Embarking on a healthy lifestyle is not easy, and it can seem a bit daunting. All too often, we find ourselves on the hunt for that perfect, quick, and easy new diet or workout regimen. We want results in the shortest amount of time possible. Then finally, we find it— that “perfect plan.” It guarantees success within a matter of days with little effort and maximum results. Months later, we find ourselves defeated and on the search, yet again, for the next best “perfect plan.” Does this sound familiar?
This battle stems from an unrealistic approach to reaching your goals— and it is called dieting. Can you follow a diet that is low in carbohydrates, fats, or sweets for the rest of your life? Absolutely not! Or, can you follow a new diet or workout routine that limits your nutritional intake, makes you spend countless hours in the gym, and possibly causes you to miss out on your Aunt Betty’s famous apple pie? For a few weeks, maybe you can make these sacrifices, but by no means is this a realistic or fun way to live the rest of your life.
We find success not from following a particular diet, but from finding ways to make healthy living a part of our everyday lives. It is about using the proper tools that can be easily implemented into your life without making you feel restricted and overwhelmed. Healthy living becomes a lifestyle when you understand what you want and can create habits that are manageable for the long-term benefits— habits that can be realistically maintained for the next 10, 20, 30 years.
What’s a Lifestyle?
Our first priority is to understand what a lifestyle is. A lifestyle is the way someone chooses to live his or her life. Do you want a sedentary lifestyle, or a life full of energy and longevity? Day in and day out, the choices you make create your lifestyle.
Making a lifestyle out of healthy living can be a fun and exciting journey. Rather than seeing this as a daunting task, get excited that you are the one who creates the life that you want to live. You are in control and have all the power to make changes. Once you acknowledge that you want to make a lifestyle change, you also have to acknowledge that you have 100 percent complete control. How powerful is that? Your new lifestyle should be one that is easy to follow, gives you flexibility, and most of all, one that you can stick to. In creating your new lifestyle, it is all about creating habits. When you do something day in and day out without consciously thinking about it, you have created a habit. Brushing your teeth, making the bed, combing your hair— these are all habits we have created and do without much thought. You can choose to eat oatmeal or Lucky Charms for breakfast. How you choose to live your life is up to you. Once you create new habits and are consistent with them, your efforts become a way of life and not something you have to think about. If you get up every morning and opt for a bowl of oatmeal, before you know it, your day-in and day-out efforts have led you to eating oatmeal without thinking about it. You have created lifestyle changes when there isn’t any conscious thought going into your daily routine.
Learning How to Change
The hardest part is learning how to change your behavioral and subconscious habits and patterns. There are many ways to introduce new habits into your life and make a fun and exciting lifestyle. However, it is best to make this a gradual and fun process. The key to long-term success is being realistic with yourself and incorporating changes slowly but steadily. Baby steps— it is all about taking those small steps and making small changes that will all add up to huge results. Perhaps you make a change every week to your nutrition or workout program. For example, instead of going from Lucky Charms to plain oatmeal, maybe you start slowly by changing your cereal to a higher fiber, lower sugar option. If that is too much, start by doing half Lucky Charms and half a healthier version. Little by little, you can phase out the Lucky Charms and before you know it, you will be completely satisfied with your oatmeal and berries for breakfast.
You see, it is not about being unrealistic and going from zero to 100 overnight, but rather steadily, over time. Small changes are more manageable, realistic, and will ensure long-term success. The battles people face often stem from the fact that they are trying to change too much too soon, in hopes for the quickest results possible. This can be overwhelming, as well as extremely frustrating. Making healthy living a lifestyle means taking your time to incorporate healthy nutritional and exercise habits into your daily life gradually.
Establish S.M.A.R.T Goals
As you are working hard to create your new lifestyle, it is imperative to establish S.M.A.R.T goals. S.M.A.R.T goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Goals will keep you on track and focused on where you are going.
Setting up short- and long-term goals will keep you moving forward and committed to your new regimen. Just as important as long-term goals, short-term goals serve a very important purpose. If you have a goal that is too far away, you may lose momentum and feel as if you will never get there. Having mini milestones makes your goals seem realistic and provides you with little triumphs along the way. When your goals seem within your reach, it is easier to get started. A mini S.M.A.R.T. goal may be to exercise for 20 minutes, 5 times a week. This seems realistic, right? It’s much more doable than telling yourself you need to exercise 1 hour a day, every day. Once you have this goal in motion, you will gain momentum, and that is all it takes. There is something called a “flywheel effect.” Imagine a massive, heavy flywheel. The flywheel represents this new lifestyle you are trying to create. It is your goal to get this massive disk in motion, but how? That initial day of your committed 20-minute exercise goal is all it takes to get that flywheel in motion. After several days of exercise, that flywheel is in full effect and the momentum keeps building upon each exercise session. At first, getting to the gym may have felt like a difficult task, but as you get the flywheel in motion, you will feel like something is missing if you don’t go to the gym. All you have to do is set your mind to what it is you want, create goals, and put your flywheel into action. Day-in and day-out efforts will make healthy living a lifestyle!
As you continue on your journey and create your new lifestyle, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as failing. There will be barriers along the way, but each barrier is an opportunity to learn and grow. If you understand that things do and will come up, you will be able to handle them and move forward. Let’s say you have been on a roll, making clean and healthy food choices. You are so proud of yourself because you have been so committed, getting in your 20 minutes of exercise a day. Suddenly, you are on your way to the gym when your car breaks down. Bummer, you miss your gym time and are stuck on the side of the road! Rather than feeling like a failure, understand that it is part of life; things happen. As long as you are consistent in your efforts and continue the next day, you are right on track. Making healthy living a lifestyle means embracing things that come up, dealing with them as best you can, and moving forward the next day. When you create your healthy habits, it is much easier to jump right back on track because it has become your way of life without conscious effort. As you strive to change your life, you must stay positive and not be afraid to fail. Having a positive attitude and embracing the challenges that come are all parts of making healthy living a way of life.
You’re in Control
Once you decide to embrace healthy behaviors, you will see how realistic your approach can be. Take it one step at a time, gradually making changes and creating habits that are going to work for you. Creating a lifestyle means adding to your life rather than taking away from it. Rather than letting the latest diet or that “perfect plan” restrict you from the things you love, create healthy habits that work into your life and allow you to make healthy living a way of life. When you see that you are in control of creating new habits, forming this new lifestyle will no longer be a struggle. You will no longer have to force or motivate yourself to take action, because your habits are a part of your life and your flywheel will be in motion.
Start today by thinking about what lifestyle you want to live. Slowly start incorporating changes that over time will become habits. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals to stay focused and be consistent with your efforts. Before you know it, you have created your realistic “perfect plan” that makes healthy living a lifestyle and a realistic part of your everyday life!