1. Find your motivation
We all have goals, whether it’s exercising more or improving our diet. The important thing is figuring out why we want these things. “It takes a little bit of soul-searching,” says Robin Anderson, a registered dietitian at Revive Wellness Inc. in Edmonton. “I get people to look at the bigger picture: If you were to change your lifestyle, what would it look like? What’s important to you? Change is hard. There’s got to be something in it for people, otherwise we just get busy and we don’t do it.”
It’s also critical to find your own reasons for change, not your spouse’s or your doctor’s. “If you’re doing it because you should, not because you want to, the chances of success aren’t that great,” says Anderson.
2. Don’t change everything at once
Write down your goals, then come up with ways to reach them. Pick an idea that you’re confident you can do. When you’ve achieved it, add another from your list. This slow, steady approach builds long-lasting change. “Don’t do anything, especially when it comes to weight loss, that you’re not prepared to do for the rest of your life,” says Anderson. “Otherwise, it won’t be sustainable.”
Timing matters. Don’t attempt a lifestyle change when you’re already under stress. Wait until you can devote your time and attention to it.
3. Find your cheerleaders
A support system will help you stick to your goals. Ask important people in your life for their help. If you want to stop snacking before bedtime, for example, ask your family not to break out the chips when you’re watching TV together. Whatever it is, be specific. “Don’t just say, “Can you help me,” because your family members won’t have a clue what that looks like,” says Anderson. If they’re unwilling to help, find support elsewhere. Recruit a fitness buddy, start a walking club at work, or hire a dietitian or personal trainer.
When life gets busy, it’s easy to forget the changes you’ve made. Record your accomplishments in a journal. When you reach a goal, give yourself a small reward. “If you’re trying to change your eating habits, I wouldn’t choose food, but absolutely a reward is a great thing,” says Anderson.
5. Learn from your setbacks
Don’t beat yourself up for having that extra slice of pie…you’re human. “Don’t take it personally. It’s not a flaw in the person,” says Anderson. She encourages clients to learn from each lapse and come up with a strategy to succeed next time.