the motivation curve

Back when I was in the midst of what I considered an unhealthy life, I lived for all-or-nothing. Something would light a fire under me and I’d decide it was time to “get healthy”. I’d go out and buy all the diet foods I could find and plan out an overly-aggressive workout schedule. I’d say things like, “I’m never eating dessert again.” or, when I was really in the depths of my disordered eating, “I’m not eating anything at all today.” Obviously, these extreme expectations were just setting myself up for failure. I might last a few hours, or sometimes a few days, but eventually the extremes would prove impossible and my plans would implode. I’d slip up and miss a 5am workout or I’d not be able to resist a cupcake and with those hiccups, my all-or-nothing approach would fail. I’d throw all caution to the wind after a hiccup and end up eating a dozen cupcakes or swearing off the gym forever. There was no room in my plan for missteps, learning curves or mistakes. If my record wasn’t perfect, then I might as well make it as bad as possible, right?

Wrong. I mean, if I got pulled over for speeding and got a ticket, I wouldn’t say “screw it!” and then go on a crime rampage, would I? So why was I applying that philosophy to my health?

I think the moment I “got healthy” was when I realized that true health came from forgiveness. There is nothing at all healthy about the all-or-nothing philosophy. We’re not perfect, and the expectation that we are going to fit into a perfect set of health guidelines is simply absurd. Life is full of bad days, low willpower and stress, and if we don’t plan for those, we’re of course going to fail.

Part of forgiving myself was realizing that, as a human being, I ebb and flow in all areas of my life. Sometimes I’m a rockstar at my job. Sometimes I’m terrible. Sometimes I’m the best wife on the planet. Sometimes…not so much. And sometimes, my health and wellness motivation is sky-high and sometimes it isn’t. This is what I call the motivation curve. And it’s totally normal and healthy. It doesn’t mean I’m weak or not dedicated, it just means I’m human and realistic.

It’s basically understanding that there is a bigger picture. Bigger than a missed workout or an extra cupcake. The motivation curveΒ is the sum of all the decisions made over an extended period of time and is constantly moving and changing. Sometimes I’ll have lots of motivation and you’ll see me at the gym twice a day for weeks on end. Sometimes I can’t find a drop of motivation and you couldn’t pay me enough to start sweating. Neither of those worry me. Because the motivation curve always balances itself out overtime. Would it be awesome if I was 100% dedicated 100% of the time? Of course! But that’s certainly not my nature, and I don’t think it’s the nature of most of us, either.

So whenever I find myself in a motivation lull (like, uh, right now) I try not to worry about it so much. Because in the end, the motivation curve will balance it all out. Just as long as I’m aware of where I am, I’m fine. I’m aware that I’m currently in one of deep low points of my motivation curve, but I’m also aware that it’s not permanent, and I wont lose my vigilance.

I might not be all that motivated right now, but I find myself in a much healthier space than I was a few years ago. I’ll pick the go-with-the-flow mentality over the all-or-nothing one any day. I just hope my motivation curve hits an upswing soon.

Are you able to forgive yourself when you have low motivation?


  1. Casey says

    Love the comparison to a crime spree! Amazing how much harder it is to make rational decisions, like not giving up entirely, when if comes to health.

    When I lose motivation and go totally crazy for a day, it might snowball into eating a giant bowl of cheez-its and two pbjs followed by a slice of cheesecake… but the next day I make myself get over it and move on. I have to forget my hiccups as soon as possible otherwise I’ll dwell on them. Having a clean slate the next day makes me feel much better.

  2. says

    This post sums up my feelings regarding what I consider a healthy, balanced lifestyle entirely! While I still find that I sometimes struggle with obsessing over health, fitness, and food, I’m able to keep myself in check much better when I remind myself that moderation is the key, and that my overall habits are what will shape my life (and body!) My soul would not be satisfied if I deprived myself of cake forever, and the occasional splurge is sometimes necessary after all of the hard work you put into staying healthy. Love your blog!

  3. says

    I hear you… Oh, do I hear you. But, seeing it illustrated like that is very freeing and it tells my brain “Hey! Get over it. There’s an up-swing coming soon.” :) Thanks for making me feel better about being in a lull.

  4. says

    This kind of reminds me of Kath’s “Squiggly line effect” that I think she talked about last year. And great minds must think alike because this morning, I talked about how our diet has the pendulum effect.

  5. says

    Great post. I think it’s pretty obvious even just from my blog that my motivation certainly wanes and rockets depending on the day, my mood, the weather… you name it! Being able to forgive ourselves for “slipping” and see the whole picture, the overall journey — that’s a healthy mentality. Much moreso than trying to convince yourself you crave kale instead of cookies all the time.

  6. says

    I think that I have struggled to forgive myself for not sticking to my plans or following through with what I know I really want in life (ie health and fitness). I often say, yeah… I lost 40 lbs (and then mutter) and gained it all back. But I think the hardest thing is realizing why I gave up for about 2 years in my life. I was in a really damaging and destructive relationship that broke my spirits and it lasted way too long. Now, I know to put myself first and not let others have a bad influence. I still haven’t entirely forgiven myself for what happened before so maybe it’s time to focus on that. Great blog, thanks!

  7. says

    I love this! And I completely know what you mean. I especially loved the crime spree analogy – how true! But I used to do that with food too. I’ve been struggling with motivation in general lately too, it’s always worse in the winters for me, but this post is a great reminder that that’s just how things go – there are always ups and downs :)

  8. Rebecca says

    just wanted to say it helps to see this. i gained back 15 pounds that i lost and i constantly feel like i want to cry when i look in the mirror. but i’ve lost that weight before and i can lose it again, no matter how bad i mess up, once i start going to the gym again, my body SLOWLY but surely gets back on track. i think this needs to be addressed more often on blogs… it’s easy for bloggers to paint their lives as wholesome balanced meals and perfect running days. thanks for giving us some perspective on the reality of the situation… we’re humans not robots!

  9. says

    LOVE this post so much! I just wrote yesterday about how I felt like I was snowballing into making a bunch of bad decisions and I was worried about not being able to find the motivation to get back up and make the commitment to be healthy again. But somehow I woke up this morning and found it – probably from all the awesome heartfelt reader comments I got. This post really hit me because that’s exactly what I was going through. It was just a little bit downwards, and now today I’m starting an upwards curve. I’m just working towards, in the end, it being much more up than down.

  10. says

    I really enjoyed this. I’ve read your blog for awhile, but this is my first time commenting. I always forget that it is okay to skip a couple days of working out and it is okay that I ate that double dip of Braum’s cappuccino chunky chocolate. Sometimes it is hard to look at people who seem like they are perfect all the time, but it is fantastic to read that real people feel the same way you do :)

  11. says

    Beautiful post Cassie. I think so many people out there need to hear this. I used to think I was the only one that was like this (back in the day) but so many people deal with the all or nothing mentality–especially when it comes to dieting and food control. I think it takes a strong and motivated individual to come to that happy place where nutrition and health are the top priority, but they can still allow themselves to be human and slip up once and awhile. Well said, thank you!

    • Cassie says

      I find that easing back in is a great way to get your motivation curve to head back up. Just something small (10 minutes of yoga, a walk, etc.) can really get the ball rolling. Good luck! :)

  12. says

    I think I had an “aha” moment when I read the part about the ebb and flows of life not just diet and fitness. As a recovering perfectionist, I too struggle with the “all or nothing” mentality. I’ve come to accept that it doesn’t work that way when it comes to my health and you made me think more about the bigger picture of my whole life. Thanks for a great post!

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