How many of you at one point in your life did some serious work to change something about your life? You decided to start exercising. You gave up TV at night so you can get more sleep. You lost a bunch of weight by changing your eating habits. You gave up pop. You started positive self- talk. You vowed to read more books. You stopped smoking.
Now, how many of you have maintained that change? If you're not still doing that new behavior, how long did your change last? Isn't it incredibly frustrating or even infuriating that you worked so hard to change a behavior just to revert back to your old behavior after a few months or even a few weeks?
But, there's hope. Hope for long-term change. It's all about a few key strategies.
1. Set some goals.
You need both long-term and short-term goals. For example, your long-term goal is to eat 10 servings of vegetables 6 days a week. Right now you're only eating 2 servings. Instead of jumping right up to that 10 servings a day for 6 days a week you should set shorter, more attainable goals to help you reach that goal. Those could look like this:
week 1-2 eat 3 servings of vegetables 5 days a week
week 3-4 eat 4 servings of vegetables 5 days a week
week 4-5 eat 5 servings of vegetables 5 days a week
week 5-6 eat 5 servings of vegetables 6 days a week
...so on and so on.
It feels good to meet some short-term goals and that feeling of accomplishment will keep you motivated as you go after your long-term goal.
2. Don't use extreme measures.
While some things seem like they need extreme changes to be accomplished, these changes aren't usually something you can maintain long-term. For example, working out for 2 hours a day is probably not maintainable throughout every phase of your life. Maybe while you're young, don't have any kids and aren't working overtime you can manage to workout 2 hours a day. But what happens when life gets busy? So if you're relying on 2 hours of workouts to maintain your weight, probably not a good plan. You should instead make some maintainable changes like working out for 45 minutes 5 days a week. Knowing you can get in this much time to workout and changing your diet to achieve and maintain your weight/health goals is much more reasonable.
3. Have a support system.
In all my time of watching people change, helping people change or changing myself I've noticed a BIG reason people are successful is because they have a great support system. They have a family member cheering them on instead of telling them they can't do it. They have a spouse watching kids so they can make it to their barre class or train for their half marathon. They have a friend that decides to give up gluten too (and actually does it). Now if you don't have a great support system you can still be successful but know that you are at a disadvantage and plan accordingly. Be your own support system by having some motivational speakers you like to listen to, make your internal motivation strong by keeping in mind your reasons to change and have a back up plan for when life gets hard. Consider hiring a health coach (pick me, pick me!) to be your support system.
I could go on and on about how to make sustainable change. If you're having difficulty making change and maintaining that change, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll set up a time to chat.