How to Stay Motivated When Making Health Changes

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How to stay motivated with a healthy lifestyle
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Often the problem isn’t wanting to change, or even taking the first step. The hardest part is finding a way to stay motivated once our initial enthusiasm wears off or we encounter setbacks. This is one reason so many of us struggle with keeping New Year’s resolutions!

I’m no motivation guru and I’ve definitely had many times when I wanted to give up, change course, or just crawl back into bed. At the same time I am (a little) older and hopefully wiser and I’ve decided one thing must be true: progress itself — whether in weight loss or fitness or overall health — is the most important motivating factor.

So, how to stop waiting for the perfect time or the perfect plan and get going? Good question!

The One Way to Get & Stay Motivated

In my mind, there’s only one way to get started: Take action, even if it’s small. This is the best and only way to create more energy and motivation. Excitement grows and catches on when we see progress.

It bears repeating:

Action breeds motivation, not the other way around.

If you are looking to make some lifestyle changes to improve your health and want to get (and stay) motivated, you’ve chosen a worthy cause! No matter which habit you’ve chosen to take on, I’ve found these seven steps can help keep motivation strong:

1. Have a Clear Vision of Your Goal and Your “Why”

This seems very common sense but is a step many of us skip. This is no surprise especially in mom world where it’s so tough to get any time to think without interruption!

Do what it takes: hide in the bathroom, the closet, the shower, the car, or better yet schedule some time out and figure out the exact reason you are making changes to your life. Envision what you want to accomplish and let it play out in your mind.

Note I didn’t say, “how you want to look in the end.” Let’s take weight loss for example: aesthetic goals alone rarely are enough to keep someone motivated. Eventually, the cheesecake, or pasta, or soda or whatever your weakness is will look really good and you’ll decide that you hate dieting more than you hate being fat and give in.

Tip: Instead, figure out a health-related goal, which may include aesthetic aspects, and write it down. Focus on long-term health benefits and make a clear plan of how you will get there.

2. Set Action Steps Toward Your Goal

It almost never works to jump in to a new diet, fitness plan, and natural living lifestyle all at once. Figure out some smaller goals and put them on paper. Once you reach one goal, start on another.

Goals must be measurable and specific to be accomplished. Once you figure out the clear goal, you need a specific and measurable action plan to get there.

  • If you want to improve your diet for health reasons… start meal planning.
  • If you are trying to improve health and weight… measure yourself and take before pictures.
  • If you need to improve insulin sensitivity… monitor glucose.

The more specific and measurable your goal, the easier it will be to track your progress and stick to it. If you need to lower carbs or eat more veggies, start a health tracking journal or a habit tracking app. Tracking drastically increases chances of success when it comes to new habits.

Tip: No matter what your goal, consider meal planning. There are many amazing tools to make it easier (this one is my favorite). Meal planning will save time, money, and mental energy in the long run and help stick to the goal.

Free Resource: Use this Mini Wellness Challenge Printable to plan and record your action steps!

3. Create Checkpoints

This is an idea that Martin at LeanGains suggests and I think it is a great one. (He also recommends intermittent fasting, which is another great idea!)

Basically, instead of having weekly weigh-ins or daily tracking, try periodic “checkpoints” every few weeks or even months instead. This encourages a sense of internal competitiveness without getting focused on small details. It is also gives you a long enough time to see measurable results (rather than getting discouraged that you aren’t running triathlons or fitting into size 4 jeans after your first week of training).

  • For instance, if you are trying to lose weight and improve physique or strength, your checkpoint could be weighing yourself and testing your ability in a few basic exercises (pushups, sprints, etc.).
  • If working on improving insulin sensitivity, it could be your fasting blood glucose levels.
  • If working on allergies or eczema, it could be your frequency of symptoms for each one.

Tip: Set multiple checkpoints in increments of 8 weeks on your calendar or phone (otherwise, you’ll forget!). This is long enough for a new habit to actually sink in, not to mention stick. Compare each checkpoint to the last and try to beat it.

4. Keep Learning

To keep your motivation high and focused on a goal, it is often helpful to remember why you formed the goal in the first place. Taking in new information — be it health, nutrition, or fitness related — feeds the desire and keeps the flame burning!

My favorite motivating books are:


Also (if it’s not too obnoxious) I should just mention that my book The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox has all of my best suggestions and recipes for making small but meaningful changes toward a healthier life. If food is your focus, The Wellness Mama Cookbook has my best food recipes too.

But moving on!

Movies & Documentaries

Tip: Multitask and listen to an audiobook or podcast while showering, driving, or cleaning up. (Bonus: The family might hear and pick up some new health knowledge and motivation themselves!) Some of my favorites are:


5. Buddy Up for Accountability

If possible, have your spouse or a friend make these changes with you. Not only will you have the benefit of some company along the way, but this has been shown to improve long-term compliance to a plan.

There are plenty of apps that make accountability even easier. My favorite (because I’m oh so super competitive) is an app called Spar.

Tip: Make sure you and your partner are on the same page on what the goal is and how to get there so you don’t derail each other by debating the small details along the way!

