Strategies to Stay on Track in 2019
By Melanie Baker, MS, RD, LDN
Have you ever tried to make changes to a habit, but found it hard to stay on track? Changing lifestyle habits can be hard. Many people start to make changes but may stop when it gets too difficult. Here are a few tips to help keep you motivated.
1. Set goals.
Start with simple goals that can be met within a week or two, and then progress to longer range goals. Remember to make your goals realistic and achievable. It's easy to get frustrated and give up if your goals are too ambitious.
For example, if you haven't exercised in a while, a short-term goal might be to walk 10 minutes a day, five days a week. An intermediate goal might be to walk 30 minutes, five days a week. A long-term goal might be to complete a 5K walk.
Or, if you’re trying to eat more vegetables, a short-term goal might be to add one vegetable to a meal this week. Then include vegetables with three meals next week, and every day the week after.
2. Make sure they’re your goals.
Make sure that the goals you set are ones that you actually want to attain. Sometimes we set goals based on habits that we think we should change instead of what we actually want to change. It’s harder to stick with goals that belong to someone else.
3. Visualize the results.
It’s important to visualize the end result of habit changes. How will your energy level change when you’re exercising and eating healthy? Think of the relief and excitement you will feel when you meet your goals, and it will fuel you on days when you’re tempted by your old habits.
4. Make it fun.
Find sports or activities that you enjoy, then vary the routine to keep it interesting. If you're not enjoying your meals, look for new recipes to try.
5. Make your new habits part of your daily routine.
Don't fall back on excuses — schedule new habits as you would any other important activity. If you plan ahead when and how you will exercise or shop for healthy foods, it will be easier to follow through.
You can also slip in physical activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk up and down sidelines while watching the kids play sports. Take a walk during a break at work. Pedal a stationary bike or do strength training exercises while you watch TV at night. If you sit for several hours a day at work, aim to take regular breaks during the day to move, such as walking to the water fountain to get a drink of water or standing during phone conversations.
6. Put it on paper.
Are you hoping to lose weight? Boost your energy? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition? Write down your long-term goals and keep them posted somewhere you will see them often. Seeing the benefits of healthier habits may help you stay motivated.
You may also find that it helps to keep a food and exercise diary. Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterward. Writing down everything that you eat and drink can keep you accountable to yourself and remind you that you're making progress.
7. Join forces with friends, neighbors or others.
You're not in this alone. Invite friends to join you when you exercise, or start a potluck lunch club with co-workers. Plan menus with your partner or other loved ones. Play soccer with your kids. If you can lean on others for support, making habit changes can be easier. You may even inspire others to make similar changes.
8. Reward yourself.
After each exercise session, take a few minutes to savor the good feelings that exercise gives you. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise. External rewards can help too — when you reach a longer range goal, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes or new tunes to enjoy while you exercise.
9. Be flexible.
If you're too busy to work out or simply don't feel up to it, take a day or two off. If you overindulge at one meal, eat healthier at the next one. Be gentle with yourself if you need a break. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can.
10. Be consistent.
Take consistent action every day towards your goals. Even if you’re not 100 percent in the mood, do one small thing to move yourself forward. Maybe you’re too tired to go to the gym — try walking around your neighborhood instead. Or if you just don’t feel like cooking that healthy meal you had planned, prepare something simple and quick instead of ordering takeout.
Now that you've got some positive ideas, get moving. Set your goals, make it fun and pat yourself on the back from time to time. Remember, physical activity and healthy eating habits are key for lifelong well-being.
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