How to Plan for Healthy Lifestyle Changes!
Change is hard. As humans it is our nature to form habits and stick with them. Our thoughts become our habits – so the first step is changing the way we think! Easier said than done, right? But change can happen!
We’ve all met someone who has made a positive lifestyle change in his or her life, such as quitting smoking, losing weight or starting running. It often comes up in conversation when I meet people because I’m a dietitian. When placing a business order recently I met a man who had lost 70 pounds. I was amazed because you’d never know he had been overweight. He told me he started walking, cut down on alcohol, and starting eating more real food, going to the farmer’s market and buying bagged, ready-to-eat veggies. I asked him why he decided to change, and he said, “I just felt horrible every time I had to figure out what to wear. I just didn’t want to feel that way anymore.” Everyone has his or her own reason for wanting to make a lifestyle change – you just have to want the change more than the unhealthful habit that led you away from your personal best health.
Kicking some bad lifestyle habits and starting fresh can be the hardest change of all. That’s why making plans and having a strategy is your best chance at success. Here are eight simple and effective ways to help support new habits:
1 – Find a motivational buddy – the threat of guilt from flaking out on a pact you’ve made with a friend is a powerful motivational force. Plus you can support each other over phone calls, meals or working out together. If you can’t find a friend who is interested in fitness find an on-line community for support or an on-line system to track your food and fitness.
2 – Set realistic, achievable goals to set yourself up for success. For example, if you don’t get enough fruit in your diet and skip breakfast most days, set a goal such as, “I will grab a banana and nuts 3 days a week on my way to work in the morning.” Remember, just having a goal is motivating in itself.
3 – Create your own mantra –“you can do it,” “don’t sweat the small stuff” or “this too shall pass”… find one that works for you and replay it in your mind when you’re getting off course or struggling with the difficulty of creating new habits while so many “life situations” are happening!
4 – Reward yourself! Feeling great is a reward in itself, but there are times when a tangible reward is just the incentive we need to make the harder choice. So the next time you’re tired and choose to prepare something healthy rather than grabbing fast food, give yourself a present! Make a list of nonfood rewards like treating yourself to a movie, new lipstick, a pedicure, etc.
5 – Get the sleep you need. It’s hard to make positive changes when you’re wiped out and exhausted. Start by making it a goal to get 8 hours of sleep two nights a week, then build on it!
6 – Evaluate your progress – dedicate a certain time of the week to checking in and giving your success and obstacles a good, honest look. See what steps you can take to adapt or adjust your schedule and actions to avoid obstacles or work with them. For example, if you’re not eating at regular times, it can increase fatigue and increases stress hormones – so if this is your biggest obstacle then preplan your meal times or set an alarm to eat on time.
7 – Observe successes in others – ask them for a few how-to tips. Even though your approach is unique to you they may have something powerful to share that makes all the difference with setbacks that leads to motivation in the short and/or long term.
8 – Know your limits. Pushing yourself is important but know when to stop. Making positive changes is about finding the right balance for you. It takes time and patience – it won’t all happen at once.