In the spirit of the new year and new decade, and in lieu of all the “new year, new you” type messaging that is rampant in January, I am sharing my top 5 tips for making sustainable lifestyle change.
In my practice, I help my clients make lasting diet and lifestyle changes, and incorporate healthy habits so that they can feel their best. I do not promote one diet, or one way of life, or even one definition of health. I help my clients figure out what their health goals are, and how they can best work towards them in a sustainable, simple way.
Diets, detoxes and cleanses are heavily promoted in January, however they often do not work to improve habits long term, and can contribute to a yo-yo-diet cycle, unhealthy relationship with food and a detachment from your own intuition about your body and your needs. They can be restrictive, prescriptive and difficult to follow long term, without taking into consideration your schedule, behaviour, personal preferences and variances of your day-to-day. Of course, if these work for you, that is totally great! Do what works for you! I am simply trying to shed light on a different way and be a voice for building healthy habits at a sustainable rate.
Over the last 6 + years of coaching, I’ve learned what works and what does not work when attempting to make a change to your lifestyle. Today I am sharing 5 starting points for building healthy habits and making a sustainable lifestyle change.
Please let me know what you think and if you find this information helpful! I really hope it is!
1. FOCUS ON YOUR “WHY?”
Why are you choosing these goals for yourself? Why do you want to make a change?
Understanding the reasons why you want to make a change is incredibly important when taking the steps to do so. Write down your “why”, and keep it front of mind, all throughout the process. If you are confronted with challenges, hurdles and choice, being able to use your “why” as motivation can be very helpful.
Ultimately, you are making a change for yourself, and your reasoning is completely your own. With nutrition, we have a lot of external messages from the media, friends, family and other practitioners, telling us what we should or should not do. I find that those who are attempting to make a change because they feel they should, are less likely to stay motivated and may even resist change or become resentful. Keep in mind that no one is forcing you to do anything! Connect to your own personal reasoning and you will likely find that making a change becomes a whole lot easier :)
2. TUNE INTO YOURSELF AND YOUR PERSONAL NEEDS
Since you are making a change for you, it has to actually work for you. For habits to form and change to be sustainable, it has to make you feel better and work within your lifestyle.
First, be realistic with your schedule and current routine. If you are a busy mom, young professional, student or work long shifts, your schedule will vary and the foods/meals that work for you will be different.
Second, make sure that the changes are actually working for you and your health. Do you feel full and satiated after all your meals? Or are you preoccupied with food and craving foods throughout the day? Do you feel energized throughout the day? Or are you tired with energy fluctuations? Do you feel your workouts are properly fuelled? Or are you struggling to make it through your regular workout routine? Does your digestion feel right? Or do you feel bloated after you eat? These are a few things to think about to make sure that the changes are actually working for you.
3. CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF AND HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
Making a change can be difficult, which is something that I think can be helpful to acknowledge. Having an accountability partner, or a system for staying accountable to yourself, can be very crucial. Decide what you want to change, or add to your lifestyle, and create a system that works for you. One system can be to keep track of change in a notebook/agenda or calendar. Another can be to have an accountability partner, which also makes things more fun!
Checking in and holding yourself accountable can be very beneficial. Let’s use a real-world example. I have a client who wanted to eat more vegetables. She knew her reasons for wanting to make this change, and we figured out a way to make this easier for her. We decided she would start with eating one serving of vegetables, twice per day. To stay accountable she added two green check marks in her agenda/calendar every day that she ate her vegetables. From there, she could check in with herself on a weekly basis and see how she did. She noticed that she ate her vegetables during the week, but often missed out on weekends. We could then figure out the reasons why (i.e. due to social engagements, change of schedule/routine, eating out at restaurants) and strategize specific ways get vegetables in on the weekend. In no time, eating vegetables regularly became a habit that they did not need to actively think about anymore. They then increased the amount of vegetables that they ate throughout the day, which also became a lot easier.
This is an example, and may seem extreme to some. Not everyone would benefit from this specific system or type of accountability, but I do encourage you to figure out a system that works for you!
4. REALISTIC AND SMALL CHANGES
Any change you make needs to be realistic, and not too large. I often create goals for my clients that are based on their current lifestyle. For instance, let’s say a goal of yours is to start eating breakfast. First, you have to make sure it is a realistic goal. Questions I would ask you would be “Do you feel hungry in the morning?” “Do you have time in the morning?”
Second, the goal has to be small enough to be doable. It is unlikely you would go from no breakfast to an elaborate breakfast every day. I would start with trying to include breakfast 1-2 days a week, ensuring you have enough time to eat breakfast, and then provide easy breakfast options that you can make in under 5 minutes. Once you got into the habit of making a few different items 1-2 days per week, we can increase the number of days that you eat breakfast and even the types of breakfast you enjoy. Whatever change you want to make, I encourage you to break it down into small, manageable and incremental goals to make sure they are doable and realistic for you.
On the topic of being realistic, I also think it is very important to be realistic about your barriers and potential hurdles. This way you can strategize appropriately and not be thrown off when they come up. I have a whole blog post on common hurdles that my clients face, and how to overcome them.
5. DO AND EAT THINGS THAT YOU ENJOY!
It is very important that when making a change, you are enjoying it. In the context of dietary changes, it is important that you are eating foods that you actually enjoy. If you are not enjoying the meals and food you are eating, and if you feel restricted, it will be very difficult to continue. Eating healthier and living a healthy lifestyle can be fun and delicious, and it is important to make sure it is!
Thank you so much for reading this post! Again, I hope you found it helpful. If you are feeling stuck and want to make a change to your diet, these tips are a good starting point. Of course, if you would like support along the way do not hesitate to reach out!!