of exercise, physical activity or classes that you do not enjoy. Just stop. Forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy because you think you should never works. Haven’t we been trying this for long enough to know this? No one naturally hates physical activity (or vegetables). We learn it. There are no fish born that hate swimming in water.
Find healthy foods you enjoy and don’t eat the ones you don’t enjoy. Try different forms of physical activity until you find some you enjoy. Consider getting back into a sport or activity you used to love but stopped when you got married/had kids/got busy at work (i.e., lost yourself in other things and people) or try an activity that you have always wanted to.
The hardest part of health is getting started. If that’s where you are, let’s make this the last time you ever start again and turn “no-mentum” into momentum.
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