Too often, individuals with good intentions to improve their diet end up abandoning their attempts just a few months into their health makeover. Various reasons can account for the departure, ranging from time and financial issues to just plain frustration with a process that seems to be taking longer than expected to achieve desired results. Although obstacles and setbacks cannot be completely eliminated, a little planning prior to beginning your endeavor to live a healthier life can help you progress forward, even during the most challenging times. Here is what you should consider:
- Are you ready? Are you willing to put forth the effort that is necessary to improve your health? If not, what will motivate you? Do you want to lose weight so that you have more energy to play with your children/grandchildren? A lifestyle change made with a half-hearted attitude is less likely to succeed than one that is made with a whole-hearted desire to make a change. Discover what will motivate you and realize that what motivates you may change as time goes on.
- Is now the right time to make a change? Will you be leaving for an overseas trip where you will lack control of your dietary intake? Or, will a family member be undergoing a surgical procedure after which you will need to spend a great amount of your time caring for them? Making a change amidst “chaos” will prove to be a challenge to maintain. Consider delaying your efforts until things have calmed down or devise strategies that will help you to adhere to your program during major life events.
- Set specific short- and long-term attainable goals. Instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” say “I want to lose 10 pounds by December 1.”
- Devise and outline a plan to achieve your goals. Your plan should include clear actions that you will take to make the change (e.g., “I will replace the cream in my morning coffee with skim milk.”). Your plan should also account for obstacles that will be encountered and contigency plans should be in place. For instance, on days that you know you will be attending a dinner party, choose to eat a light lunch composed of fruit and low-fat yogurt.
- Be realistic. Progress is the goal, not perfection. Circumstances will (and do) arise that will interfere with your attempts at living a healthier lifestyle. That’s okay – don’t let it frustrate you. Take this time to reevaluate your plan and goals and make changes accordingly.
- Keep it fun and make it enjoyable. Reward yourself when you achieve your goals (e.g., give yourself 15 extra minutes to read the newspaper before starting on household chores). Keep it interesting by trying healthy cuisine from another culture or by eating your favorite fruit prepared a different way (e.g., poached and served with a yogurt sauce).
- Enlist support. Let friends, family and coworkers know you are making a change for the better and ask them to help or even join you in your efforts. Sharing success stories or discussing challenges with others can help motivate you to stay on the right path.
Having the right mindset and being prepared to make a change toward healthier eating will help to make your transition toward better nutrition a success. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks, rather use them as lessons for a better future. And remember, it is a process that will contiually evolve overtime.
What has helped you maintain a healthy diet? Share with us, we want to know!