Eating Right and Exercising—How to Overcome the Challenge of Motivation

From the lecture series: The Mayo Clinic Diet — The Healthy Approach to Weightloss

By Donald D. Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., Mayo Clinic

Eating right, exercising, and having energy are classic staples of healthy living. Unfortunately, they can seem like very high hurdles to jump. The Mayo Clinic takes a new look at how to get back on track.

Image of an unmotivated women sitting behind an exercise ball

When we’re trying to make changes in the way we eat and in how much physical activity we get, we all experience obstacles. Overcoming these challenges comes down to planning for them. But sometimes we need ideas for how to deal with them.

Learn more about starting your diet


Some people just don’t like to cook. Here are several ways you can overcome the challenge of not liking to cook.

  • Try out a variety of cooking techniques. You might not like baking, but micro­waving or grilling may be your thing.
  • Be creative. Use shortcuts such as prepackaged salad greens or raw veg­etables, or precooked lean meats.
  • If you don’t enjoy cooking but want to try, start by purchasing a cookbook that offers quick and easy healthy meals, or check one out at your local library.
  • Develop a collection of quick and easy recipes, such as burritos, pasta with vegetables and healthy, bottled tomato sauce; brown minute rice with frozen vegetables and spices such as curry powder; and quick salads, such as a Greek salad.
  • Base your meals on fresh fruits and vegetables, none of which takes much preparation or cooking time.

This is a transcript from the video series The Mayo Clinic Diet — The Healthy Approach to Weight Loss. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Picture of father and son cooking in kitchen

One of the most common obstacles I hear with physical activity is, “I don’t have time to exercise.” I would suggest that everybody’s busy. I don’t know too many people who have too much time—most people don’t have extra time. Much of the time, it’s a matter of priorities rather than time.

  • Even if you don’t like to exercise, you can work physical activity into your daily schedule.
  • You can take a walk at different times.
  • You can take the stairs during your normal day instead of taking the elevator.
  • Take activity breaks if you have a desk job.
  • Have a walking meeting with a colleague. Usually, this works well with just a couple of people – a group walking meeting is more challenging. Instead of sitting down and talking with a colleague, go for a walk. When you’re talking on the telephone, you can walk around. If you sit during a 30-minute meeting, you’ll burn around 75 calories. However, if you walk briskly during your meeting at 3 and a half miles per hour, you’ll burn more than 300 calories!
  • Try looking for hidden time-sinks in your schedule. For example, the average American watches more than four hours of television each day, and more than 10 hours of total screen time daily. Although some of that may be for productive activities, most people may not have to look hard to find a lot of extra time for physical activity.

    Learn more about the science of weight and weight loss

    Image of adults smiling and chatting are workout

    Being Tired

    Finally, you may be a person who says you don’t exercise because you’re too tired to exercise. Believe it or not, that may be because you’re not exercising enough.

    Many people find they’re less tired once they’re involved with a regular exercise program. That’s because regular physical activity gives you more energy and because fatigue is more often mental than it is physical. If you’re fatigued due to stress, exercise is a great stress-reliever. Here are several other tips that can help you overcome this obstacle.

    • If you are tired, start short and slow. Begin with just five to 10 minutes of activity. Keep in mind that a little activity is better than none. And once you start, you might keep going longer.
    • Another option is to exercise in the morning. This may give you more energy throughout the day.
    • When you get home from work, don’t sit down to watch television or use the computer. Instead, put on your walking shoes as soon as you arrive home and go for a walk.

    Learn more about the best ways to keep negative self-talk at bay

    Common Questions About the Mayo Clinic Diet

    Q: What is the Mayo Clinic famous for?

    The Mayo Clinic is most famous for the Alix School of Medicine as well as a number of the top-ranked residency programs in the United States.

    Q: What can you eat on the Mayo Clinic diet?

    Many foods can be eaten on the Mayo Clinic diet from these six groups: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and minimal sweets. Prepared foods such as sandwiches and pizzas can be eaten but in moderation.

    Q: Is mayonnaise healthy?

    Mayonnaise is healthy if it is made from olive, avocado, or soybean oil and eaten in small amounts.

    Q: Who can go to the Mayo Clinic?

    The Mayo Clinic is open to all, but some insurers require referrals and so a referring doctor must be seen first.

    This article was updated on 8/3/2019

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