Trying to live healthy is hard, having to do it because of health reasons makes it a bigger challenge. You have to think about diet changes, exercise regimes, and focus on your health issues at the same time. All the moving parts can seem overwhelming and leave you lost and feeling defeated before you even start. Where do you even start?
Why Diets Fail
Those are just the starting places, the important part is being able to maintain it. Unfortunately, we are taught to get healthy, we need to diet. Most diets have an 80% fail rate and people who are on them usually end up putting about half the weight they lost, back on. So how do you fix this to ensure you can live a healthier life?
It is a common New Year Resolution tradition to start diets, but by February most people start to lose motivation to continue the diet. Most diets are utilized as a temporary means of losing weight. The truth is that most diets are considered to be “Fad Diets” are not not recommended for long term use. Add to it that emotions factor into our eating habits, when stress kicks in we tend to fall back to bad habits. Diets do not often address portion control or what foods may be contributing to weight gain.
When a doctor tells you that you need to make changes to your diet, you probably are resistant to that change because you feel like you are losing the things you like. I know I feel that way. Being told you can no longer go to restaurants you have enjoyed, stop eating your favorite foods, no longer drink what you love to drink, and having to start exercising when you haven’t before, automatically puts you into a resistant state of mind. It may work for a while, but you start thinking about the things you used to do and your willpower starts to diminish. Before you know it, you are back to your old habits.
A Change of Lifestyle
The stats are there, if you are trying to change our life for the better then dieting is not the way to go. You typically end up back where you started or worse. The key is you are talking about your life and that requires changes to your lifestyle and the way you think about it. You are probably asking how is that different than just a diet? Or how do I do that?
It’s about lifestyle, plan and simple. If you want to affect lasting and real change in your life, you have to change how you look at it. A healthy lifestyle includes your diet (what you eat) and exercise, it also includes things we often overlook. We also have to look at psychological factors like anger, depression, isolation, and loneliness. Emotional and social health are vastly important to our overall well being. The more we study health and mental issues, we start to see that we self medicate when we have intense feelings. This form of self medication can turn into habits or addictions.
To change your lifestyle you need to find ways to incorporate the changes more naturally into your life. With exercise, you should have three to five hours of moderate physical activity a week. This seems boring on the surface and a big change from what you always do. So, how do you change it? One way is to get in a walk wherever you can. On a lunch break? How about walking for fifteen minutes? Or you could get a couple friends together for a nice brisk walk around the neighborhood. This gives you a sense of comradery and a chance to talk and have fun getting in your exercise.
Changing your diet? You can host a dinner party with new healthy recipes to try and share with friends. Also you can do joint meal prep on the weekends. This gives you a chance to bond with your partner while you both make more healthy meals for the week. This also makes eating healthy a lot more easy.
The emotional side can be a bit more tricky. Having people around you that are supportive of your changes is important. That gives you encouragement to keep working towards your best self. Seek out a counselor or someone you can talk to when you are having struggles. This can be your partner. Having them be a part of your support network is crucial for your progress.
The most important part of this is that you want to do it. You have to make it meaningful and pleasurable. How do you do that, you might ask? One way is to get past using labels like “good” and “bad” to describe behaviors, food, or whatever. These labels are scare tactics and only reinforce guilt and shame. Those two emotions are the biggest reason people fail diets. They slip up, have a bad day/week, eat foods they weren’t supposed to, or put on a couple pounds, so they feel they have lost. That creates shame for not being able to follow your plan and then you feel guilty because you let yourself down. Then you just give up.
The only way you are going to make these changes, in your life, is if you want and enjoy them. So you slip up, big deal. That doesn’t mean you failed at your goal, you only had an obstacle. You have to choose to pick yourself up and move forwards or throw your hands in the air and stop. It is hard believe me, even having to do it for health reasons does not make it any less of a struggle.
Ten Ways To Make Lifestyle Changes
Here are ten ways you can start to make meaningful changes in your life.
