The Champagne corks have popped. The big ball has dropped. And all the confetti has been swept away. Now it’s just you and your annual batch of resolutions.
Not surprisingly, healthy lifestyle changes are at the top of the list: losing weight and getting more exercise. According to the Atlantic magazine, 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and a paltry 8 percent of us manage to achieve these goals.
As they say, old habits die hard. But could we be going about it the wrong way and sabotaging our own best efforts? Scores of self-help books offer possible solutions to this age-old problem, however in the end it boils down to this: “Are you ready for a change?”
Adopting new, healthy habits may protect you from serious health problems, such as diabetes. And let’s not forget how these habits can help you look better, feel more energetic and boost your confidence, too! But like a muscle, making a lifestyle change takes a lot of training and perseverance. The goal is to make these changes a part of your daily routine.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are four basic stages people experience when changing a health behavior. The first step in developing your personal plan for change is to determine just how you are feeling about changing these habits. It’s not quite as cut and dry as you might imagine. Think about where you are in terms of eating better and/or moving more.
Where are you on your journey of change?
“I’m thinking about it”.
You are thinking about change and trying to get motivated to start. You’re probably in this stage if:
- You have been considering change, but not ready to start.
- You believe that your health, energy level, or overall well being will benefit if you adopt new habits.
- You can’t figure out just how to overcome the roadblocks that stand in the way of success.
“That’s it – I’ve made up my mind!”
You are in plan making mode, figuring out specific ideas that will work. You’re probably in this stage if:
- You have decided that you are going to change, and take action soon.
- You’ve set some specific goals that you’d like to achieve.
3. Lights, Camera … Action!!
“I’ve started to make changes”
You are acting on your plan and making the changes you set out to achieve.You’re probably in this stage if:
- You’ve been making eating or exercise changes for the last 6 months or so.
- You’re adjusting to how these lifestyle changes make you feel.
- You have faced and overcome challenges that have blocked your success. Yay for you!
Consider tracking your progress through an exercise log or healthy eating journal. This will help you identify your strengths and spot areas ripe for improvement.
“I’ve got this … this is the new me”
You’ve become accustomed to your change and you’ve kept it up for over 6 months.You’re probably in this stage if:
- Your change has become habit.
- You’re discovered creative ways to stay on track.
- You have had slip-ups, but have been able to persevere.
Congratulations! You’ve made it, but for many this stage can present its own unique challenges. Things aren’t new any more, so it’s important to add variety, i.e. a new exercise class, special recipe or reward.
Or what about revisiting your goals and expanding upon them? If you’ve been good about walking 5 days a week, consider adding strength training.
Remember small changes can lead to healthy habits for life!