When asked by Nantucket Magazine to provide my “top tips for living my best life,” I was at a loss. This was such a broad topic for me that I struggled in deciding what to focus on. While I am dietitian, I strongly believe that health reaches far beyond the focus of food, but ultimately that is where my expertise lies. So rather than detailing what I do to keep my life positive and balanced from one day to the next, I decided to provide you with 5 tips to help you improve your efforts in making positive and lasting changes to your health behaviors.
Top 5 Tips for Lasting Change
1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU NEED TO ADD
Depending on who you ask, there is an infinite number of foods, habits, or behaviors that we need to remove from our lives in order to improve our health. If we were to remove as many of these items as are suggested without adding anything back, the result would be more problems than benefits. Instead, focus on what you need to add to your life—more activity, vegetables, sleep—not what you should be taking away.
2. MAKE A FEW CHANGES AT A TIME
In a “do more” society, it’s hard not to want to make all of our health changes in one fell swoop. But an all-or-nothing approach rarely provides sustainable change. Instead, take the path of least resistance. Make a list of one to three very specific goals or behaviors you would like to change. Be sure to select goals to work on that you know are feasible to accomplish in that moment in your life. Once these become routine, then it’s time to add a new goal to your list.
3. FIND MOTIVATION
Studies have shown repeatedly that you are far more likely to continue an activity or behavior if it is something that you enjoy doing versus those activities that are done simply for a reward. If you choose to eat vegetables that are prepared in a way that is tasty, you are more likely to continue to eat vegetables. If you are force feeding yourself vegetables simply to reach the goal of losing weight, this habit will most likely be short-lived and your old patterns will resurface.
4. MAINTAIN POSITIVE INTERNAL DIALOGUE
We are our own harshest critic. How we talk to ourselves can be the catalyst to propel us forward or hold us back. Beating yourself up for eating a cookie or skipping a workout will not build you up. Try focusing on the things that you are able to accomplish. Make note of those that aren’t working in the moment and figure out why. Nine times out of ten, it’s not because you’re not trying hard enough.
5. ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Health is a journey with no concrete finish line. Whatever health changes we make, they must make us feel good, strong and happy. By no means do the “guilty pleasures” need to be eliminated entirely; in fact, they play a role in health by providing joy. At the end of the day no matter how “healthy” you are, if you don’t enjoy the journey you will never enjoy the destination.
This article was written for the September 2018 Issue of Nantucket Magazine
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