By Jana Mowrer | Contributed
January is the time of year you start, once again, to feel motivated to eat better, exercise more, or make any number of the positive lifestyle changes you’ve been telling yourself you want to make.
You’ve tried before – but without feeling much success.
Making a lifestyle change is challenging, especially when you want to see instant results and transform many things at once. This time, instead of a resolution, let’s do different.
Let’s make changes that last for more than just a season – you know wedding season, swim suit season – but instead transform our health to last during all seasons.
Lifestyle changes are a process that take time and require support. Once you’re ready to make a change, the difficult part is committing and following through.
Do your research and make a plan that will prepare you for success. Warning, during this phase is when most of us set ourselves up for failure by going too extreme. Careful planning means setting small goals and taking things one step at a time. I call these small daily goals “Everyday Health Wins.”
Here are five tips from the American Psychological Association to help you make lasting, positive lifestyle and behavior changes:
Make a plan that will stick. Your plan is a map that will guide you on this journey of change. When making your plan, be specific.
Want to exercise more? Detail the time of day when you can take walks and how long you’ll walk. Write everything down, and ask yourself if you’re confident that these activities and goals are realistic for you.
If not, start with smaller steps or smaller daily goals. Post your plan where you’ll most often see it as a reminder. I usually suggest on the fridge, because let’s face it, we search through our fridge multiple times a day.
Start small. After you’ve identified realistic short-term and long-term goals, break down your goals, into small, manageable steps that are specifically defined and can be measured.
Is your long-term goal to lose 20 pounds within the next five months? A good daily goal would be to exercise for 30 minutes per day, five times per week or a weekly goal to lose one pound a week.
Keep in mind, healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. This insures you are nourishing your body, creating lasting, realistic behavior change all while still facilitating fat loss. In this area I like to write down each health/lifestyle goal I’m looking to achieve for the day and then check it off once it’s accomplished.
Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time.
Many people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast. If you are looking to cut out carbs, candy, soda, sugar, caffeine, and fast food all at once, you are 9 times out of 10 setting yourself up for failure. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time.
For example: If you usually consume two sodas per day, cut down to one per day. As new healthy behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change you’re striving for.
Involve a buddy. Whether it be a friend, co-worker or family member, someone else on your journey will keep you motivated and accountable. It can be someone who will go to the gym with you or someone who is also trying to live a healthier lifestyle.
Social media is also a useful tool to increase accountability and connect with others. Join a forum, post pictures of your progress, ask for others to share in your journey. Talk about what you are doing. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes the journey easier and less intimidating.
Ask for support. This can be one of the most difficult steps in the process. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and commitment. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals, your support system helps keep you focused on your long-term goals and can help keep you on track.
Making everyday healthy lifestyle changes takes time, commitment, and is frankly hard work. Living a healthy lifestyle takes daily practice and isn’t achieved overnight. There is no magic pill, and there are no short cuts.
Just remember that no one is perfect. When you eat a brownie or skip the gym, don’t throw in the towel. You will have occasional lapses, and that is 100 percent OK and part of the process.
Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace and get back on track. You got this!