3 Highly Effective Ways to Stay Motivated in Recovery

3 Highly Effective Ways to Stay Motivated in Recovery

Setting goals to change is one thing, but taking consistent action to achieve them is another! Because we often don't know how or where to start when it comes to taking action, we put it off to avoid the overwhelm. However, TAKING ACTION is the only way to improve your life and create new habits. In this post, I explain three core principles to finding and keeping motivation so you can FINALLY stay on track when it comes to reaching your goals!

Happy new year! I hope you had happy, safe holidays and are feeling refreshed going into 2022. For most people, the new year is a time to set new goals and new year’s resolutions, but I personally never do. I find the idea of waiting for an arbitrary flipping of the calendar so silly! I mean, why does the calendar get to decide when you commit to change? If you want to improve your life, make a change NOW. Take action NOW! You may not feel “ready” yet, but who says the new year has any influence on that?

When I was still like the majority of people who set goals and resolutions at the start of the new year, my re-occurring goal was always along the lines of “this year, I’m going to get better” or “this year, I’m going to recover from my eating disorder”. I would start off with the best intentions – I mean, don’t we all? – but then after a couple months, things would get tough and I’d start slacking; I would lose that drive that I had at the beginning of the year, what most people would call motivation. No matter how hard I tried to fight my eating disorder and tried to change my habits, I never felt the same level of instant gratification that engaging in my eating disorder gave me..

So, I’d fall back into old habits and before I knew it, we were already more than halfway into the year and I’d repeat what I had told myself the year prior: “I’ll just start over next year!”. I don’t think I have to tell you that this mindset of waiting – waiting for that “perfect” moment, that moment you finally feel “ready” - is the VERY thing that’s keeping you stuck. The reality is that you will NEVER be ready, and the perfect moment will NEVER COME. YOU get to decide when the perfect moment is. You get to decide that RIGHT NOW.

But then when you do decide, how do you stay motivated? How do you keep on going when things do get really tough? In this post, I’ll be sharing 3 highly effective ways to stay motivated in your recovery so you can FINALLY achieve your goals and stop giving your life away to the eating disorder. Let’s dive in!

Before I share my very first tip for staying motivated (or even finding motivation in the first place), we need to define the word motivation. Maybe it’s an Autistic thing, but if you’ve read any of my blog articles, listened to my podcast episodes, or watched any of my YouTube videos, you know I’m always defining the terms that I’m explaining. Ya gotta know what you’re working with, right?! You’re not going to go make a recipe if you don’t what the ingredients are! Okay, I don’t even know if that was a good metaphor, but you know what I mean!

We’re always asking the questions “how do you find the motivation?” or “how do you stay motivated?” and maybe you think there’s something wrong with you when you see someone else achieving their goals while you’re still at square one. I know this can be SO frustrating, and it’s because those questions we ask ourselves about how to "find motivation or how to stay motivated are the wrong questions. The real question is, what is your WHY? What’s the REASON you want to achieve a certain outcome? Here’s where the definition of motivation comes in, and that is:

Motivation: a REASON or REASONS for acting or behaving in a particular way.

Motivation definition

From this definition, we can already conclude that if you don’t even have reasons (or let alone a single reason!) to recover, you’re not going to have motivation! If you want to “have motivation” or “be motivated” to take action, you must have a REASON or REASONS for doing so! It’s right in the definition. I mean think about it: if you don’t have any reason to step out of your comfort zone, why the heck would you do it if you can just stay safe in what’s familiar?

That’s right, you won’t. You WILL stay safe in what’s familiar just like I did for all those years. I have said this several times before and I will say it again, because it will forever remain true: the human brain does not like change. So much so, that our brain will fight back when we try and change. Our ability to form habits is simply an evolutionary adaptation that allows us to use energy in the most efficient way possible. If you had to get up every morning and deeply think about how to take a shower or how to brush your teeth or how to make your bed, you’d be using up so much brainpower that would take away from the available energy for more important tasks. But because you HAVE formed habits around brushing your teeth every morning as well as around all the other activities you unconsciously engage in on an daily basis, you can use your energy to focus on tasks that really require you to think critically and make important decisions.

#1 Make a list of reasons to recover

This is where my first tip comes in, and that is to make a list of reasons to recover. Just like you’ve formed habits around daily hygiene and putting on clothes and all the other socially acceptable things us weird humans do, you’ve also formed habits that keep you stuck in your eating disorder. Ultimately, all recovery comes down to is changing your habits. Just think about it: always buying the lowest calorie option: habit. Exercising for a certain amount of time each day: habit. Automatically saying “no” when someone offers you dessert habit! It’s all habits. And because these habits have been engraining themselves into your subconscious brain for so long, it can feel impossible to change.  

