So many times I watched family, friends and clients go on the latest and greatest diet. Whether it be extreme exercising or completely changing what they eat and drink. Although the reason for dieting comes from good intentions—a desire to improve health—unfortunately, they usually become unsustainable over time. When they are unable to attain the goal the diet promises, what may follow are feelings of failure, guilt, shame or frustration. (I have even heard this called Post Traumatic Dieting Disorder). Too often what I see is the person I care about ending in a place worse off than before.
Find Your Balance
Diets can end for any number of reasons such as they become too expensive, too time consuming, exhausting, they may add stress and sometimes they strain relationships or impact social commitments.
Physical activity and healthy eating are important on the road to health but finding balance is key. What’s the point of a diet or exercise program if it cannot be sustained long term? Rather than pursuing a fad diet and turning your life inside out, I encourage the people in my life to focus on lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes differ because they don’t require immense willpower—in other words, it doesn’t matter how stubborn you are—but they do involve time, patience, support and realistic goals.
What I have learned from those I know who’ve had the greatest success with maintaining health and wellness goals is that, over time, their small changes accumulate and eventually become routine. As well, they use the unwavering support of family, friends and colleagues to make the journey easier.
Although health is far from simple, the best advice I can give to someone wanting to make lifestyle changes that last for the long term are to consider these six keys to success:
- Set goals. Make small goals that are Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timely. For example, rather than saying my goal is to “Be Healthier,” break it down into how you will do that. “I will spend 10 minutes every day of personal time to reflect on my thoughts,” or “I will walk outside for at least 30 minutes, three days a week.” Once a goal has been accomplished, then you can move onto the next. Remember that healthy practices will take time to make a habit!
- Social support. Seek out support from your social networks. Let your friends, family or colleagues know what your goals are and maybe even invite them to join your wellness journey. Sometimes a friendly challenge is a great way to kick-start a new habit. A couple of healthy challenges currently underway—and remember it’s never too late to participate—are the Primary Care Networks Get Out, Get Active and the David Suzuki 30x30 Nature Challenge. Also, discuss your health goals with you doctor and use their guidance to create a plan that fits for you.
- Have patience. You may experience road bumps along the way, but that is okay! The secret is to plan how to manage set-backs. If it feels like your goals are being derailed just take a step back, breathe deeply and keep going.
- Health is the whole body. Remember that not all health goals need to relate to nutrition or exercise. Health has many dimensions to consider. Reflect on mental wellbeing and consider setting goals that include promoting positive self-talk, reducing stress and improving sleep.
- Avoid quick fixes. Proceed with caution when it comes to health fads. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Aspire to live the healthiest life that fits you.
- Celebrate success. No milestone is too small to be recognized and celebrated. For more on this, check out Gillian Woroniuk’s blog on celebrating the simple things.
Each of us has our own, unique wellness story. What has helped you to maintain or attain your health and wellness goals?