Health is a simple concept, but that does not mean that living a healthy life is easy! At every turn, temptations exist that try to lure you away. Some of these temptations are intentional—food companies use science to create delicious junk food intended to hijack our brains. The food they make is addictive on both a biochemical and a psychological level. Commercials on TV flood our brains, and fast food greets us on every street corner!
This means that a person who wants to lead a healthy life needs an arsenal of tools to avoid the common pitfalls that get in the way.
Here are 8 practical ways to stick to your health goals in 2019:
1. Plan Plan Plan!
The problem: The modern world excels at rewarding poor planning with unhealthy choices, which are often fast and convenient. No time to make dinner? Grab a happy meal! In the grocery line with your meat and produce? Hey, check out this king-size Snickers; bet you could finish half of it on the drive home!
The solution: Every week, plan your meals (Pinterest is great for this). Go shopping, get what you need, and have things ready to go for the week. If you have time, prep your food over the weekend so that cooking during the busy work week can go quickly. Keep a clean kitchen. That way you can launch into cooking without fretting over dirty pots and dishes.
2. Look At Your “Before” Photo
The problem: Sometimes you get on a roll, only to slip back into old patterns.
The solution: You got into this health stuff for a reason. If you’ve seen benefits, lost body fat, improved body composition, gotten noticeably stronger and fitter, go back and look at those old photos to remind yourself of your progress. Remember how it felt before you started getting healthy. Realize that it will all come flooding back if you go back to your old ways.
3. There’s no such thing as Perfect
The problem: Many people have the idea that becoming healthy is a life sentence of sacrifice and suffering, which is a big misconception.
The solution: Know that healthy choices just represent different modes of living all designed to help people get healthy and that these modes exist on a spectrum. There is no such thing as “all or nothing.” Some people adopt a lifestyle that some would think to be extreme, others modify their current lifestyle to accommodate health choices. Regardless of where your lifestyle is on the spectrum, occasionally eating something unhealthy won’t derail the whole train. Or, skipping a week of exercise now and then won’t dissolve your gains. Over time, it is the rhythm of healthy choices that determines your health.
It’s not about perfection. It’s about making the guidelines work for you to push your health and happiness forward.
4. Remember the 80/20 Rule
The problem: Guilt and discouragement!
The solution: One trick to counter these negative feelings is to use the “80/20 rule.” The 80/20 rule is a formal acknowledgement that if you do the right (healthy) thing 80% of the time, you’ll be garnering the majority of the benefits we can expect from living healthy. As long as your healthy choices outweigh your unhealthy choices, you are still living a healthy lifestyle overall.
What’s 80/20 look like? It means it’s OK to have that piece of pizza at your friend’s birthday party after a week of home-cooked healthy meals. Or maybe you skip a trip to the gym to meet up with an old friend in town. As long as your healthy choices dominate, that is OK! When you are living a healthy life, your body will give you credit for that 80%.
5. Join a Gym
The problem: Exercise can be hard on your own, and many think they don’t like going to a gym
The solution: If you think you hate the gym, you probably haven’t been in a while. There are many options that exist to get healthy that did not exist before, such as new alternative classes. Cross-X, kickboxing, spin and Pilates classes are widely available at most gyms. There are also personal trainers who can help and encourage you. Feel free to interview the owners and trainers. Find a person or a class that meshes well with your personality and goals. Another benefit: when pay money for a membership, you put skin in the game. More motivation to stick with it!
6. Pick One Thing and Start There
The problem: Getting your entire lifestyle back on track is daunting. Perhaps you want to overhaul how you eat, move, consume electronics at night, interact with the sun, supplement, and sleep. Some people can do that no problem, but many people find it an intimidating prospect.
The solution: Start with just one thing, do it well, and see the dominoes start to fall in other areas. You might start with diet—purge your pantry of those items that do not align with your goals. Or maybe you start with exercise—start walking every day. Work on going o to sleep at the same time every night. When one part of your life becomes healthy, it gives you the energy to spread good habits to other aspects of your life. Starting all those things at the same time can be great, but sometimes creating momentum in one area strategically works best.
7. Find a Buddy
The problem: Being healthy on your own can be hard!
The solution: Find a friend or family member to join you can help make the good habits you are building stick. Having a partner means that neither of you wants to let the other person down. When your motivation flags and the trips and tricks above seem to not be enough, a friend’s support and commitment might help you find your footing again!
8. Work With a Health Coach
The problem: Maybe you can’t find a buddy or that having a buddy is not enough!
The solution: Find a health coach. Health coaches are trained to help you hit your goals, work through toughest moments, solve problems, and motivate you. This is literally their job! They combine motivational power with a strong knowledge base, so whether you have a motivation problem or a knowledge problem, they can help. And similar to paying for a gym, using a health coach also gives you that skin-in-the-game effect. Knowing you have to answer to a coach can help you to stay on track even when temptation creeps in.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to get yourself back on track. These are just some of my favorite tried-and-true strategies for myself and others that work great!
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