Healthy Habits: 5 Ways to Make Them Stick
Start off the year with a mental refresh
As you replace last year’s calendar with a 2016 edition, you may want to do a mental refresh as well. Here are five tips to start off the year with a clear head.
1. Block Anxiety
While organizing your life and overhauling your diet to achieve healthy goals is a good thing, it can cause a lot of stress, says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a diabetes lifestyle expert for digital health company Livongo Health. The best way to kick that stress? Plan ahead. “The biggest tip I have is to be prepared,” says Smithson. Try this: Pick a night to plan a menu of meals for the week. Then post a shopping list and a menu on the refrigerator so the whole family knows what’s for dinner.
2. Think Small
Tackling one small goal before moving to the next is a great way to break old habits, says Smithson. If you work on a small goal for several days to a week, you are more likely to achieve it than if you bite off more than you can chew in the beginning. So instead of going on a strict diet, consider simply replacing one can of soda with a glass of water daily. Working with a diabetes educator can be helpful to inspire ideas for setting small goals and keep you accountable as you’re shifting from your old habits to new.
3. Get Motivated
Feeling ho-hum about your goals? Try this trick, from Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, a Yorktown, Virginia–based nutrition consultant and author of The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition: Simple Steps You Can Take to Eat Well, Reduce Stress, and Improve Your Health. Collect inspirational quotes, magazine articles, photographs, and thoughts that you’ve jotted down. Stash them in a box, paste them to a poster board, collect them in a Microsoft Word document, or organize them with an online tool such as Pinterest. “One of my patients, who did it as a Word document, looks at it every single night before going to bed and edits a little bit,” she says. “That’s how she stays motivated.”
4. Set an End Goal
Beat burnout by keeping your eyes on the prize. Weisenberger finds it helpful to write out what it means to be your ideal self. For instance, someone might say, “I want to be somebody who is strong and lean and physically active,” she says. “Or I want to be healthy enough to watch my [grandchildren] get married.” Once you write it down, you can keep it on your refrigerator and read it aloud when you need a little extra motivation.
5. Watch Your Words
Reaching your goal is hard work, so go easy on yourself. “Start with listening to the words you say about yourself and then ask if that’s the type of thing that you would ever say to somebody else,” says Weisenberger. From there, consider how you can turn negatives into self-empowering positives. “I can’t eat it” sounds a lot like deprivation, doesn’t it? “I choose not to eat it,” on the other hand, takes the power away from your diet and gives it back to you. Then, if you slip up on your diet plan, don’t beat yourself up. Always ask yourself: “Do [your words] nurture? Or do they push you back?” she says. “Do they empower you? Or do they inhibit your success?”