A few years ago I went to a family reunion. There were several family members who had obviously worked hard to get into shape before and it showed. Afterward, I told my husband that I was committing to a diet. Within two weeks I was right back to eating all of the unhealthy things I had eaten before, and the same weight. The problem was I didn’t have a strategy.
Maintaining good habits is difficult. Far too often, we have a burst of good intentions that fall flat too soon. So if you’ve reached that place where you’ve decided that it’s time to turn over a new leaf in a key area of life—diet, exercise, etc.—you need some strategies for making the changes stick. These tips from iSpecialist Walt Larimore can help you develop and maintain the lifestyle changes you desire for the long haul.
1. Think “lifestyle change,” not “quick fix.”
Our culture is saturated with pitches for quick-fix solutions to our health woes. But experts will tell you that real, sustainable improvement must be approached incrementally with an eye toward what you could truly do indefinitely. So step one is to change your mindset from one that seeks radical change overnight to one that expects to slowly introduce improvements that will remain and reap benefits for the long term.
But experts will tell you that real, sustainable improvement must be approached incrementally with an eye toward what you could truly do indefinitely.
2. Take a look at where you are.
If you’re looking to improve your health or weight through nutrition, start by keeping a journal of everything you eat for a week or so. You may be shocked to see what you’re actually taking—or not taking—in! This will make obvious the areas where you could begin to adjust, one step at a time.
3. Baby steps.
While there are a precious few people who can jump directly into a new lifestyle and stay there forever, most of us need to make major changes in small increments in order to sustain them. If you’re looking to change your diet, don’t try to completely eliminate all problem foods at once—just cut back. If it’s exercise you’re trying to make a habit, don’t sign up for a marathon yet—just set a goal for doing something active for 30 minutes, 4-5 days per week. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the new habit, you can push it a little further and set a new goal!
4. Three essentials for success.
I heard a pastor say once that maintaining good habits, such as making time for daily prayer and Scripture reading, requires that we have three key things: a place, a time, and a plan. If one of these is missing, the task gets pushed down the to-do list by other, pressing concerns. The same can be said of things like exercise. Schedule it, just like you would a meeting or an appointment. Decide in advance what you’re going to do, when and where. With all the decision-making behind you, you simply look at your planner and do it.
5. Celebrate the wins.
Don’t forget to congratulate yourself when you successfully make a positive change. You might even put a little carrot on the end of a stick for self-motivation.
Tell us! What is your strategy for maintaining good habits?
Walt Larimore, M.D. has been called “one of America’s best known family physicians.” He is a nationally-known and nationally sought after speaker and health expert.