Changing habits—whether they relate to food, exercise, sleep, or other aspects of health—can be a challenging process. But a realistic plan can help you make lasting improvements and achieve your goals.
by Vera Tweed for Nutrition
Don’t just rely on willpower, advises fitness specialist and health coach Chris Gagliardi, who mentors trainers for the American Council on Exercise. If your goal is to eat less sugar, for example, you don’t want to surround yourself with food traps—sodas and other sweet treats around the house and in your fridge.
“As the day goes by, it will be harder and harder for me to say no and eventually I may cave, especially if my workday has been stressful,” he says. Food traps are easier to avoid if they’re kept well out of sight.
To change habits in a realistic, sustainable way, Gagliardi recommends:
❶ Set a goal that’s meaningful to you; this is your “why.”
❷ To achieve a large goal, such as getting fit, break it down into steps that are manageable, but a little bit challenging. If walking for 30 minutes every day seems unrealistic and 1 minute seems too easy, perhaps aim to walk for 5 or 10 minutes daily.
❸ Introduce a new habit into an existing routine. If you eat a bowl of cereal every morning, you could do 5 push-ups against the kitchen countertop or against a wall before you eat your cereal. And give yourself a “Nicely done” after your push-ups.
❹ Keep track of your progress and what does or doesn’t work. Do more of what’s working and amend what doesn’t work.
❺ Keep an eye on your “why,” and use it to build on your successes.
“If you find that you’re doubting your ability to adhere to your change plan, remember why this is important to you,” says Gagliardi, “and what reaching this goal can do for you and your family.”