An Action Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle
Step One: Discover Your Why
Sure everyone wants to live a healthy lifestyle but it’s always easier said than done. The first thing step to changing your life is to ask yourself why you want to change. Read more here. Be sure to get to the root of your why to have the best results. Write down your why and post it somewhere you see often like the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or a place you visit often in your home. The more you’re thinking of your why, the higher the chance you will want to act on it.
Step Two: Start Becoming Aware of Your Current Habits
This is another crucial step. In order to improve your habits, you need to know where you currently stand. This not only helps you see where you need to start, but it allows you to see how far you’ve come down the road. For example, I use to eat out five days a week and now I only eat out twice a week.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How many days a week am I exercising? Do I consistently exercise every week? Am I doing something that I truly enjoy? If not, what can I do differently to make it more sustainable?
- How much water do I drink a day?
- How many servings of vegetables do I eat a day? Do I like vegetables? If not, what steps do I need to take to eat more?
- Do I notice when I’m hungry? Do I eat when I’m not hungry?
- Do I skip any meals? If so, what meals?
- How often do I eat out?
- Am I drinking any liquid calories like soda, juice or sweetened beverages?
- How many alcoholic beverages do I have a week?
- Do I know proper portion sizes? Do I eat until I’m full? Do I feel stuffed after meals?
- What healthy fats am I incorporating into my meals? Do I know what fats are healthy?
- Do I eat when I’m stressed or anxious? How do I cope with stress?
- How many hours of sleep do I get each night?
Answering these questions will help you learn more about yourself.
Step Three: Take Action. Start With One Easy Change.
Awareness is first. Taking action is second. It’s great to know what you want to work on, but you have to act to see results. When it comes to changing habits, it’s important to organize your steps by starting with the easiest. Give yourself a win! When it feels easy, you’ll have the confidence to believe you’ll be successful. As a bonus, you’ll be able to move on to a new habit sooner.
How do you know if it’s a habit? You do it everyday without any thought. It’s automatic!
The most common healthy habit is brushing your teeth. Most people do this naturally and they don’t think twice about it. I want the eight healthy habits below to feel like brushing your teeth.
Organize these healthy habits from easiest (1) to most difficult (8)
- Incorporate lean protein every meal
- Make water your beverage of choice and strive for at least 60 oz. a day
- Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal
- Incorporate healthy fats
- Eat slowly and stop when you’re 80% full
- Exercise consistently every week
- Sleep at least seven hours a night.
- Develop go-to stress relief strategies
Once you’ve organized your habits from easiest to most difficult, take action on the easiest habit. If you are currently consistent with a habit(s)above, rank it as a one. This means you don’t have to work on it because you already do this on autopilot! Rank the next habit that feels easy enough to accomplish as the next number. This is what you will focus on.
Experience the domino effect. Starting with one change might snowball other good habits naturally. For example, after a workout, you may have the desire to choose a healthy meal because you feel good about your workout. Getting enough sleep the night before can help you feel rested so you have the energy to get up in the morning to exercise. Listen to yourself to see if you experience the domino effect when you start with one easy change.
Step Four: Be Accountable. Practice Consistency.
Consistency does not mean perfect. Thank goodness! Perfection is exhausting. And it’s not sustainable. Consider consistent as following through 80-90% of the time. This is an action plan you can do forever. You’ll be surprised with the results you get.
In order to see results, you must be accountable. Many people who do not track their progress assume they are being consistent, but usually it means they are following through 60-70% of the time. Some people will see results at this percentage, others will not. Does this mean you always have to be accountable? Not necessarily. Especially if you have mastered the habits and they are on autopilot. Other people may always need someone or something to keep them accountable.
Action Steps to Be Accountable:
- Tell a friend or family member what you’re working on
- Hire a coach
- Track with an online tracking system like myfitnesspal.com (there are so many sites!)
- Track with paper and pen OR a calendar (my favorite)
We all have off days, but the tools above help you work through them. If you don’t have anything or anyone to be accountable to, most likely you will not follow through with your plan. It’s also easy to fall back into old habits if you find yourself having too many off days.
Step Five: Build Your Habits.
The eight healthy habits above do not happen overnight. As a matter of fact, it may take months to master, even if you’re consistent every week.
Why should you start with one habit at a time?
- Research shows you have an 85% chance of being successful when you focus on one thing at a time.
- Small wins help you believe you’ll win the long-term battle.
That’s why we don’t start with the hardest habit. Those may take months to master! If you work on the easiest, it may take a few weeks, but you’ll get some momentum to continue to make positive changes. Plus, you feel good about your changes! Who doesn’t want that?
Once you’ve mastered a habit, work on the next easiest habit. Imagine if every person who set out a New Year’s Resolution did this, would they be successful? I think so. Visualize a person who is striving to lose 20 lbs for a resolution goal. On January 1st , she is excited about her goal so she starts the first week with a grocery shopping trip with lots of fruits and vegetables, cooks some healthy recipes, completes 3 workouts, gets more sleep, etc. BUT since this all feels NEW, her mental energy drains fast because it feels like so much work! Once the mental energy is gone, the motivation starts to dwindle. Sooner than later , it’s back to old habits and not feeling successful about that New Year’s resolution.
I know if that same person who set the goal of losing 20 lbs, started January 1st with ONE action step in mind: eating vegetables at almost every meal. Would she see success and weight loss? Most likely yes. How’s her mental energy overall? Probably pretty good. That habit would naturally roll over to exercising consistently (with time and practice). That habit would then roll into drinking more water. By March 1st, this same person would FEEL success and have weight loss results to show for it.
Start slow and build your habits. Use this action guide as your blueprint for success.
**If you find yourself not being consistent to your plan, return back to step one. Have you gotten to the root of your why? Also, ask yourself if you’re truly ready to change.