Who’s in the mood for some new workout tunes? Hey, us, too! Play these tracks for your next workout (there’s a little something for every kind of workout and every kind of mood — whether it’s high-energy music you’re needing or something more ambient and rhythmic but chill), and then get energized to do the work to save this world of ours. And, don’t forget to VOTE each and every time you can! 18 New Workout Jams You’ll Love Zoom, Leikeli47 Juice, Young Franco and Pell Isn’t It So Convenient, Mk.gee Girlfriend, Charlie Puth Hello Hello Hello, Remi Wolf Big…
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“I should work out today.”
“I should eat better.”
“I should stop shoving food in my face.”
How many times a day do you find yourself using the word should? Most of my clients know what they should be doing to improve their health, but can’t seem to motivate themselves to actually do it. That’s why they come to me. Here’s the thing though. I can’t give you motivation, I can only give you the tools to motivate yourself.
So, if you’ve been feeling like you should be working out more or eating better or refraining from cutting yourself another sliver of pie, keep reading. I’ll be unpacking what motivation is, the reasons you get stuck, and how to finally get off your butt and take action.
What is Motivation, Anyway?
In its simplest terms, motivation is used to describe why you do what you do.That why is the driving force behind your actions, whether it’s taking a swig from your water bottle because you feel thirsty, going for a run because you paid money to hire a trainer, or smashing the alarm clock because you stayed up too late binge-watching Netflix. Your why will likely be influenced by a variety of intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) motivators.
Examples of intrinsic motivators:
- Running because it’s a stress reliever or feels fun
- Eating a protein-forward breakfast because it keeps you satiated all morning
- Doing yoga because it helps you clear your head
- Filling your fridge with healthy foods because it saves you time and money
- Organizing your space because it helps you feel calm
Examples of extrinsic motivators:
- Losing weight to win a fitness challenge at work
- Cleaning the house so your spouse doesn’t get irritated with your mess
- Avoiding processed foods because your doctor or health coach told you to
- Sprinting because that’s what the people in your FB feed are doing
- Eating organic because you want others to perceive you as healthy
Let me make it really clear though that your motivation (and your why) are entirely internal processes, meaning it’s your own perception of a situation that makes you more or less motivated to do something. That’s why it’s important to discover your own deep-down reason for staying committed to the path you’re on — or choosing an entirely different path.
The Reasons You Get Stuck
Clearly, motivation involves more than just wanting something or doing it because you should. That said, even with the best laid plans and a handful of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, why is it still so damn hard to actually do it?
In my private practice and with my students and graduates in the Primal Health Coach Institute, I talk a lot about Toward Motivation and Away from Motivation. While the former is designed to ignite a positive, transformative emotion, pulling you closer to the things you want (having more energy, feeling great in your clothes, boosting your confidence), the latter usually more negative, acting as a reminder of all the things you don’t want in life.
If you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re sick of feeling fat, foggy, and fatigued, guess what your brain is hearing? It hears that you’re fat, foggy, and fatigued — which often brings on feelings of fear, self-doubt, or self-pity. Trust me, that’s not the best talk track. And it’s the quickest way to sabotage yourself before you even start.
When you operate out of Away from Motivation, you’re more likely to use negativity to (try and) get motivated. But studies actually show that self-compassion and self-acceptance are better tactics — especially after you’ve had a setback. Researchers at the University of California found that after failing a test, participants who spoke kindly to themselves ended up spending more time studying before taking a re-test than participants who were angry or disappointed by their score.
Off the bat, I should say that I’m actually a fan of eating less. I’m on record as saying that my goal is to figure out how few calories I can eat and still thrive. Still, eating less isn’t always the magic bullet people will hope it will be. There are many ways that eating less can go wrong.
For weight loss, the advice to “eat less, exercise more” often doesn’t work like it “should” on paper. The weight-loss diet industry thrives on repeat customers who struggle to lose weight and keep it off. Dutifully following this strategy has led many people down the road to frustration and dejection, as they blame themselves for their failure to successfully lose weight. This is despite their best efforts to eat less.
From a health perspective, eating less is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, caloric restriction may promote longevity. It certainly does in many animal models. Human evidence is still mixed, but I’m betting that the same is true for us.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21677272/‘>2 It tries to tightly ration body fat in case you’re facing a prolonged food shortage.
Let’s back up. The “energy out” side of the energy balance equation comprises several factors:
- Basal metabolic rate – the energy your body expends in the everyday functions of being alive (breathing, circulation, generating new cells, etc.)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S155041311830130X‘>4 It’s not so great when it comes to weight loss.
Moreover, the body responds to caloric restriction by dialing back activity. “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis,” or NEAT, is the term for the energy you expend through spontaneous movements like tapping your feet or nodding your head along to music. NEAT can vary up to 2000 calories per day between individuals.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17197279/’>6 and when they are dieticians.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21178922/‘>8 Another small study showed that individuals who were struggling to lose weight underreported their caloric intake by 47 percent and overestimated energy expended by 51 percent, on average.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5491979/‘>10)
Even if you’re diligently weighing and tracking your food, you’ll probably be off through no fault of your own. The FDA allows a margin of error of up to 20 percent for calories reported on food labels.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20102837/‘>12 https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/82/11/3647/2865985‘>14 In fact, it drops more than would be predicted by body composition alone.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296868/‘>16 loss of libido, and infertility.https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/91/8/3232/2656790‘>18 That said, you can definitely have too much of a good thing. You don’t want to restrict calories to the point where you start experiencing symptoms of hypothyroid such as feeling cold all the time, unexplained weight gain, or fatigue.
When It’s Stressful
I’ve said it a million times: stress is the enemy of health and weight loss. As with so many things in life, calorie restriction can be an adaptive (hormetic) or maladaptive stressor. It all depends on how it’s applied and how your body reacts.
Restricting calories increases cortisol, aka “the stress hormone.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813183/‘>20—and who subsequently struggle to eat enough. If they aren’t mindful, they can easily under-eat to the point they are getting enough nutrients.
If you suspect you might be under-eating, use an app like Cronometer to track your food for a few days. Make sure you are checking the nutritional boxes you need to stay healthy.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18589032/‘>22 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23446962/‘>24 Your calorie deficit should come from reducing fat and/or carbs, depending on your current diet.
What about Metabolic Damage?
Dieting forums are filled with dire warnings against dieting so long or so hard that you go into “starvation mode” and create permanent “metabolic damage.”
You might be familiar with the highly publicized Biggest Loser study, which followed contestants from the televised weight loss competition.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6694559/‘>26 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22535969/‘>28
Whether this constitutes permanent metabolic damage is a hotly debated topic. A recent paper called the notion into question. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15466943/
‘>30. It helps keep your metabolic rate up by protecting energy-guzzling muscles and organs. Protein also has a higher thermic effect than fat or carbs, further contributing to metabolic rate.
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