1. Focus on healthy lifestyle changes
Depriving yourself of calories isn’t the healthiest way to manage your weight. There are other things like exercising regularly, getting a good night’s sleep, and managing stress. Did you know that when your stress over things your body produces a substance called cortisol. Cortisol triggers the body to want more carbs. Carbs add to weight gain. Find ways to reduce your stress – walking or meditating can be helpful.
2. Set realistic, achievable goals
There is nothing more frustrating to trying to get healthy than setting an unrealistic goal that you cannot achieve. You automatically see yourself as a failure and give up. Reduce the possibility of disappointment by setting a goal like losing 1 – 3 pounds per week.
3. Set a goal that has nothing to do with weight
When all you do is focus on losing weight, you only stress yourself out more. Maybe you have a favorite pair of jeans you haven’t been able to wear, make it your focus to get into them. If that is too close to weight loss, try something different. Maybe you get winded walking short distances and you want to improve that. Taking longer walks will help with that.
4. Create daily structured activities and exercise
The more a habit becomes part of our routine, the easier it is to keep it going. Maybe decide to exercise when you get up in the morning. You can start by laying our your exercise outfit the night before to solidify that practice in your mind.
5. Make eating healthy a daily thing
No matter what diet change you want to make, like the Mediterranean diet, there are lists of foods and recipes that you can use. Don’t get stuck in a routine of the same meal type each day, change it up so it becomes a fun daily change. The more often you invite change into your meal plan, the easier it will be to stick with it.
6. Be sure to adopt habits you can keep
Before you start any change, think about what changes you would be comfortable keeping as a part of your new lifestyle. The biggest issue with “fad diets” is that they aren’t sustainable for most people. Eating only an X number of calories and food types creates a negative stigma and will force you away from it. One way to work up to the change is to plan healthy whole food ideas and work in smaller portions of your favorites. Even if that means a cheat night or two.
7. Adopt new habits slowly
Making changes to get healthy can be exciting at first. You want to jump into so many things to make those changes as quick as possible. Often this sets us up for failure because it is a lot to take in at once. One that worked for me was to start eating what my boyfriend did whenever we had dinner date nights. This way I was exposed to a healthier way of eating and also realized that it wasn’t a vast departure from how I ate. As I got more comfortable with it, I was able to start eating vegetarian more often. Then you can move on to something else.
8. Enlist support from family and friends
Of all the changes you can do to make sure you succeed in your goal, this by far is the most important. Having someone who supports your desire for change and doesn’t try to coerce you into going against it is crucial for success. I cannot stress how important it has been for my transition to a different way of eating. Now, it is also helping me in moving to adding exercise to my change. They don’t have to be a part of your changes, but being supportive is important.
9. Stock your kitchen with food you need to get started
Okay, this is as important as having a support system. If you do not have enough food to make the meal changes you are planning or to compensate for snacks throughout the day, you are only setting yourself up for a problem. Not to mention you cannot cook healthy if you do not have the ingredients.
10. Set a specific start date
“Best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” – Robert Burns To a mouse. You can plan out what you are going to do as much as you want, but if you don’t start it you will never succeed. There is no better time than the present to start. Mark it on your calendar, set a reminder, or buy big flashy neon with the day, whatever you need to do to make it official. Then just do it, to quote Nike,
Change Is Hard
I have been blessed with having someone who is an immense amount of support in my healthy lifestyle changes. He has eaten a vegetarian diet for a large part of his life and is well versed in how to cook and make meals that are healthy. But that is only one small step in the change.
Becoming a more healthy person is an active lifestyle change and forces us to change how we think about food. It is a given that healthy food is never going to be the same as unhealthy. Nothing tastes like a hamburger, pizza, or even a Pepsi and trying to look at healthy foods as a replacement for them has caused a lot of my failures. You have to change how you view those changes.
It is going to be hard, expect that. You will have weakness and have to accept that, as well. It’s all in how you handle it. So what if you slip up and have Taco Bell for dinner one night, you can still get right back on your plan. If you miss one day of exercise, it doesn’t ruin what you have done and you can go right back to it. We haven’t to stop looking at it as a punishment or an all or nothing thing. It’s about quality of life and adopting a health minded approach to life. Support, love, forgiveness, and a desire to change is all that is needed. The rest is attainable.