Exercise everyday and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Although we know what we need to do to achieve optimal health, without a plan it is easy to practice old habits. If you’re like me, every new year brings this immense desire to lose weight, workout more and eat more nutritious meals. By March, I’ve abandoned my new found ideas of health for a familiar lifestyle of poor eating habits and little to no exercise. In 2016, I can say that I have taken a more proactive approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I have developed a realistic plan that fits my daily routine, making small changes along the way. These small changes will evolve into a complete transformation that I can sustain on a long term basis. Here are 5 tips that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle for a lifetime.
Develop a realistic plan that fits your lifestyle, not someone else’s. Write down a plan that gives you an extended period of time to complete. Unless you are in a dire health emergency that requires immediate and severe changes, you have time to replace poor habits with ones that will improve your health. I am giving myself a year to transition to a vegan lifestyle. I started by adding two to three vegan dishes a week to my menu. Instead of becoming an overnight vegan, I am giving myself time to do adequate research and learn new dishes. I am being realistic about what works for me and fits my daily routine. I have 2 kids that I cook for so making dishes they will eat is important. Make sure your written plan fits your lifestyle and involves gradual progress rather than overnight success.
Take baby steps. This is a tip that can be taken literally and figuratively. If you never workout, making a plan to go to the gym an hour every day will turn into another failed attempt to exercise more. Instead, look at your current routine and find creative ways to add exercise to it. For example, if you drive to work, park your car farther out so you can walk a longer distance to your office. You can also do this on weekend shopping trips or other places you frequent. Eventually, your mind and body will get used to walking longer distances, making it easier to add cardio activities to your routine.
Make a public declaration. No, this does not entail holding a press conference to announce your new health plan. It does require you to tell others what you plan to do to reverse old habits. Having others know may hold you more accountable. Friends and family may check to see how you’re doing. They may request details on your progress. It may also inspire someone to evaluate their current lifestyle.
Get an accountability partner. This is someone who is more experienced than you at maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Maybe it is a personal trainer, a health conscious friend or a workout partner. Find someone who will hold you accountable by asking questions, encouraging you when you want to give up and celebrating victories with you. Don’t walk alone.
Celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t eat an entire chocolate cake by yourself, but give yourself a proverbial pat on the back to celebrate your accomplishments, big or small. If you are exercising more, pamper yourself with a spa treatment. If you are eating less sugar, reward yourself with your favorite dessert. Acknowledge and celebrate your progress. It will give you something to look forward to every time you reach a milestone. You deserve it.
It is easy to say eat more vegetables, exercise 30 minutes a day and cut out sugar. If you’re not used to doing these things on a regular basis, they can cease over time. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by gradually incorporating new habits into your daily routine. Take it one step at a time. You’ll get there.
This article was originally written for Walker’s Legacy by Vonna Matthews.