1) Don’t make them:
If you want to make positive changes that will stick, it’s best not to treat these changes like some fad diet that will be here today and gone tomorrow. Resolve to make the changes gradual and incorporate them into your life as permanent changes. Work on these changes every day of every year (a little time off for good behavior is often times allowed), rather than for one month out of the year.
2) Set very realistic, achievable goals:
If it means only asking yourself to do 5 minutes of exercise per week, that’s fine for beginners. Keep achieving the small goals over time and then gradually increase your activity to suit your increasing strength and level of fitness. Achieve the small goals often before raising expectations. Feel proud of whatever you do rather than focusing on what you haven’t done.
3) Focus changes on what you ADD rather than what you QUIT.
One example: instead of saying “I’m going to quit sugar”, decide, instead to add more protein and fiber to your diet. As you eat more healthy sources of protein and fiber, your cravings for sugar should lessen. Eating protein and fiber along with carbohydrate-rich meals will help your body to optimally metabolize the sugar that you do eat. When we decide to quit something, as most of us know, we tend to crave that food/habit a lot more than before we decided to quit. Don’t quit, but rather, transition away from bad habits by adding healthy habits first. Gradually work towards decreasing the unhealthy habits in realistic, achievable steps.
4) Choose ONE LESS of the thing you are trying to stop.
An example: if you are trying to get away from drinking so much coffee, choose one less cup/ week. Gradually decrease it in this manner while choosing an alternative like green tea, yerba mate, herbal tea or water to take its place. Whatever your vice is, lessen your consumption/use of this thing by one per week or even one per day if you are using it very frequently. In the grand scheme of things, you probably will not notice the change away from using/eating something harmful if you do it gradually. If you are very allergic to something, this change may need to be more rapid, but slow and steady is almost always the best approach.
5) Always replace the vice or habit with a healthy alternative.
We all have known someone like this…Jane quit smoking but has taken up sucking on hard candy to replace her oral fixation. This is an example of replacing one bad habit with another. If Jane goes for a brisk walk instead of sucking on hard candy, she will be facilitating repair of her lungs and will also save money on dental bills.
6) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Don’t lose hope! If you fall out of healthy habits, re-focus and begin again. If your first approach didn’t work, it is time to get creative and identify obstacles that may need to be addressed first. An obstacle to cure is anything that is standing in your way of being well. I am happy to help identify and come up with creative solutions for overcoming tough obstacles. Resolve to take your time and make changes correctly so you don’t keep setting yourself up for failure.
7) Do it for you, not for anyone else!
You are wonderful and deserve the absolute best that life has to offer. When you make changes to please somebody else or get them to quit nagging you, you are missing the largest benefit of becoming healthy…feeling proud of yourself. The idea is to make good choices because you love and care for yourself. Making others proud will also happen when you do it for yourself. Shift your thinking and the benefits will be great.
8) When making resolutions, make sure and incorporate fun into the mix.
Chances are likely that if you enjoy whatever it is you are doing, that you will want to do it more. If healthy eating is your goal, take a fun cooking class or cook with the family. If exercise or getting fit are your goals, enroll in a dance class or walk with friends. An I-Pod made my exercise routine much more fun! Making healthy changes doesn’t have to feel like punishment. Use your creativity and make being healthy fun!
9) Don’t forget to take time off.
If you are adhering to a fairly new food plan, don’t forget to take a little time off here and there. If the time off becomes too frequent then it defeats the purpose. Taking a day or a meal off every now and then can help people stay on their programs. When we have resolved to never have or do something again, temptation is greater to have or do it again. If you know that a day off is around the corner, you might stick to the changes better. I call these scheduled breaks “informed bad decisions”. If you are severely allergic to something, you may never be able to have a scheduled day off from eating a certain way. Always weigh the potential negative responses with how often or whether you have these “informed bad decisions”. Days off should be no more frequent than once/week or once/month. Don’t take breaks in the middle of Allergy Elimination Diets as you would have to start all over from the beginning.
10) Keep a diary or journal.
Charting your success will offer tangible feedback on your progress. When you feel frustrated, go back and remind yourself of where you started. Stay focused on the improvement rather than on the distant goal.