How to Make Healthy Changes Stick

How to Make Healthy Changes Stick
Six tips to help you maintain your New Year's Resolutions

It’s that time of year where we reflect on the year that has passed, and think about what we want for ourselves in the new year. Many resolutions to live healthier lives and make better choices for our health and well-being are made. However, most of those resolutions are short lived.

By the end of January, most of us have let those resolutions slide for one reason or another. This cycle tends to repeat for many people regularly, causing a lot of frustration, self-blame and shame. This does not have to be the case. When working with clients and speaking with people, these are the common pitfalls that occur with most everyone, and what you can do about them:

1. The goals or changes you set for yourself are too extreme.

Fast weight loss is the most common pitfall, although it’s also common to see unrealistic fitness goals like running a marathon after training for a month, or health goals such as completely changing and restricting your food. You didn’t gain weight overnight, and you’re not going to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way quickly either. Yes, you can starve yourself and lose weight rapidly.

But it’s mostly water weight that you lose not fat, and statistically you are almost guaranteed to put it all back on and then some. Plus your weight loss will stall as your body will go into starvation mode and hold onto the fat even more stubbornly. The same can be said for any other change you want to make; drastic changes don’t work. You need to slowly incorporate new healthy habits that work for you and your lifestyle, which you can sustain over the long term.

Alt text hereGetting your family involved is a great way to sustain healthy changes

2. Goals are not shared and there is a lack of a support system

Sustainable changes are best done with the support of those closest to you. This could be a partner, a friend, a colleague, or anyone that you tend to interact with regularly. If those around you don’t know that you are working towards goals, they can often unintentionally sabotage your goals. Many studies have shown that you’re much more likely to stick to goals you’ve set when you have support, and even better is when you have friends or family make healthy changes alongside you.

3. The emotional impact is not taken into consideration

A lot of our unhealthy habits, whether it be eating, substances like alcohol, or a poor relationship with exercise, are related to emotional challenges and issues. When you make healthy changes, it can leave emotional challenges exposed and hard for you to deal with. It’s important to be aware that feelings and issues that you may have been avoiding through emotional eating and the like will now come to the forefront. Have tools in place to help with that including things like journaling, meditation, and therapy as needed.

Alt text hereReplace late night eats in front of the TV with a relaxing bath

4. Unhealthy habits are not replaced with healthy ones

Junk food and watching tv; mid-afternoon coffee and donut break; weekend decadent brunches; a couple of glasses of wine with dinner…. We all have habits that are potentially sabotaging our health, and when we make changes we often forget that these habits need to be replaced with healthier ones. There will be cravings to continue those patterns so it’s important to be mindful about the potential pitfalls, and plan new habits to take their place. Replace late night eats in front of the TV with a relaxing bath; make your own healthy brunch then go for a walk around the neighborhood; bring our own snacks to work; and so on.

5. You confuse restriction with healthy

A lot of us feel that in order to ‘get healthy’ you need to restrict your lifestyle. Eat boring, flavorless food just because it’s healthy. Completely restrict any sort of foods that are not completely clean and healthy. Take out whole food groups because you’ve heard it’s healthier (no gluten; no dairy; no meat; no sugar; etc.). If you don’t enjoy the foods that you eat, you won’t eat them long term.

Thankfully healthy does not have to equal tasteless or boring! And while it can be healthy at times to do gentle cleanses, or remove foods that your system may be sensitive to, in general it’s best to take a moderate approach. Otherwise, eventually your mind and body will rebel and you will find yourself scarfing down a whole tub of ice cream in one sitting.

Alt text hereRemind yourself you’re on the right track

6. Setbacks become mountains not molehills

Regardless of the goals you set for yourself, there will always be hiccups along the way. What often happens is when you fall off track, you become frustrated and feel like you’ve ‘ruined’ everything and just throw in the towel. It’s important to have the mindset that a journey towards a healthier you comes incrementally, and when you go off track it’s not the end of the world.

Reflect on what challenges helped you get off track, and then plan accordingly so you can watch out and deal with those challenges differently the next time they occur. Then be kind to yourself and don’t lay on the blame and shame. We are all human, ups and downs occur. Remind yourself that you’re on the right track and let the hiccups that happened go.

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