Do you have a nutrition or health goal? Here are 5 essential tips you need to make healthy lifestyle changes that last.
Deciding to pursue a health or nutrition goal is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. There are numerous health benefits to eating a healthy diet and exercising. Whether you want to lose weight, run a 5K race, or just eat a healthier diet, you want to make healthy lifestyle changes that will stick.
In order to create lasting changes, it’s time to step away from the diet mentality. Any program that guarantees results in 30 days, preaches the benefits of specific supplements, or drastically restricts certain food groups will not work long term. Yes, you may see short term results, but these results will not last if the program is not realistic and sustainable.
Here are 5 essential tips to make healthy lifestyle changes that will actually stick. They don’t involve any bizarre diets, supplements, or an “all or nothing” mindset. Rather, they’re all about changing your behaviors to empower you to make healthy choices.
5 tips to make healthy lifestyle changes that last
Determine your long term goals, then break them up into short term ones.
Visualize your ideal life, and how you picture your best, healthiest, happiest self. Set your long term goal(s) based off of this vision. You can achieve long term goals over several months, a year, or even more. Some examples of long term health goals include completing a triathlon, eating a 100% plant based diet, or losing 35 pounds.
It’s crucial to break your long term goal up into short term goals. Short term goals are achievable within a few days or weeks. Setting short term goals allows us to see and celebrate frequent progress, which motivates us to continue moving forward. A simple short term goal example for weight loss is losing 1 lb per week.
Long and short term goals should all be SMART goals. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Instead of “I will eat more vegetables”, your SMART goal could be “I will eat one extra vegetable serving a day, each day next week”. Do you see how concrete the SMART goal is?
Make 1-2 changes at a time.
Behavior change takes time, focus, and energy. It’s hard to alter something you’ve been doing forever, no matter how small it may seem! Because of this, it’s best to focus on 1-2 changes at a time.
Prioritize your goals, and start with the one most important to you now. If you want to lose weight, and run a half marathon, and cook 90% of your meals at home, that’s great! But if you tackle all these goals at once, the change will probably be too drastic, you’ll get discouraged and overwhelmed, and it’s that much easier to fall off the bandwagon completely.
Think beyond the scale.
Weight loss is one of the most common goals clients come to me with. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight. Losing weight can lead to several health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, better mobility, and reduced joint pain. But, if you are driven only by aesthetic goals, you’ll never feel like you’ve done enough.
Aesthetic goals are likely externally motivated, which is widely dictated by what other people think of you. For most people with aesthetic goals to look a certain way, though, the goal post will keep moving no matter how much you achieve.
Alternatively, internally motivated behaviors are done purely for personal reward, and have nothing (or very little) to do with others’ opinions. Intrinsically motivated behaviors are much more personally rewarding long term, so you’re more likely to stick to the changes you make.
Think about the core reasons you want to achieve your goals. Go beyond the scale and appearance to identify internal motivators to find out if achieving that goal will truly make you happier and more confident.
Involve your family or support system.
Having an ally to support your goals will increase your commitment and resilience when the going gets tough. Does your family want to eat healthier and exercise with you? That’s great! If not, it’s important that they are aware of your goals, supportive of them, and there to listen when you need to talk it out.
Not everything will go exactly as planned as you work towards your goals. Your support system is essential to help get you through the slip ups, and celebrate when you make progress.
Make a weekly plan, and adjust your goals as needed.
Sit down each weekend before beginning a new week. Reflect on the previous week and the progress you’ve made. What worked and what didn’t? Which changes felt natural? What made you feel good?
Using this wisdom, create a plan for the upcoming week. This might include preparing healthy meals ahead of time if you were too tired to cook dinner. Maybe it means working out first thing in the morning instead of after work.
One your weekly plan is in place, take the steps to make it happen. Prepare yourself as best you can to successfully achieve your goals in the upcoming week.
Looking for more guidance?
I’m here to help! With private nutrition counseling, I’ll help you create goals, navigate behavior change, and be an integral part of your support system on your journey to better health.
If you’re interested in working together, just send me an e-mail!
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