Being that I work mostly with clients that want to lose weight, the common reason for wanting to eat healthier and workout is to get to a lower weight. So we focus on one change at a time until they are living a life where eating healthy and exercising is just what they do. Along their journey they are shocked to discover so many factors that motivates them to eat healthy and workout, none of which has anything to do with a number on the scale. Even the healthiest among us has probably had a vacation or holiday or just a plain Tuesday that they’ve slipped up and gotten off their routine, myself included. About 80% of the time I am in a very healthy routine, working out 4-6 x week, drinking water all day every day, sleeping well, meal prepping and eating healthy, and limiting alcohol. But then there’s the 20% where I go out and order a burger (with the fries), have a few glasses of wine, go out with some friends, enjoy a big Italian feast upstate with my family... all of which I’m perfectly okay with. I believe life needs balance and there’s more to eating than simply nourishing our bodies. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy these things here and there. However, there are some significant changes both physically and mentally that I notice when I’m off my healthy routine. Sure I might gain a couple pounds after a weekend home visiting my family (thanks to mom and dad for being AMAZING cooks) but I know it’ll come right off when I’m back in my routine. After about 2-3 months of being in a healthy routine, my client will also start to notice the same changes when they have a temporary slip up, whether it was planned or not (and yes, sometime we plan to just be off track because that’s what is realistic for the situation). These changes start to become their motivation to stick with their healthy routine and not slip up the next time, simply because they don’t want to feel that way.
Mentally feeling down. Many client will feel discouraged, upset, not proud of their actions, or disappointed that they didn’t make the right choices. Usually this feeling is more powerful than how tasty the ice-cream or chips were. Unhealthy food choices create a temporary sense of satisfaction which is usually followed but a lingering negative feeling. They decide they don’t want to feel like this next time and use it as motivation to choose healthy.
Physically feeling sluggish. Missing a few workouts and indulging on some treats starts to have a more dramatic impact on clients the longer they’ve stuck to healthy routine. In the past a burger and fries may not have affected the way they feel physically because their bodies were used to it. Now, it’s only on occasion that they indulge and it leaves them feeling tired, foggy, bloated, gassy and just overall “blah.” Again this is a feeling they want to avoid and so the next time they are offered fried food they might remember how it made them feel the last time and pass.
Mentally feeling proud and confident. When I catch up with a client after they had a healthy week I can tell right away by their tone in their voice. Feeling accomplished that they set a goal and crushed it. They prove it to themselves that they CAN do it and they DID do it and that is one of the greatest feelings we can experience. They have pride in themselves and feel more confident in everything they do. Overall they are a more positive and confident person.
Physically feeling energized and sharp. This change comes rather quickly, usually after only a couple weeks. I usually get feedback that they no longer feel a mid-afternoon fatigue. They are able to pop up in the morning ready to take on the day instead of hitting the snooze over and over. They start making strides in their workouts, pushing further and hard than ever before. They feel stronger and more energized doing daily tasks, even walking upstairs or playing with their kids.
As I’m sure you can imagine these factors start to play a bigger role in motivation than what’s happening on the scale. Often times we won’t even discuss weight for weeks and instead focus on the mental and physical “non-scale victories.” Over time, the weight will take care of itself. But even if weight loss isn’t your goal, you’ll still experience these changes when you start a healthy routine. These are all related to what’s happening in your body and completely unrelated to the weight loss. Feeling these changes will allow you to internalize and identify with the value of eating healthy and working out. Overtime you might find yourself craving your healthy routine when you get back from a vacation away or after a long holiday weekend. This is the point that you’ll know it has become a lifestyle change and not something you’re doing temporarily to meet a weight loss goal. Seeing all the positive achievements physically, mentally and emotionally when a person adopts a healthy lifestyle is 100% why I became a dietitian and what makes it all worth it.