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Lifestyle Changes For Better Health
Restrictive diets may result in drastic short-term results, but most people end up feeling deprived and swinging back in the other direction in the long term. Save yourself some time and self-loathing by ditching the diet and making healthy lifestyle changes that will stick. Here’s how you can do it.
Lifestyle changes for better health
Transforming your health doesn't have to be a grueling process. Follow these five simple steps to optimize your health and quit the dieting cycle forever.
1. Know your end game
As a registered dietitian for over ten years, I've helped thousands of people make changes to improve their health, and I can tell you one thing for sure - clarity on where you’re headed is the most important ingredient for success.
Why? Because, let's face it, putting on your sneakers and heading outside for a jog when you’d rather be binging Schitt’s Creek is hard. We are creatures of habit and inevitably resist any disruption to our regular routine. So, when the going gets tough, it's easier to throw in the towel and resort to your old ways. But, if your motivation is front and center, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Research shows that visual reminders work well. A picture of yourself at a time in your life when you were healthiest, an outfit you’d like to wear or even taking a few minutes before you go to sleep to visualize your healthiest self in great detail. What would you look like? What would you feel like? What would you be doing? Research shows that thoughts translate into behaviors so using visual reminders is like an invisible nudge, pushing you in the right direction without much effort.
2. Stack your habits one at a time
If traveling the world is on your bucket list, you're probably well aware that you can't be in Australia and Alaska at the same time. But you can go to one place then the next. Behavior change isn't much different. Focus on one thing at a time, master that habit and then add the next one. Prioritize your list of items with the easiest things first to gain some momentum.
Why not start by mimicking the habits of the healthiest people around the world?
- Drink water (instead of soda or sugary coffee drinks) -> flavored seltzer instead of soda in the afternoon
- Replace meat with beans for one meal a week -> bean burger instead of a beef burger.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables -> lettuce on the bottom of your burrito bowl instead of rice.
- Add movement into your day rather than a trip to the gym -> walk to the store.
- Spend time with your family -> zoom wine tasting with your sibs instead of scrolling through insta while drinking wine.
3. Set small, SMART goals for big progress
I once had a client lose 60 lbs in a year by working out for just five minutes on her elliptical trainer every day. Why? She could not talk herself out of five minutes. Every day for an entire year, she did the five minutes - even on Christmas, even on her birthday.
Five minutes was such a small amount of time that it didn't matter what was going on. She always had time for it. Had she set the goal at an hour or even thirty minutes, she might not have gotten it in every day.
She did not intentionally make additional lifestyle changes but admitted that she probably made healthier food choices from time to time because she always started her day with the elliptical. Her small goal was achievable and led to her desired result - more activity and weight loss.
Are you ready to make some progress? Set a small, SMART goal:
- Specific: what are you going to do?
- Measurable: how often and for how long?
- Attainable: is it realistic given your current resources?
- Relevant: is it relevant to your long term vision?
- Time-Bound: when are you going to do it?
It's worth noting that the elliptical primarily functioned as a drying rack for my client until this point, which brings me to my last point: get your space in order.
4. Set your environment up for success
Reduce the barriers to a healthy lifestyle change by getting your house in order. If a whole pepper is staring you in the face at snack time, you probably aren't going to go through the effort of washing it and chopping it up. Never mind that it's not exactly a star-studded snack.
So, what's the solution? Take 20 minutes after you get back from the store to wash and chop your produce for easy access. Buy some guacamole or hummus snacks packs to make it easy and appealing to eat your vegetables.
Other tried and true strategies to implement:
- Get your workout clothes out the night before for a morning workout.
- Limit junk foods in the house, select only those that bring you the most satisfaction and portion them out into single servings.
- Invest in a water cup with a straw and keep it near you
5. Make room for life
Pizza night? Birthday cake? Happy hour? This is life, so rather than pretending like you aren’t ever going to eat a slice of pizza or drink a Moscow mule, plan for it. In my experience, the 80/20 rule works pretty nicely. Healthy food isn't just about what's on your plate. It's also enjoying your social life, family traditions and all the non-food things that go with eating.
If you are the type that needs more of a structured approach, use a mobile tracker like LoseIt or MyFitness Pal. These tools bring awareness to eating habits and allow you to plan your indulgences. So, if you're headed over to Mom's for pasta dinner or date night is approaching, you can shift your choices earlier in the day to hit your targets still and stay on track.
Healthy lifestyle changes last longer than diets.
When it comes to lifestyle changes for better health, its clear slow and steady wins the race. So the next time you find yourself pinning juice cleanse infographics, remember, healthy change isn't something that lasts a few days. Real progress is made with changes that become habits.
Happy habit building!
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