As you holiday list of gifts for the family starts to expand, don’t forget about yourself. (Surprisingly, it’s easy to do!) Adopting healthier habits is not only a gift for yourself but for all those people on your list too. Let’s face it, little Sally will appreciate who new 10-speed bike, but if you’re not healthy enough to teach her how to really enjoy it, well…. You get the point!
So, where do you begin down this healthier path?
There’s a big difference between starting to live healthier, and sustaining your motivation into the long run. Think of all of the people who make grand plans for fitness in their New Year’s resolution, only to lose motivation after a week or less. How can you avoid this?
Here are four steps to behavior sustainability, to keep your drive for fitness long after you begin:
- Remember that change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When you decide to change your diet or start an exercise regimen, you aren’t doing it ‘just because’ – at least not if you hope for lasting change. People change their behavior for a specific reason, such as losing weight, reducing their risk of diabetes, enjoying time with their loved ones more, etc. Identify what your reason(s) is, and keep it at the forefront of your mind to bridge the gap between starting a new behavior, and sustaining it.
- Focus on the small victories. It’s a lot more overwhelming to think about reaching your final goal (like being able to run a marathon, or losing 50 lbs.), than it is to focus on the little steps along the way. When you make a point to congratulate yourself on the small victories, you involve your emotions in a positive way. This helps you to maintain positivity and emotional endurance to reach your goals without getting too discouraged along the way.
- Concentrate on making the right decisions, today. When we concentrate on making good decisions in the here and now, we can encourage behavior sustainability. (Ahem…No need to wait until the New Year!) These small decisions – like choosing snap peas to accompany your guacamole over chips, or going to your exercise class even though you didn’t have a great night’s sleep – are critical in maintaining sustainability. Think about why you’re making those decisions, and target your feelings instead of the long term outcome.
- Make it a gift, instead of a chore. Understand for yourself why you dislike doing something, instead of jumping at the chance. What are your feelings on the action or choice? If getting healthy is full of decisions and actions that you feel are ‘chores’, you will not reach behavior sustainability. You have to turn those feelings around. You must find physical activities that you actually enjoy, so you keep coming back for more! Hunt for food items that are beneficial to your body – but still taste great – to substitute for salty, processed foods. Remind yourself that healthier living is a gift you’re giving to yourself and others whom you’re close to.
“There aren’t any excuses good enough to keep you from living the life you were meant to live—healthy and fit. Your journey will start with a single decision.”
– Zoltan Zsohar (‘Z’ in Fit After Fifty)
Start with a decision to be fit after fifty, and these steps will help you sustain that behavioral change. Fitness really does make everything better…get a taste and see for yourself!
Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below – we’d love to hear your story.