Create a Lifestyle that will Change You
Written by Joleen Wilson, RD/LD, CNSC, CBIS, Dietitian for Pathway to Eating Disorders Treatment at Brookhaven Hospital
With Spring in full swing and Summer right around the corner, many may have lost sight of their “New Year’s Resolution”, which often involves lifestyle changes that produce weight loss or that get us in the gym more often. People commonly lose weight on all kinds of diets and fitness regimens, but maintaining weight loss for the long term is less common. Most are too restrictive to be applied to all of life’s situations and people generally “fall off the band wagon” within 6 months.
The key to long-lasting lifestyle changes is to start small. After you’ve identified realistic short- and long-term goals, break down your goals into small, manageable steps. Is your long term goal to lose 20 pounds within the next five months? A good weekly goal would be to lose one pound per week. Healthy weight loss that can be sustained is generally 1-2 pounds of weight loss/week. This is important because it allows for maximum fat loss with minimal muscle loss (which helps the metabolism from decreasing). It is also important to start small when it comes to exercise. If you suddenly commit to walking 30 minutes a day and lifting weights three times per week, you will likely be sore for longer than you will stick with your exercise routine! If you need to, start with just 5 minutes per day and gradually work your way up to 20 or 30 minutes most days of the week.
The next important point is to change only one thing at a time. So many folks will start eating healthy AND exercising 5 days a week all at once. This is a recipe for disaster if you’re not acclimated to this disciplined routine. It takes a lot of effort to make a lifestyle change, and the more gradual you do it, the easier it is to make it a habit. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones also requires time. As new behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change you’re striving for.
Involve a buddy. Whether it be a friend, co-worker, or family member, having someone else on your journey will keep you motivated and accountable. It’s easy to talk yourself out of going to the gym, but it’s harder to skip it when you have someone depending on you to be there.
You will also need to identify areas in your daily routine that keep you from meeting your goals. For example, if the only time you have to go to the gym during the week is in the morning before work, then you will have to make some adjustments. Make going to bed earlier a priority so you are not too tired to get up the next morning. Keep your exercise clothes by your bed so that, when you get up, the first thing you do is put on your workout clothes. This way, you are one step closer to getting your morning workout in.
When you meet some of your short or long term goals, you need to identify rewards that do not involve food or eating. Maybe you can visit a nature trail in your area that you have wanted to see or go visit a relative that you have been meaning to catch up with. Making the changes that you want takes time and commitment, but you can do it. Just remember that no one is perfect. You will have occasional lapses. Be kind to yourself. When you eat three brownies or skip the gym for a few days, don’t give up. Minor missteps on the road to your goals are normal and okay. Resolve to regroup and get back on track. The season of Spring encourages a time of renewal for our goals. We can create our own fresh start!