Making lasting lifestyle changes really does start in the head. A house isn’t built with random placement of studs. It takes a good foundation, a well thought-out design and careful construction. Similarly, building a healthier you takes planning and good groundwork so that you will succeed. If you follow these 5 steps, you will have a good foundation for building an awesome path to great health!
1. First you have to know what you really want.
What’s bothering you now about your current self and what do you need to change? Most of my clients tell me initially they just want to lose weight. I try to get beyond that. With a little more probing I hear things like: wanting to be able to look in the mirror with pride, being able to move more easily, gaining more confidence or having more energy. Our emotions drive our behavior. The more you connect with the emotions around making lifestyle changes, the more you will be able to resist the pull from old unhealthy habits.
2. Have a plan for obstacles
If your mornings are rushed, plan to make your breakfast and even lunch the night before. If driving by a certain fast food place is a trigger, then take another route. If seeing candy, chips, donuts or other junk food is a temptation, then find a way to get your work and home environment to support you. If you know watching TV leads to snacking, then watch less TV and maybe go to bed earlier. Do you come home famished in the afternoon? Keep a snack size almonds in your car. If you know a vacation or business travel is coming up, search on-line for restaurants that serve healthier preparations or buy healthy snacks like fruit and nuts once you arrive so you don’t go overboard when you eat out. Know your patterns and triggers and make a plan.
3. Start small
Most people are overambitious by doing too many changes at once. It can be overwhelming, lead to feelings of deprivation, negative self talk and failure. The key is to make small enough changes so that you can feel confident you can follow through. New to exercise? Start by doing a little bit every day. For new routines to become habit, it is better to find something small to do daily in order for them to become better embedded in your routine. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise weekly. Doing as little as 10-11 minutes of vigorous exercise daily will not only boost your cardiovascular health and ramp up your metabolism, but won’t stress your schedule. Examples of vigorous activity include: walking up a steep hill, biking at 10 mph, race walking or jogging, or even jumping rope. I can remember my dad for years used to do 500 jump ropes most days of the week and would even bring his rope with him when he traveled. The 7 minute workout app is also a great way to get vigorous exercise. Pinterest also has some really nice short workouts. Or you could just find a nice hill in your neighborhood and go up and down that a few times.
4. Link your lifestyle changes to your regular routine
Link you bedtime to your morning routine. Get to bed earlier to allow for the earlier alarm. Switching to a healthier breakfast? Save time by letting your oatmeal cook while you’re in the shower. While you are cutting up veggies for dinner, make extra for lunch the next day. Trying to break the habit of hitting the vending machine in the afternoon? Ask your coworker to go for a walk with you instead. Trying to drink more water? Put reminders in your cell phone and keep extra water in your car and at your desk. While you are getting ready for bed, take your exercise clothes out for the morning.
5. Pay attention to what you notice
This is what is meant by mindfulness. The scale is not going to change overnight. But you will notice other positive changes beginning immediately. The first day you eat a healthy breakfast and lunch and cut out the junk, you will have more energy. That lull in the afternoon will disappear and you won’t need a pick-me-up. After a few days, you will notice you have less bloating, you’ll think more clearly and you will feel better. After a week you will notice your clothes will start to become looser. You will sleep better and wake up rested. Your conversations will be more positive. Your relationships will take a different direction. You will see yourself with kinder eyes and you will start to feel more confident. You will notice that your new ways of living will become more comfortable and require less convincing and more just doing. You won’t even have to get on the scale to notice all the payback for your decision to get healthy – you will know you are heading in the right direction!
Success in forming new healthy habits is mostly in the attitude, the planning, the setting of realistic expectations and the awareness. It takes about 3 weeks for lifestyle changes to seem more natural and about 3 months for them to become routine. If you know what you want and you make a good plan, you will get what you want in the end – a better feeling and better looking you!