It’s Not Easy Being Green: Staying Motivated on a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet
Like many worthwhile things in life, adopting a whole-foods vegan lifestyle may have its challenges, often requiring major changes to familiar routines. It takes intention to be food-conscious at every meal, change shopping habits, make food from scratch, and most of all – to release longstanding habits such as eating on the go, late at night, to excess, and over-relying on highly-processed convenience foods. We can also feel challenged socially as our dietary choices start to veer from those of our loved ones, coworkers, neighbors and friends.
A whole-foods, plant-based diet brings great benefits, including reversal of serious conditions, to many, but one thing it’s not is a quick fix. Just as our motivation for New Year’s resolutions can ebb over time, so our initial burst of plant-based enthusiasm can ebb as well, as the novelty wears off and the reality of our day-to-day commitment sinks in. And, when all is said and done, the long haul is what matters for achieving our health and fitness goals, no matter how ambitious or modest those goals may be.
With that in mind, here are 9 strategies to help you go, and stay, the distance.
1. Get Your Motivation on: TED Talks
Need a shot of inspiration? There’s no quicker or easier way to reinvigorate your enthusiasm and passion for healthy eating than by watching dynamic and informed vegan speakers. Here are ten dynamite TED talks to get you started, each one is 20 minutes or less. What are you waiting for?
2. Easy Does It Meal Planning
Take the stress and confusion out of meal preparation and stay on track with my 8.5” x 11” weekly meal planning worksheet. Using this handy worksheet has so many benefits! It can help you save money with bulk purchasing and by not resorting to fast or convenience foods, which tend to be pricey. And with a foundation of well-planned, balanced meals and snacks, you keep your blood sugar regulated, which keeps you feeling your best and also helps to reduce binge eating.
Just click the PDF download below to print. I usually fill out the worksheet over the weekend, after looking at the recipes index and my favorite websites and cookbooks. I create my shopping list after I’ve selected my menu for the week. And then I’m all set!
3. Do the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart
The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart offered by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, based on research by Neal Barnard, MD, is a structured way of getting going on a healthy, plant-based diet or reigniting your existing commitment. Sign up for free online to receive a daily motivational email with helpful tips and delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes complete with ready-made shopping lists and gluten-free options. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, give this a try for a much-needed boost – you’ve got nothing to lose. Be sure to check out the introductory video below.
4. Inspire Yourself with a Motivation Bowl
Salads are a delicious part of healthy plant-based eating. Having a special bowl that you enjoy using can help keep you motivated each day to fill it with beautiful, colorful fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. Whether ceramic, wood or some other material, it’s worth finding and investing in a bowl that you love to look at and use.
5. Create a Vision Board
A vision board is a two-dimensional, visual representation of your goals, dreams, and visions using images, text and lightweight objects. Making one is a fun, one to two hour creative project that can help you clarify your intentions along the way. Click here to get started with step-by-step instructions.
6. Track Your Weight Loss
Who doesn’t love to look and feel better? If you’re trying to lose weight, tracking your weight on a daily basis and seeing evidence of your progress is a surefire way to stay motivated. To help you do this, I’ve created a cute WEIGHT TRACKER that you can print out and keep on the fridge for tracking your progress. It's free and all you need to do is click on the blue image below and enter your email.
7. Make Willpower Work for You
It’s not your imagination – it really does take energy to change habits. Recent research tells us that willpower is a “finite resource,” meaning we have only so much of it to use on a given day. On a practical level, this means it’s essential to be clear about your priorities. You might have enough willpower to fuel your whole-foods, plant-based dietary exploration, but not enough to simultaneously start training for a marathon, launch an early-morning daily meditation practice, and commit to a tidier home. The key here is to be mindful of embarking on too many new habits at once. Be clear about what matters most. If healthy eating is a priority, consider putting your other worthwhile but willpower-taxing goals aside until your new eating habits are well established.
Changing habits is ultimately, as they say, an “inside job,” but you don’t have to do this alone. Join an online forum such as the Vegan Support Group, get involved with a local meetup group or club, get together with a few close friends or find some other way of exchanging support and encouragement with like-minded others who have similar goals. When the going gets rough, human connection can often make the difference between success and struggle. If you need additional help, seek out an eating coach or therapist.
There are lots of great tools available for helping yourself, below are a couple favorites to get you going. If you already have self-care techniques that work well for you, be sure to apply those to your dietary goals.
- Journaling – Whether you do it regularly or just on occasion, putting your thoughts and feelings onto paper can help you process and integrate the changes that you’re making. Be sure to start with a new notebook and use it for this purpose only.
- Affirmations – Identify any negative thoughts or beliefs that might be undermining your confidence and then turn these around, one by one, to their positive opposites. Say these at least twice daily, especially good times are first thing in the morning and when you go to bed at night. If the affirmations start losing juice, repeat the process and come up with new ones.
Celebrate Your Success
Just remember that all work and no play makes Jack or Jane a dull person! Pick an interval - it could be a week, a month, or 90 days, and celebrate how far you’ve come. Acknowledge your effort and accomplishment and reward yourself with a special purchase, by going out to eat with a friend at a vegan restaurant, or in some other way that’s meaningful to you.
And by “success,” we’re not talking about perfection, just honest effort - focus on what you HAVE done, not on what you haven’t.