6. Give Yourself Rewards

To help, consider giving yourself non-food related rewards when you accomplish either your overall goal or one of your action steps. Looking forward to a new pair of pants in a smaller size, an evening out with your spouse, or a relaxing day of some kind might help you focus on the long-term benefits of your goal rather than the short-term struggle.

Some other ideas for motivating (but healthy) rewards are:

  • Join a local botanical garden, museum, or park (for all the benefits of nature)
  • Invest in a skin-brushing set for dry brushing
  • Plan a day trip somewhere you wouldn’t normally consider going
  • Upgrade your home gym with some new equipment
  • Treat yourself to some pampering natural beauty products you normally wouldn’t splurge on
  • Go for the health gold – set a big goal and save up for your own sauna or a red light therapy device
  • Or, the real prize… a day off! (recruit your spouse, a family member, or a babysitter… whatever it takes!)

Tip: Make a list of some new ways to reward yourself and try one of them. Whether it’s taking a class to learn a new skill (I recommend scuba!) or finally splurging for that Instant Pot and learning the ropes (life-changer!), chances are once you push past your comfort zone, you’ll be glad.

7. Repeat Until a Habit

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, and I’d say it takes less than that if you have a system and a routine in place. As with most aspects of life, healthy living is much easier if it is part of a normal and regular routine. Sometimes all it takes is a challenge to get you started.

This will also help remove the mindset of “dieting” which implies an end point once a goal is reached and encourage a mindset of a permanent and healthy lifestyle change. Sugar will not be healthy now or when you weigh your goal weight… neither will grains, or vegetable oils, or commercial deodorant… you get the idea.

I have found that pairing a new habit with something I already do really works for me. This technique is called habit stacking.

Tip: Make goals visual to keep them in the forefront of your mind. Write up your why, your goals, your baby steps, and post it everywhere to increase your chances of staying motivated and sticking to a new habit.

Take Action Today With a Mini Wellness Challenge!

Before making up a grand master plan, try a mini challenge or experiment! Pick one of these areas, go to the top of this post, and plan out your 7 steps! I highly suggest writing out your plan and posting it some place visible. Download my free Mini-Challenge Plan printable here!

Where to start? Here’s a list of possible health areas to consider:

  1. Eat Real Food – Start consuming a nutrient-dense diet if you aren’t already and avoid processed foods.
  2. Drink and Use Clean Water – Avoid chemicals in drinking water with a quality water filter and neutralize chemicals in bath or shower water.
  3. Breathe Clean Air –  Purify air just by shopping for a few house plants or getting outdoors more.
  4. Get More Exercise – Not exercising? Start with just 10 minutes.
  5. Reduce Stress – Set some goals to reduce stress through meditation/prayer, diet, exercise, or my favorite, journaling.
  6. Avoid Toxins – Decide which home, cleaning, or beauty products you could trade for natural versions.
  7. Sleep Better – If you’re not sure where to start, start here! Good sleep is the foundation and in many ways more important than diet or exercise!

Remember, there’s no wrong place to start… action in one area more often than not will lead to motivation in another!

Bottom Line: Baby Steps Make It Happen!

When the lists are long and the tasks are many it’s easy to lose motivation (especially when the toddler is having a meltdown at your feet), but inertia is the worst part. Take one step in the right direction (today) and put these tips to the test to stay motivated, focused, and hopefully a little healthier!

How do you stay motivated? Have you struggled with this in the past? Any resources I’m forgetting? Please add them in the comments below!

How to stay motivated

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


6 responses to “How to Stay Motivated When Making Health Changes”

  1. Sandy Avatar

    All great tips!!! I personally need a buddy or someone I’m accountable to – like a trainer.

  2. Victoria Avatar

    I am one of the exceptions to the rule–I actually need to gain weight. I have had digestive problems for the past 2 years, and while I am significantly better, I’m still struggling with a couple of conditions (SIBO in particular). A blog post for those who are changing their diets and trying to GAIN weight would be helpful. (No, I’m not kidding. For those of you who are trying to lose weight, I’d be happy to take 30-50 lbs off you, if it were possible!)

  3. Stanton Avatar

    I find that it’s best to have an active goal: “I want to DO this”
    rather than a passive goal: “I want to BE like this”
    or, worse, a negative goal: “I don’t want to BE like this”.

    If your focus is on DOING, then you’re less likely to let go of your goals once you reach them for the first time. Instead you’ll say “I like doing this, and I want to keep doing it.”


  4. Dan Avatar

    Great article, lots of good points. I’ve used most of them in the past year and a half. Education is the most important. Thanks to sites like yours my education has increased greatly.  I’ve lost 139 pounds so far.  You site has helped motivated me.

  5. D'yani Schnider Avatar
    D’yani Schnider

    Wonderful article! I always think about the book Omnivore’s Dilemma. Really anything by Micheal Pollan is extremely enlightening to me. My mom and I love what you’re doing here on the website! Your recipes are a miracle to someone like me with Candida. You’ve gained yet another few fans, I made sure of it!

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