In the upcoming new year, many of us will be setting goals for our health and then a few weeks in (or months for those who are extra diligent)... we might slip back into old habits. Why does this happen? Does this mean we are not capable of making sustainable changes?
Of course not.
What it means is we need to be realistic, be patient with ourselves, and be intentional in creating a plan- not just making a list of resolutions!
Here are some health tips from someone (me) who works with people making lifestyle changes for better health daily! And here's a secret: I struggle with this too!
1. Know your why: Really consider why you want to make changes for your health. Do you have health problems that could improve if you made changes? Do you have a family history of conditions like diabetes or heart disease? Make it about your health, not just wanting to attain some idea of a “perfect norm” for your appearance. Once you define your why- write it down and share it with someone who will keep you accountable.
2. Aim for progress, not perfection: So, it’s January 2nd- you are all set with enthusiasm- you have decided you will work out every day.... and then January 30th, you decide to throw the whole plan out the window as you only made it to the gym twice-you have already “blown it”. Sound familiar? Give yourself credit for what you DID do. Maybe the next 2 weeks, you will go consistently once a week- well now you have doubled your progress! In the meantime, you can also start taking the stairs, playing outside with your kids, park further away at the store- and boom- you are getting more physical activity!
3. Eliminate all or nothing mentality: This is similar to not looking for perfection. Especially, when making dietary changes, we can easily fall into the “on-plan” and “off-plan” eating patterns- why do we need to call a meal a “cheat meal”? It’s all food. Maybe start with the statement- “ I will have dessert 3 times a week” rather than “forbidding yourself” to ever have dessert again. You know what happens when something is forbidden! We don’t need to be in a constant stressed state obsessing over every “imperfect” food decision, right?
4. Set goals and then break into small goals: Making several changes at one time can be extremely daunting and unrealistic. Pick one goal at a time and then break it into small goals. For instance, “I want to lose 50 pounds- I will lose 10 pounds at a time and celebrate each 10 lbs accomplishment.”
5. Find others to partner with you to provide support and accountability: Find a supportive community- either your partner, a friend, a local gym or a health coach- and share your why from above. Lay out a plan in small parts to get to your goals. Have your tribe keep you accountable and support you. We all do better with some external motivation!
6. Focus on eating real food: This process starts with having a grocery list with your “must haves”. It does not need to be complicated. If you are a “wing it” sort of person when it comes to meal planning, start with a solid base of unprocessed foods on your grocery list. Add some ready-to-eat easy foods (like pre-cut veggies, salad mixes, frozen veggies, ready-made beans, nuts, seeds) so you can throw a meal together in a few minutes. Half the battle is just having the right stuff on hand. Try to shop the periphery of the grocery store. A little bit of planning can go a long way in avoiding that situation where you are starving and find yourself reaching for your phone to Uber Eats something ASAP!
7. Be consistent: Remember, good health is a life-long process, so keep at it and don’t give up. It is easy to just make it a priority at the beginning of the year. Do your best, aim for progress and reap the benefits!
I hope you find these health tips helpful as you set out to make resolutions for the new year. We are here as a resource to our patients looking to improve their health and be sure to download my Mediterranean grocery guide when you subscribe to my newsletter!
Disclaimer: Please consult with your own physician for any health concerns. This information is for educational purposes only.