Did you set a health and fitness goal for 2017 that included improving your diet or losing weight? You're in good company. Every year, millions kick off the New Year with resolutions to eat more healthfully, exercise regularly, and ditch extra pounds.
It’s an unfortunate fact, though, that the majority of these well-intentioned people have abandoned those goals by now.
There is a sliver of individuals who do succeed, though, not just with fad diets for fast short-term weight loss, but in building lasting healthy habits and sustaining weight management. Who are these people and what is the secret sauce?
From my health coaching practice, I've identified five key steps that lead to success in adapting a healthful diet with lasting results:
1. Set a BIG goal and articulate why you want to achieve it.
By naming that thing you are working toward, you make it real. Identifying the “why” behind your goal is important to keep you motivated. Do you hope to lose weight so you can complete a 5K? Do you want to be fit and active well in to old age? Do you have a family history of heart disease that you want to avoid? Identify your motivation!
2. Shout your goal from the rooftops.
Your internal motivation is important, but by telling others about your goal, you create external accountability, a huge factor in goal achievement. Hopefully you’ll also generate some cheerleaders to support you along the way. But if you keep it a secret, you've got a quiet escape hatch to abandon your goal at any time. I’ve worked with men and women who don’t want to burden their partners, families or friends with the changes that they want to make. So instead of drafting their support, these clients create challenges for themselves as loved ones unknowingly engage in behaviors that counter their goals. For example, friends may give food gifts (here’s a bag of those cookies you love!), or suggest going out to favorite restaurants where it’s tough to make a healthy choice. Frustrated without a support network, these are frequently my clients who abandon or lower their goals.
3. Honestly assess the habits and environmental triggers that are obstacles to achieving your goal.
Assessing your daily behaviors with brutal honesty can provide some uncomfortable truths: Your beloved daily sugary coffee drinks, your twice-weekly happy hour, the over-indulgent weekly date night with your partner, a consistent habit of late-night snacking, or frequent lunches at your favorite takeout spot could all be preventing you from achieving your fitness goal. Only once you’ve honestly identified these habits can you begin the next step…
4. Create many small actionable behaviors in support of the BIG goal.
Once you’ve identified that BIG goal, and assessed the habits that hold you back, it’s time to identify positive behaviors and actions you can adopt to make progress toward your goal. For example, you may decide to replace that giant coffee drink with a black coffee or plain herbal tea, reserving that special drink for once a month. Committing to bringing lunch every day and including at least one vegetable could make a tremendous difference if you typically rely on takeout. Or you may make a conscious decision to take out your yoga mat in the evening and do some gentle stretching in place of that evening snacking. Small, measurable actions accumulated over time result in a serious lifestyle overhaul.
5. Seek out expert guidance.
The internet is rife with misinformation and multi-level marketing schemes promoting supplements, shakes and get-fit-quick schemes. Your friends and their friends’ friends are full of advice that may or may not be scientifically based. If you’re not sure where to begin to adopt a healthier lifestyle, engage the support of an expert. And if an “expert” makes too-good-to-be-true claims, or makes far-out promises about results, keep looking for another expert .
Ready to take the next step and reach your health goals?
Join us for our new Eating for Wellness program starting in March! Certified Health Coach Lauren Shafer will lead a 4 week session that will allow you to create practical habits for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, set realistic goals and learn how to effectively manage stress.
About the Author: Lauren Shafer
Lauren is a certified Health Coach who helps busy Baltimoreans articulate their health + wellness goals, and make measurable, sustainable diet and lifestyle changes for lasting transformation. Though she would never be described as athletic in her youth, Lauren started running as an adult, begrudgingly at first, until she discovered she actually enjoyed it. Now an 9-time marathoner and 3-time ultra-marathoner, you’ll frequently find Lauren running on roads and trails with her husband John and dog Osita.