Often times many of us have the best intentions of reaching a certain health goal. But unfortunately, for some, these intentions never lift off the ground long enough to be anything more than wishful thinking. Setting expectations for yourself and having nothing to show for it time and time again, can not only be mentally discouraging and exhausting, but also extremely unhealthy and stressful to the body. “Yo-yoing” weight and drastic fad diets in an effort to finally lose those extra pounds does nothing to address the root cause of why poor health and excess weight may be causing you struggle in your life. Here are some tips on how to change your mindset and turn that “dream” into reality!
1. Define what being healthy really means to you and make a solid plan.
Declaring you are “going to get healthy” or need to start “being good” is not going to cut it. These statements are way too vague and therefore, unmanageable and unrealistic. It’s time to get specific and come up with some solid definitions of what being healthy means to you and what behaviours are realistic for you to reach this goal. How will you specifically accomplish this? Whether it's preplanning all your meals a week in advance, hiring a personal trainer to keep you accountable, or getting the help of a nutritionist or doing your own research- if you don't have a specific plan then you're not turning the "dream" into reality!
2. Pick a specific deadline or goal (vacation, friend’s wedding, class reunion, etc)
Sometimes the best way to kick-start your health journey is to have a special milestone in the back of your mind keeping you motivated. Don’t have one? Create one! Plan a mini trip somewhere or a social event where you will see people you haven’t seen in years, and keep a visual reminder of this in plain sight. Post photos of the resort, or purchase an outfit that you would love to fit into by that time, and keep it in a spot where you will constantly be reminded. Also, be vocal about the deadline: bring it up in conversations to keep it alive and on your mind... It’s much harder to lose motivation when you’re constantly sharing your excitement with others.
3. Find out your excuses and decide how to stop them
Take a good look at a typical week where you did not stick to your goals, and write down all the excuses you had holding you back. Then, one by one, create an action plan that will not let those excuses take over. Get an outside perspective and advice from others on how they would solve a similar problem, if needed. Too tired after work for the gym? Go in the morning. Don't like the gym? Join a group class or running group. Find exercise boring? Try a new activity each week: preferably something you’ve never tried before: martial arts, salsa dancing, Zumba, kickboxing, pole dancing, swimming, indoor volleyball, etc). No time? Ask for help getting things done off your plate or prioritizing tasks so that you can always schedule activity into your day.
4. Make a list of all the benefits of being healthy and why they matter to you
Increased energy, mental clarity, confidence, disease prevention, stamina and improved mood are all but just a few of the benefits of physical activity and a healthy diet. Determine which of those mean the most to you, and visualize (and write down!) how you know your life could improve with even just one of those benefits. Similarly, research and list out all the negative aspects associated with poor diet and inactivity and keep those as motivation for the place you do not want to end up. (Diabetes, joint and muscle pain, dementia, heart disease, depression, obesity, etc)
5. Start tracking
Many studies show that people who keep a food journal have much more success in sticking to a healthier diet. This does not mean that you’ll be writing your meals and activity for the rest of your life, but simply is a great way to begin to understand any connections between the choices of foods you make and how they relate to your mood or environmental factors. It’s also much less likely that you’ll reach for that donut when you know you’ll have to write it down!
6. Be realistic.
It’s important to challenge yourself into being the best you can, but don't overcommit and become frustrated when things don't happen as planned. Start with small, realistic and measurable changes. You can’t go from being a couch-potato who’s never jogged longer than 5 minutes, to a marathon runner overnight. Start off with slow, manageable changes that make sense to you and your lifestyle. For example, 30 min of strenuous physical activity 6 days a week, increasing water intake to 8 glasses a day, stop drinking pop and limiting dining out to once a month, are all realistic goals that can help someone strive for progress, not perfection...
7. Reward Yourself!
Celebrate all the wins, no matter how small! Losing weight and improving your health may take a lot of intense, sometimes uncomfortable changes, so feel proud of yourself for every step you take to get yourself there. Treat yourself to a pedicure or movie night after running your first 5km, or buy yourself a new pair of running shoes or great quality kitchen knives to help keep yourself motivated to keep doing a great job.