Making Lifestyle Changes That Stick

If lifestyle change were easy, we’d all be broccoli-eating, gym-going, money-saving masters. In reality, we’re all humans living in a complex world and doing the best we can.

As you make new year’s resolutions, consider that you will stumble. You might be on a roll with your new habit and then life happens. You’re thrown off your game when you get sick, travel, or tempted by Mom’s amazing carrot cake. No big deal! The best remedy is to pick it back up as quickly as possible.

Some goal-setting strategies could help make your dreams a reality.

  1. Be specific

Think about what you’re trying to accomplish and the steps necessary. So, a vague idea like “eat better” could become I will eat fewer processed foods. Some steps might include setting up a Pinterest board of recipes, writing some weekly meal plans, or taking a cooking class.

  1. Get started

One fatal flaw in goal setting is getting bogged down by planning steps. An example is someone who wants to workout but doesn’t feel they can start until they have the perfect home gym set up. They could start with some calisthenics and a YouTube yoga flow. One way to hold yourself accountable is with numbers. I will focus on eating fewer processed foods. To do this, I will cook at home three days a week. Just get started with the equipment and skills you have.

  1. Be reasonable

Now, your goal has to fit in your life. You’re more likely to be successful if you pick one goal at a time. Most people aren’t going to be successful going from not cooking at all to cooking every meal from scratch. Also remember to give yourself some grace. Some weeks you might slip into old patterns.  You’re not a failure. Recognize it as an opportunity to anticipate barriers.

I will focus on eating fewer processed foods. To do this, I will try to cook at home three days a week. I will also make meals to freeze for busy weeks.

  1. Make it personal

Goals have to be meaningful for you. It helps to think about what you hope to get out of the new behavior. If it’s a more nutritious diet you’re after, maybe eating more salads and fruit is what you’re after rather than cooking. Adjust your goals as needed. This isn’t a competition. It’s your life!

I will focus on getting more vitamins and minerals in my diet. To do this, I will try to include fruits and vegetables in the meals I make at home. I will also make meals to freeze for busy weeks.

  1. Set yourself up for success

You have a lifetime of default behaviors you’re trying to overcome here, so it’s likely your environment is set up for your previous lifestyle. Take a look around and see what needs changing. It could be clearing the processed food from your cupboards or shifting your usual commute, so you aren’t tempted with a fast-food stop.

Social support also aids behavior change. Include the people you spend time with in your plans. Your colleagues might be happy to hit a salad bar with you at lunch. Your housemates might be down for taking turns cooking. Your friends might be game for a walk around the lake instead of catching up at the bar. Your habits could inspire others.

Remember, unlike a goal of running a marathon, there’s no finish line to lifestyle change. It also takes time (some say 21 days, others 66 days) for a new habit to stick. So keep at it.

Image by GeorgeRudy

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Candace Nelson

In the mountains or water debate, Candace Nelson chooses water every time. She is a Master of Science in Nutrition student and loves taking any fitness class that makes her forget she's working out. Read more at candacenelson.net