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How to make healthier choices when you’re too tired to change

You know the drill. You decide that this is the week you’re going to get your health back on track. You set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier the next morning so you can get a quick jog in before you start your day, and you make a grocery list that includes a variety of whole foods you’re going to incorporate in your meals this week.

You have every intention of following through. And maybe, for a while, you do. But eventually your willpower starts to peter out, and you find yourself hitting the snooze button a few extra times each morning and reverting back to pre-packaged meals to keep your family fed.

It’s a cycle we’ve all spent some time being trapped inside: having the desire to change, but not having the energy to make those changes permanent.

A recent study on UK adults found that lack of motivation and “feeling too tired” stopped participants from making healthy choices at least 35% of the time. This tiredness happens for a variety of reasons—inadequate sleep, occasional stress, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyle being the main ones—but one thing is consistent for the chronically tired. The more tired we are, the less likely we are to make healthy choices, even if we’re aware that we need to change.

When we’re tired, both our body and mind suffer the consequences. Exhaustion impairs our cognitive function, making it harder to concentrate, remember information, and make good decisions. Fatigue can also weaken our self-control, making it even harder to resist unhealthy habits (hence all the convenient shortcuts we know are doing our health no favors).

Breaking the cycle

If we’re tired all the time and that affects our decision making, how can we change for the better?

By starting small.

Positive changes are possible no matter where you’re at, and they’re much more likely to stick if we adopt those changes a little bit at a time.

Here are a few tips to get you going.

Don’t snack after dinner. One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can help increase your energy levels. But if intermittent fasting sounds like too much work, start with eliminating after-dinner snacks. That break from eating and digestion will give your body more time for some R&R, leaving you with more energy to spare.

Soak up some sunshine. The great outdoors is waiting to shower us with benefits for both our physical and mental health. Just 10–15 minutes of sunshine causes the release of endorphins like serotonin, known to improve mood and energy, as well as help us feel more calm and focused. Try to find some time each day to soak up some rays, even if it’s just sitting outside for a few minutes.

Eat more nourishing foods. That candy bar or energy drink might address your short-term need for an energy boost, but it’s not going to help you for long. Nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins help you maintain steadier energy levels throughout the day. Not to mention you’ll feel better after eating an apple than you would after eating, say, a brownie.

Move throughout the day. Maybe an hour-long workout in the mornings isn’t feasible. But you can probably find 15 minutes here and there to move around a bit. Even if it’s just walking around for a few minutes or doing some stretches when you’re feeling sluggish, any kind of movement is naturally energizing and can help you reset before tackling the next big task.

Take breaks. Nobody can perform at 100% all the time. In fact, if you want to be more productive, taking short breaks throughout the day can help you stay fresh and focused. Spending time on non-work tasks (otherwise known as hobbies) can be rejuvenating as well. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to step away from a mentally demanding task for a while and come back to it when we’re recharged.

For more tips on finding the energy to make healthier choices, see this blog post on healthy ways to get energy.

Feel great long term

Small changes can set you on the path to better health. If you’re looking for more ways to make your path to better health easier, try the Feel Great Program. Feel Great is designed to make it easier to meet your health goals—whatever they may be—and help you feel better overall, which includes having more energy for the important things. Check out to learn more.


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