Adopting a healthy lifestyle begins with motivation
By Nicole Rogers, MPH, CHES
With the new year comes a flurry of New Year’s resolutions to lead a healthier lifestyle. Some people resolve to exercise more, while others focus on weight loss. Whatever your focus, motivation is the key to your success. Understanding what motivates you will make it easier to succeed after your New Year’s resolutions are history.
Put yourself first
Remember that starting a new, active, healthier lifestyle is something that you do for yourself. Consider it an investment in yourself, and remind yourself that you will reap the benefits by living longer and enjoying more years of good health.
One of the reasons that individuals give for not staying with fitness and weight loss programs is that they just don’t have the time. Put yourself first, and make time for fitness by giving it a priority in your life. Be candid with yourself and look at how you spend your time. Start by getting up a little earlier each morning or giving up some television or computer time in the evening. It’s an easy trade-off for the life-long benefits that come from good health.
Count the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle
Most people benefit tremendously from consistent exercise and from making healthy choices regarding food. Keep these benefits in mind as you continue your efforts toward a healthier lifestyle. You’ll have increased energy, increased mental focus, higher self-esteem and reduced stress. You also can lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as for other conditions. Also, you’ll be able to fit in all the clothes in your closet.
Identify your own personal reasons
Make your fitness goals meaningful. Do you want to be a size eight again? Do you want to look good for your daughter’s wedding? Do you want to impress everyone at your high school reunion? Do you want to set a good example for your children? There are as many reasons to adopt a healthy lifestyle as there are people. Spend some time deciding on the reasons that make fitness important to you. Discuss these reasons with your family and write them down. Then put them on the refrigerator so that you can see them regularly.
Do something that you like
It’s easier to stay motivated with when fitness is fun, so pursue a healthier lifestyle in ways that appeal to you. If you are a social person, a class setting where you can bring a friend or meet new friends may work for you. If you enjoy music, get a portable cassette or CD player and walk to your favorite tunes. If you enjoy cooking, consider taking cooking classes to learn to prepare tasty meals that are nutritious, too. Look for classes offered through continuing education programs at your local school district or at area grocery stores.
Monitor your progress
If you are part of a more formal fitness program at a gym or weight loss center, be sure you are weighed and measured on a regular basis. If your fitness efforts are occurring in a more informal setting, pay attention to how your clothes fit, to how you feel after walking up those stairs at the office and to how much energy you have at the end of the day. Take a photo of yourself and post it on the refrigerator. Take another in four weeks. The success of seeing your body change, from losing pounds and inches to improving your body mass index, is a great motivator.
Acknowledge that, despite your level of dedication, it’s likely that your progress will be interrupted along the way. Travel, illness, workload and other concerns may make it difficult to work out everyday and for you to adhere to a healthful diet. Realize the setbacks are temporary, and get back on track as soon as you can. Don’t feel guilty about it, and don’t feel that you have failed. Remember that, for most people, temporary setbacks are to be expected.
Stay motivated by incorporating new ideas on exercise and nutrition into your fitness regiment. Turn to South Texas Fitness & Health for the latest fitness information and advice. Go online for tips on exercise and healthy eating. Learn from others and share your successes with them. Also make sure you are well informed about diet programs, such as Atkins, South Beach and others, before beginning them, and be sure to see a doctor before beginning any weight loss program. Remember that diet pills or homeopathic weight loss drugs should be used with caution.
Make a life-long commitment
Change doesn’t come overnight, and there’s no one diet or type of exercise that brings instant fitness. Also, what works for one person, may not work for another. It may require time to find that works best for you, so resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Most of us didn’t gain those extra pounds overnight, and it is going to take time to develop the fitness and nutritional behaviors that will get them off. Persistence pays, so stay with your plan and realize you are creating a new way of life for yourself.
Put aside one dollar for every day of the month that you exercise. At the end of the month, treat yourself to a massage or a copy of the book you have wanted to read or take a friend to a movie or play.
Remember that adopting a healthy lifestyle is a life-long commitment. If work or personal situations interfere, recognize them as temporary and motivate yourself to get right back on track.
Nicole Rogers, MPH, CHES, is the executive director of The Health Collaborative. For more information, visit www.healthcollaborative.net.