If your motivation to work out and eat healthy ghosted you a few months ago, that’s not a surprise given all that’s happening. Depending on your situation, it might actually be a good thing.
“We can’t be motivated to do everything at once,” explains BJ Fogg, PhD, author of “Tiny Habits” and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford. Because of the pandemic and its ripple effect on various areas of our lives, our attention has had to shift in other directions. This includes maintaining our safety and health, schooling children, caring for aging parents and even finding new jobs.
FIGURE OUT WHERE YOUR ENERGY IS GOING
If your energy and motivation are now going toward these things rather than, for example, trying to squeeze in an at-home workout every day, that’s not only normal — it’s beneficial. “You are being adaptive and focusing on the really important things,” explains Fogg. “You haven’t lost motivation — your motivation has shifted. Don’t beat yourself up.” In fact, he says it would be nearly impossible to prioritize keeping your same level of pre-pandemic activity rather than shift to prioritize making sure your children get the help they need with their education.
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Still, if you’ve lost the motivation for your healthy habits — for any reason — and want to feel that drive again, all hope is not lost. Instead, lower your expectations. “We are in a crazy time right now,” Fogg says. “At least do something — and be OK with that.” If you can do 10 pushups and that’s your workout, that counts. You moved and did something.
BELIEVE THAT CHANGE LEADS TO CHANGE
Yes, 10 pushups is less than a 45-minute session at the boutique studio where you used to be a regular. But here’s the thing: Those pushups are the first step, and they’re a solid foundation on which to build your motivation. You can’t go from sitting on the couch all day to exercising an hour overnight. “Change leads to change, and success leads to success,” Fogg says. “What I see in my research is, with even the tiniest of habits, if you feel successful, those habits can rapidly expand to much better habits.” So, pat yourself on the back for doing a 7-minute workout or prepping your burrito bowl lunch the night before.
CREATE NEW HABITS
It’s also a great time to explore new habits, Fogg says. “Our context has changed. And when that happens, your habits will change whether you want them to or not.” Why not take the reins and play around with trying new foods, new recipes and new cooking methods? Or how about widening your idea of what “exercise” is to include things like playing basketball with your kids, getting that dusty bike out of the garage for a spin or having a virtual dance party with friends? You may find a new kind of “workout” or cuisine you love, and that will make it easier to maintain your motivation.
This experience could even help you become more forgiving of yourself and more adaptable in general. “You should reprioritize [your goals] daily,” Fogg says. “This helps you deal with the changing landscape and stress so you are better-suited for the reality of what is going on” during any time and day of your life.
Make progress on nutrition and fitness goals with our “Plans” feature in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks.