Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Healthy Habits Stick

Most of us start eating right and working out with the greatest enthusiasm in the world. And then, a few weeks later, it starts to dwindle, and we’re back where we started. So how exactly can we stick to the plan, and not completely fall out of love with our fitness goals? Here are a few steps you can follow:

Do it slowly: Don’t go into exercise with the “Lose 20 pounds in 30 days” mindset. You would tend to over-work your muscles and simply connect exercise to pain. If you start slowly, and work your way up, your tolerance increases, and the desire to out-do yourself might actually work in your favour.
Set the tone of your relationship with food: When you first start dieting or exercising, realize that it is a lifestyle change. This does not mean that food will not tempt you. So you may have to vary some of your routes to stay away from that doughnut shop. Or change your hang out location (though they serve the best endless martinis). Do this early on or you’ll find yourself not cutting out things you intended to avoid.
Motivate yourself: Sometimes, you feel more motivated when you say things like “I am excited to work out with my new buddy today” rather than “Ugh, I have to go the gym”. Our words affect our mindset. So start referring to your nutrition and exercise in a positive way, and increase your enthusiasm.
Make a plan: This is like my motto. Always make a nutrition and exercise plan. If you have a workout schedule, or you plan your lunch meal before you go into work, there is a higher chance you’d actually stick to it.
Kill the cravings: When we have cravings, it’s usually not that we need that particular food. It really is that we need the high that food gives us. Remind yourself the pleasure from the food is temporary. Exercise also makes us feel good, and may release hormones that control appetite. So it may be a good idea to take a walk or hit the treadmill when you have a bad craving. This way, you also don’t get the depression afterwards. However, don’t totally deprive yourself of all treats you like. Sometimes, it may be good to have a little bit of what you’re craving. For example, if you have the willpower, you can buy some candy, take a bite or two, and throw the rest away.
Build fitness accountability: It may be helpful to have someone you can call when you’re desperately craving that red velvet cake. Or just have someone who understands your fitness goals, and can give you advice when you need it. Fit friends can also increase competition, which can in turn help you stick to your fitness strategy.
Keep a diary: Okay, this does not have to be a literal diary. If you do not like to write, you can keep tags at points in your life that you remember. Remember what you usually ate for lunch and your exercise routine today, and then in a couple of months, compare it to where you will be then. You can also compare your weight, size, muscle tone, etc. When you notice the progress you have made, it gives you the drive to move forward.

Again, I’ll reinforce what I think is most important on this list. Make a plan!

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