There are so many important reasons to practice healthy habits and maintain a healthy weight. However, there are also some necessary steps to make lifestyle changes last. Here are some tips on how to be healthier this year and in years to come!
- Find Your Motivation
Whether you want to lose weight so you can play with your children more, quit smoking to lower your cancer risk, run that 5K in the spring to bring back your inner-athlete, or just improve your overall wellness to live a better life, have an idea of the why instead of just the what. Use that reasoning to inspire you on your journey. When the road gets tough, think back to what motivated you in the first place.
- Plan Ahead
Set aside 30 minutes each week to sit down and make a plan for next seven days. Schedule your workouts, make a grocery shopping list, and plan your meals. Planning ahead saves time by eliminating the guesswork throughout the week. Plus, you are more likely to stick to a plan than if you just wing it.
- Set Goals
Create SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Specific: Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. Rather than saying “I’m going be a better runner", state that you will complete the Tops 5K in August.
Measurable: How will you track your progress and how will you know you’ve reached your goal? Adding a number makes your goal measurable. For example, “I will walk 10,000 steps 5 days a week.”
Attainable: Don’t make goals that are too extreme or unrealistic. Losing large amounts of weight in a short timeframe, never eating more than 1200 calories a day, running 100 miles every single week without fail – these are all examples of unattainable goals. Set a goal that you can attain and move forward from there. Consult an expert if you are unsure what goals are within the realm of reason.
Relevant: Is the goal relevant to your life? If you don’t struggle with a sweet tooth, cutting out dessert might not be a great goal.
Time-bound: Include an end-point. Having a specific deadline motivates you to start and keeps you motivated. “I will be able to run 5 miles without stopping by November 1, 2017.”
- Write it Down
Seeing your goals and motivations on paper will be a concrete reminder of what you’re working towards. Furthermore, tracking your wellness activities will help keep you on the right path. Food journaling and an maintaing an exercise diary are great ways to achieve healthier eating and weight loss (looking closely at what you eat can be an eye-opening experience). With technology, it’s extremely easy to record your daily caloric intakes and expenditures. With the help of apps like MyFitnessPal, Lose it!, or USDA, a few clicks is all it takes. You don’t have to keep track for the rest of your life, but it may be helpful to visually see what changes need to be made for a healthier you.
- Use Reliable Resources
The internet is filled with so much information that people can be unsure as to what to believe. Find a reliable source to consult regarding nutrition. The USDA offers a number of tools and resources, or you can find a registered dietitian (RD) in your area. Refer to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics when looking for a local RD.
- Eat Breakfast Daily
You’ve heard it before…breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, it is! Some people believe skipping breakfast may help then lose weight. Not so. Skipping meals often leads to overeating later in the day. Make that first meal of the day count!
- Fill up on Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense, filled with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. Research shows that certain fruits and vegetables may possibly protect against some cancers. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Incorporate Regular Physical Activity
Take it slow at first, and then increase your time and/or intensity once you feel comfortable. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week and remember something is better than nothing. If 30 minutes is too much to do all at once, split it up throughout the day. Walk 15 minutes on your lunch break and then an additional 15 minutes later on that night. Speak with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to start an exercise plan.
- Get Support
For some, self-motivation can be difficult. That’s why having family and friends support your goals is important. Share a copy of your written goals with a trusted confidant who will help hold you accountable. Better yet, get them involved!
- Make Your Health a Priority
This is the most important tip. It may not seem possible to fit healthy eating and exercise into your hectic schedule, but if you make it a priority, you will find the time. Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier each day to make breakfast, or skip that late night TV show to prep your lunches for the week. Time can be made for the things you want.
- Don’t Give Up
Too many people give up too soon. It takes 28 days for a habit to form, so stick with it. You got this!