The Biggest Thing Holding You Back from Being Healthy
When your doctor says you should make some healthy changes to your lifestyle, the greatest challenge you face is sticking with it. That’s concerning, as preventing or treating lifestyle diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, arthritis, obesity) is a lifelong project.
How can you make a commitment to a lifestyle change and actually maintain it? In the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, researchers reported that people can adhere to healthy lifestyle changes if they avoid the pressure to make immediate, drastic changes, instead develop a routine that slowly incorporates change. Where should you start? Health experts have some great suggestions – here are 6 healthy lifestyle change commitments you can actually maintain.
How to Make a Lifestyle Change You Can Keep
Healthy Lifestyle experts agree that the most successful way to achieve a healthy lifestyle and actually maintain it, is to set small, sustainable changes. This is a strategy used by the team of health experts at the Pritikin Center, shown in over 100 research studies to be a successful program for establishing healthy lifestyles that are maintainable. No matter how many times you’ve tried to live healthier, and struggled to follow through, don’t give up! There truly are healthy lifestyle changes you can actually maintain. You can do this! But, if you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help – you don’t have to do this alone.
1. Find Your Motivation
Why is it that you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle? Having the right motivation source is a major factor in how easy it will be for you to maintain a healthy habit. Researchers found that when a person’s motivation comes from external sources, such as social pressure to be a certain body image, they are less likely to succeed. When your commitment to a healthy change is fuelled by motives that are personally valuable to you, you are more likely to be able to sustain it. For some, it’s the desire to feel better, stronger, and have more energy. Perhaps even to be able to keep up with friends on a hike, joyfully chase kids in a game of tag, or shake off that endless feeling of fatigue. For others, the motivation to adopt new healthy habits is fuelled by a desire to live a better-quality life, with a reduced need for medical care or medications with side effects. Or, perhaps a medical scare has inspired you to divert from a lifestyle that’s heading towards life-altering or ending medical complications. Choose a reason to live healthier that is personally important and it will make sustaining your commitment to a healthy lifestyle easier.
2. Ask for What You Need
You’re committed to living healthier and making good food choices. “The biggest problem to eating well is feeling uncomfortable about asking for what you need…” explains Registered Dietician Kimberly Gomer, the Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa. Speak up about your needs, whether it’s to those in your household, or when eating out. (That’s right! Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean you never eat out again – you can successfully dine out if you speak up for what you need.) Depending on what your goals are, that might mean to ask for no salt, oil, or butter on your meal. It’s easier to stay committed to your healthy lifestyle choices when you ask for what you need. Speak up! Your health is worth it.
3. Plan for It
It’s much easier to make a lifestyle change and maintain it if you have a well structured plan. “Having a plan is the key to success,” notes Kimberly. When you know what you need to reach your health goals, you have a plan. When you have a plan, it is easier to avoid situations that are hard to navigate, such as moments when you’re so hungry, making a healthy choice is nearly impossible. Plan ahead: create your grocery list so you have the ingredients for your meals organized; order your meal well ahead of that dinner-time hunger; ask for what you need; schedule your day to include rest and exercise. With a plan in hand, you can create a routine that allows time and space for you to maintain those healthy lifestyle changes you’re committed to making, say scientists. When researchers observe various lifestyles, it was evident that those who engage in routine (eat the same foods, engage in consistent exercise, and do not skip meals), are healthier and more successful at weight loss.
4. Rest More Often
Just like a muscle, you can lose the strength to self-regulate your emotions and behaviors when you push too hard, for too long. When you spend too much energy on work tasks without allowing yourself sufficient rest you can lose focus, become more impulsive, and make poorer decisions, which adversely affects your job performance, personal relationships, and overall quality of life. “Excessive work without periods of recuperation and opportunities to engage in rewarding activities can lead to burnout or the development of mental health disorders such as depression,” explains Dr. Scott Hyman, Psychologist and Educator at the Pritikin Center. It can start simple: practice deep breathing when you start to feel overwhelmed, schedule an outdoor walk as a meeting in your daily calendar, and establish consistent non-work hours within which you can engage in rewarding activities (family time, cooking, physical activity, hobbies). When you rest more often, you feel better. Plus, with time scheduled into your routine for healthy lifestyle habits, you’ll find it easier to maintain your commitment to living better.
5. Daily Mini-Exercises
Even while lying on the floor watching your favorite show at night or watching the news in the morning, you can fit in daily exercises, such as simple core strength, flexibility, and mobility exercises. It’ll do wonders for any joint or back pain you may have, helping you be able to enjoy activities you love with greater ease and freedom of movement. It’s easier to stick with your commitment to be more active when it doesn’t hurt. “Working through pain leads to poor form and exercise execution and in the end, only leads to serious and chronic injury and pain. It’s important to ease into exercise slowly, and to heal, strengthen, and stretch,” explains Carol B. Espel, MS, Director of Fitness at the Pritikin Center for Longevity in Miami. You can work with Carol, who was named “Fitness Director of the Year” by the World IDEA Health & Fitness Association, and other supportive, passionate, and fun exercise experts at the Pritikin Center, and discover how to move without pain and regain your strength. When movement feels easy, it becomes fun to be active.
6. Reach Out
The most important driver in long-term weight loss was a strong relationship with a healthcare provider, reported the British Medical Journal. It’s easier to make lifestyle changes that you can actually maintain when you have a supportive network of experts to help you make goals that are attainable. You can feel better and live healthier. Reach out to healthy lifestyle professionals who are renowned for being supportive, leadingexperts.
“It has been such an amazing journey. I’ve lost weight, I feel stronger! …to see the results so quickly…it’s such a difference. I really enjoy this environment – it’s super, super supportive!” – Taylor, Pritikin Guest
You can feel better and live healthier. Pritikin is here to help, offering a variety of programs, at the Center, in Miami, Florida, and back at home. This is your chance to build an even better life.
- The importance of creating habits and routine. Am J Lifestyle Med 2019 Mar-Apr; 13(2): 142-144.
- Drivers for successful long-term lifestyle change, the role of e-health: a qualitative interview study. BMJ Open 2018; 8(3): e017466.
- Initiation and maintenance of lifestyle changes among participants in a healthy life center: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health 2020; 20:1006.