Updated: May 16

Let’s face it, this health journey or “lifestyle” process is not easy to start or maintain. For many it starts with motivation, that we often lack, which initiates, guides, and inspires us to dream again and set goals for the future. For instance, like getting into our jeans from 5 years ago, taking interest in a plant-based diet or preparing to look and feel our best for a special event like a wedding or vacation. Motivation involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior.

There are two types of motivation that will drive us- intrinsic and extrinsic. What's the difference, you might ask? Well, intrinsic motivation is engaging in an activity or behavior because it gives the individual a personal sense of satisfaction. In regard to fitness, the individual personally enjoys working out and feels gratified by the benefits of physical activity like: increased energy, stress reduction, mental sharpness and an overall improved sense of wellbeing. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is when an individual will engage in an activity or behavior for some type of reward or recognition from others. For example, based on medical advice from your provider may recommend you lose weight to avoid the need to be placed on medication for high blood pressure or diabetes. Participating in a wedding or special event is a common example when outside forces come into play. In this instance, someone is trying to attract the attention of a new love interest or simply compliments from others whom you respect or wish to impress. Wherever you wish to gain the attention of others in regard to your personal appearance or abilities or perhaps to enhance or rejuvenate the attraction of your partner, and this encourages you to exercise, extrinsic influences are at work. Another example of extrinsic motivation might be the accolades of winning a race or other competition. The concern with extrinsic types of motivation is that it may be unsustainable, especially when the opportunity for the challenge or reward ends, like after the wedding or when the 5k race ends. At this point willpower will be diminished, or the desire will fade. This loss of external motivation will require coming up with subsequent goals to inspire new drive to succeed. This is in opposition to intrinsic motivation which tends to persist as long as the activity causes the desired effect in the individual.

Whatever the motivation, when making any change we all experience relapse at some point. In our previous blog post, “Ready for a Change? Identify Your Starting Point”, we discussed the Stages of Change Model also known as the Transtheoretical Model (TTM). This model describes the process of behavior change as occurring in stages. The 6th step in the Stages of Change Model is relapse. Relapse is when a change in behavior, habit or action has been paused or abandoned. In simpler terms, the individual slipped back into old habits and behaviors for various reasons. Yes, it’s the vicious part of the cycle however one we should all anticipate and one which we can control with a little understanding and planning.

Reasons why we can experience relapse:

Physical injury or illness

Exercise obstacles: Lack of transportation, childcare or a safe space to exercise.

Major life events change like starting a family, a new job, relationship or moving.

Financial strain, lack of support, poor planning and lost of motivation

Diet restrictions, lack of knowledge of nutrition or meal planning and access.

Others likely exist based on your individual experiences and situations.

How to avoid:

  • Understanding why you want to exercise-Often described as “your why”. Important to revisit this reason often (check our blog on Think and Become Your Best Self where we discussed this in detail). A vision board, also discussed in that blog is a helpful tool and a fun helpful reminder of your goals and your why.

  • Create a SMART Goal and action plan

  • SMART Goal

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Timed

  • Action Plan:-An action plan is like a road map that can increase your ability to reach your goals by increasing your self confidence. It is a belief in one's self that can help increase your likelihood of fulfilling a task, goal or performance successfully. Improvement in our confidence level is an important deterrent against failure, slowing progress toward your goal. Lack of planning can lead to lack of confidence which can feel like hitting a roadblock such as weight loss plateau which , in turn, leads to difficulty maintaining consistent behavior change. This can cause us to become demoralized by our inability to stick to an exercise routine.

  • Self regulation strategy-Most people will improve their self-efficacy when they practice self monitoring techniques. Self monitoring is observing, measuring and evaluating one’s own behavior, often in the form of a journal or log.

  • Exercise history-Know thyself and your past history. Those who lack past exercise experience or nutritional background may need some education or to hire a professional to coach them through the process for best results.

  • Enjoyment!-One of the most important aspects to increase intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. You have to love what you do! So pick a physical activity that you enjoy, whether dancing, biking, walking your dog, hiking, structured exercise like yoga or recreational sports like soccer. The activity or activities you look forward to do, are the ones that you will stick with. Of course, this may change over time. If you lose the interest, you should find others that you do enjoy. As far as nutrition; join a cooking class, find recipes online, obtain pre-prepared healthy meals or hire a chef or nutrition coach.

  • Goal or outcome expectations-When goal setting, ensure that the goal is relevant and attainable. Keep in mind that with any great success there will likely be failure along the way. Don’t give up when you hit a wall or don’t succeed. Re-evaluate and adjust as needed.

  • Stress, stagnation and just everyday stress-This can lead to loss of motivation and can cause relapse. Remember your “why” and remember that leading a healthy lifestyle will ultimately lead to stress reduction.

  • Injury-Care should be taken to avoid injury by ensuring proper rest, stretching before and after exercise and strengthening tailored to your chosen exercise or activities to avoid over-training and other injuries.

  • Lack of knowledge-For instance the perceived economic barrier after receiving misinformation regarding nutritious foods being expensive. Education in this or other areas can help overcome this barrier.

  • Social support. Surround yourself around people and environments that will support your goals. Experience your own sense of identity with a like minded community and form positive, fostering relationships with others.

  • Access-this one is fairly self-explanatory, however there are many ways to get around issues like not having facilities nearby or persons in your area to teach or instruct. Now many virtual options are available for various types of exercise, nutrition and life coaching and there are many creative ways to do similar exercises without buying every piece of equipment on the market.

  • Time constraints-most of us could use a few more hours in our days, however, if we are honest with ourselves, and willing to adapt, there are almost always places in our daily lives where we are not using time as wisely or productively as we could be. And when adjusted, we can free up time for the things we need to be successful. Some examples are time spent watching TV, re-reading news, surfing social media, chatting with friends. We don't necessarily need to give up these things you enjoy, but cutting back on the time spent doing them or even combining them is a way to increase your available time. For instance, watching a movie or TV while running on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike or inviting friends to exercise with you. You may even inspire others or get a new regular workout partner.

Just remember that relapsing is not failing, but merely part of the process in which we can limit or avoid the slowing of our success by thoughtfully planning and adjusting.

We hope this has been useful information to increase the opportunity for the success of your health, fitness and life journey. Please feel free to keep the questions and comments coming in on the website as we very much enjoy hearing how your progress is going, receiving suggestions for future blogs or podcasts or any other means of interacting with our Self-ish Life community! Sign up to become a Self-ish Life member so you won't miss out on exclusive upcoming events and opportunities.

Be healthy!

Jacki & Toby

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