I know that it’s hard to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes, even when people know what to do and have the means to do it. But, there are a few approaches that can help make long-lasting healthy lifestyle changes happen.
What is lifestyle change?
Healthy lifestyle change is built around six pillars: eating healthy foods; exercising regularly; easing stress; getting restful sleep; quitting addictive substances like tobacco and limiting alcohol; and nurturing social connections.
Abundant research shows healthy lifestyle factors protect us against serious, often disabling health problems: diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and more. Clearly, taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle can make a big difference in our lives, but it can be hard to change our habits. Below are a few tips to help you start on that path.
What motivates you? Where will you find good reasons to change? Yes, studies show that being at a healthy weight and shape is associated with a longer life and lower risk of many chronic diseases. However, in my experience, only emphasizing weight or waist size isn’t helpful for long-term healthy lifestyle change. Indeed, studies have shown that focusing too much on those numbers is associated with quitting a health kick, whereas small goals related to positive actions were associated with successful long-term lifestyle change.
Put healthy habits on automatic:
Healthy choices can become more automatic if you remove the “choice” part. For example, take the thinking out of every eating or activity decision by planning ahead for the week to come. Choose a basic menu for meals and build in convenience. Focus on simple, healthy recipes. Frozen produce is healthful, easy to keep on hand, and sometimes less expensive than fresh.
Jot down your activity schedule. Choose some physical activity most days — the more vigorous and the longer the better, but anything counts! Even as little as 10 minutes of light to moderate activity per week has been associated with a longer life span.
Track food and activity choices each day. Using an app or notebook for this can help you become more aware and accountable. Try noting barriers, too, and brainstorm workarounds for overly busy days and other issues that push you off track.
Understand how emotions affect you:
If feeling stressed, angry, or sad is a trigger for overeating or another unhealthy activity, it’s important to recognize this. Writing down triggers over the course of a week can enhance your awareness. Building better stress management habits can help you stick to a healthy lifestyle plan. Getting sufficient restful sleep and scheduling personal time, regular activity, and possibly meditation, or even just chats with good friends are all steps in the right direction.
Set small, specific, and realistic goals:
Set realistic goal of losing 5% to 10% of your weight, and give yourself plenty of time and some flexibility to reach that goal, keeping in mind that most people take at least six months to achieve that degree of healthy weight loss. Also try to avoid generalized goals, such as “I should eat less at dinner and exercise more.” Instead, set specific and short-term (that is, daily or weekly) goals, such as these:
- I will bring a healthy lunch from home instead of going out at least three times next week.
- I will call a friend to take a walk after work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- I will decrease exposure to problematic food (“stimulus control”) to avoid temptation, such as keeping cookies away from sight in the kitchen.
From these habits, choose the one that seems the most feasible for you, and try to stick with it for a week or so. It’s important to make these healthy habits routine. Once you find yourself doing one fairly consistently, add another. Over time you will realize that many of these habits can be interconnected.
Lasting, healthy weight loss demands that you transform your eating and exercise habits. But many other choices you make each day, such as how much time you spend sleeping or surfing the Internet, can also make a difference.
A healthy lifestyle is key to a long, healthy life, and is attainable. Success may require some thoughtful trial and error, but don’t give up! I have seen all kinds of people at all ages make amazing changes, and you can, too.
Certified Nutrition and Fitness Consultant.
About the Author
I am passionate about health and fitness and believe that fitness isn’t just about going through the motions of a workout, it’s about having a healthy lifestyle and attitude. I set realistic goals for my clients and then help them to achieve them. I create personalized fitness plan for the clients and encourage and motivate them to look at fitness as a positive element in a healthy life. My endeavour is to help others find health and happiness.
Besides a certified fitness trainer, I am a qualified Accessory designer from National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT, New Delhi). My specialisation is jewellery design and handicrafts.
Right now I am working as a kindergarten educator and design teaching aids for the school kids.