If you’ve been eating low carb, low sugar for awhile now, hopefully you’ve had your first blood test showing an improvement in your sugar level. If so, congrats—your hard work is paying off! It’s a milestone to celebrate but it’s no time to relax or fire up that old bread-making machine as you probably still have a ways to go. Same if you’ve seen some progress but are now facing a temporary setback.

I was very pleased with my first improved A1c reading, which came about 6 months into my diet change. I also recall the discouragement I felt when, six months later, my sugar level had gone back up a notch. Super frustrating! At the first sign your sugar is going down, you may feel both a sense of accomplishment as well as slight disheartening at just how much time and effort it took for a relatively slight improvement. Lowering your blood sugar will always seem more abstract than losing weight or getting fit because of the lack of visual results. But for those of us who are committed to the long game, improvements and setbacks both can serve as motivation. Whether reinforcing a good reading or facing a bump in the road, doubling down on our efforts will affirm that we’re not taking no for an answer. We should recognize and reinforce our progress each time we get a lower (or temporarily up) blood sugar reading as we pursue a downward trajectory.

One way you can do this is to create a concrete vision of your low-sugar self with very positive associations. When I I read about a 98 year old yoga instructor or marathon runner, for example, I add their smiling face to my mental database of “this will be me” images. I envision myself having permanently migrated away from prediabetes (and personally, as of late, away from bad cholesterol) and reached a state (like they have) of optimal health, energy and vibrancy—the proverbial whole enchilada. I find Jane Fonda’s metaphor— that individuals are not on a hill, in which it’s all ‘downhill from here’, but on a staircase towards our higher and better selves—a perfect mindset for this. Some people pin these stories of inspiration wherever they do the most good, including in the kitchen. Good life champions keep us in the zone when we aren’t feeling it, and remind us that discipline is a source of joy, not a burden.

Another way is to share your progress with your cheerleader(s). Even if you’ve found only one soul who understands how important your low-sugar goal is to you, report to that person. I had one friend who practically teared up when I told her I’d gotten a better reading. She was the only one who ever really “got” it and I was surprised at how much her empathy alone was a confirmation. A supporter like this can counterbalance the mixed messages of a hundred low-sugar frenemies! Critically, your cheerleader will also offer encouragement if you’ve hit a temporary setback.

Your reading is also an opportunity to reward yourself with something you consider luxurious related to your newish habits that will also expedite your progress. For me, that’s hot yoga classes or finding new music that makes me want to dance. The conventional advice on achieving dietary goals is to never focus on food rewards. I disagree! I believe each time you reward yourself with a healthy meal, or allow yourself time to cook an elaborate low-sugar treat, experiment with recipes or something that’s commercially available, you reinforce a better diet/dietary changes.