But through taking action you can neurally rewire your brain, meaning, you can weaken certain pathways in the brain that support eating disorder habits, and create new neural pathways that enforce healthy, recovery-supporting habits. Of course, taking action is NOT easy; it’s the most difficult part of the whole process! But if you TRULY want to change, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you gotta through the obstacle….you gotta run straight into the fear and take the damn action. HERE’S where that list of reasons to recover will literally be your lifesaver, because it gives you a touchstone – and I’m actually going to quote one of my clients here:

Hey! I just wanted to share an incredibly impactful thing that I took from the session that I just remembered: the motivation aspect you talked about. That if you have no reason to do something then you won’t, or rather, if you have reasons to do something then you will, that is incredibly insightful for me as it’s absolutely true. Having reasons for doing something really helps push you towards pursuing the end goal as it gives you the push to keep going even when things are tough. It helps provide forward momentum towards a goal because even when things feel and seem unclear, there’s a goal you’re going after and a clear picture as to why that goal means something (what will life look like when you achieve that goal, which houses those reasons you hold onto when you face the storm of recovery. It’s like those motivations, those reasons that keep you going, are the touchstones that keep you grounded in the present and in the truth of what you want your life to look like, that touchstone (reasons why you keep going) are what hold you firm in the chaotic storm of recovery and all that it brings up).

Additionally, I read an article that described the definition of touchstone as a gem of invisible positivity. I think it’s a good parallel to what those reasons and motivations are to recover - those things that keep you going - it’s invisible, but it’s the proposition of a life that could be lived, the invisible positivity/prospect of a life free from an eating disorder.

Thank you! ♥️
— Alex, 1:1 Coaching Client

You guys should have seen my response, but I was like WOW I literally want to frame those words and hang them on my wall! The way in which she so eloquently described the impact of knowing your why — I mean you read it — I couldn’t have said it any better myself! This is honestly why I love coaching so much; not only do my clients learn from me, but I continue learning from you ALL! So shoutout to all of my 1:1 Coaching clients. You guys are seriously the best, most brave souls I have ever met, and I literally would NOT be able to do this work without you!

#2 Be Accountable

Speaking of coaching and clients, the second way to stay motivated in recovery is to BE ACCOUNTABLE to someone. The reason I created my coaching program and my online course, is because accountability means accepting responsibility for your actions and as we touched on prior, the only way to change your thoughts and become the person you WANT to become – the person who’s free from an eating disorder – is to take ACTION! Again, this is the hardest part, because it’s so much easier to revert to your default. But when you are accountable, when you have to now share this responsibility with someone who wants to support you, it gives you an additional REASON to take action. And reasons are EXACTLY what we need to be motivated!

If you are looking for someone that can hold you accountable, I would LOVE to be that person for you! Click HERE to learn more about 1:1 Coaching. My approach when it comes to coaching is a holistic one, meaning we work together to set goals that fit into your life as a whole.

I am also SO excited to announce that my brand-new course Extremely Hungry to Completely Satisfied is FINALLY HERE! It’s your step-by-step guide to overcoming extreme hunger and finding true satisfaction so you can live a life that no longer revolves around food and exercise, but one that revolves around joy, happiness, and actually LIVING! My course is the all-in-one resource I wish I had during my own recovery, as it combines science, insight, and tangible action steps so that you know EXACTLY what you need to do to overcome your extreme hunger. You can find all the details for my new course HERE!

#3 Celebrate the small wins

With those amazing announcements out of the way, my third tip to staying motivated in recovery is to celebrate the small wins! We are often so focused on the “end goal” or “the ultimate outcome” that we say “I’ll celebrate when I get there”…but when we do this, we are totally missing the enjoyment and growth that comes with the journey! Not to mention, I personally don’t believe an “end goal” even exists. The outcome, whether this be calling yourself “recovered”, getting a degree, or hitting a certain milestone is simply a RESULT of all the action steps you’ve taken towards that outcome. 

The “end goal” is simply the sum of every little victory and every small win, meaning every win counts, no matter how arbitrary it may seem. If the people who made it to the top of Mount Everest had taken one less step on their journey towards the top, they wouldn’t have made it to the top. Every obstacle they overcame, every storm they literally had to weather, that’s what made them stronger and allowed them to reach the top. And I bet if you ask these guys that did make it to the top, what they’re most proud of in their journey, they’re not gonna say: standing at the top of Mt. Everest…because again, being able to stand at the top is merely a result of their bravery and courage to keep on fighting until they got there.

Because every step counts, it’s so important to CELEBRATE every step! We are often so focused on our shortcomings, what we still need to change, what we still lack, but one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors Greg McKeown who wrote the books Essentialism and Effortless (highly recommend!) is:

When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have.

When you focus on what you have, you get what you lack.
— Greg McKeown

UGH! How beautiful is that?! Reflecting on everything you’ve accomplished and what you’re grateful for doesn’t only inspire you to keep going, but it literally motivates you to keep moving forward. On top of that, I want to repeat something I mentioned in last week’s post on How to Stop Feeling Guilty, and that is the phrase “where your attention goes, energy flows”. When you start to give attention to the victories and the wins and shift your focus towards what’s going well, you’re giving these positive thoughts energy to keep returning; yet again, another REASON to keep on going!

This is also how you start to build more confidence, because confidence comes from taking consistent action. I probably need to make a whole separate post on confidence, because along with motivation, that’s another one of those topics I frequently receive questions around! For now, I’m going to leave it at these 3 Highly Effective Ways to Stay Motivated in Recovery :) I’d absolutely LOVE to hear what your favorite tip was, and if this post was in any way helpful, it would mean the WORLD if you could share it on Instagram and tag me @livlabelfree! There’s nothing that makes me happier than hearing YOUR feedback as it’s your feedback that inspires every piece of content I put out. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm and as always, I look forward to chatting again soon!

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