Stuck in a Rut? How To Permanently Change Your Diet & Exercise Habits

Monday, October 23, 2006 - 2:12pm

By Megan Porter, RD/LD

A bad lifestyle is like a car wreck waiting to happen, and obesity is oftentimes the car that starts the wreck. What does this mean? Well, excess weight often raises certain "bad" fats in your blood. These fats clog your arteries. Clogged arteries lead to heart attacks and strokes. Hence, the car wreck.

But you can prevent this wreck by simply reducing your weight by 5-10%, eating healthfully and being more active. By just doing these few things you can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, diabetes and many other conditions.

Changing your lifestyle is challenging

Funny thing about humans—even when we know what we’re doing is harmful, it usually takes something terrible to make us change our behavior. We often get so stuck in a rut that changing our behavior really feels impossible. Here are a few motivating techniques and tools to get you out of that rut!

1.   Focus on one small step (behaviour change) at a time

Do this by not biting off more than you can chew. Choose one small action to lead you toward your goal. Practice it until it becomes a healthier habit, then start on another. That way, you're building on successes instead of courting failure. Here are some examples of small changes:

  • Don’t use mayonnaise when you make a sandwich.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of active movement per day.
  • Substitute white bread for whole grain.
  • Drink water instead of soda.
  • Walk up stairs instead of using an elevator.
  • Add a salad to your dinner meal.

2.   Mentally visualize what success these habit changes will bring

Have a clear vision of what advantages/disadvantages your new behavior will give youboth in your short and long term health. When you ‘see’ the difference, you'll be a lot more motivated to make the changes necessary. Post a picture, phrase, or affirmation in several places so you’re reminded through the day of the positive health benefits that will occur. This helps you remember why you want to change, strengthening your commitment to your goals.

3.   Make an exercise and diet plan

Have a plan of action so you know what you’re going to do all week to work toward your goals. For best results, make your plan specific. "I will go on a 30 minute walk after dinner on Monday, Wednesday and Friday." Then write it down in your calendar and post reminders up around the house.

Although we don’t want to fall short of our goals, you will be more successful if you plan for it. For instance, if you went for your walk on Monday but not the other days, ask yourself why? What events occurred that made me not able/willing to go on my walk? How can I change these events in the future so they don’t happen?

4.   Get support to encourage you to stick to your goals

Seek out a friend, family member, group, class or professional (dietitian, fitness specialist or counselor). With outside support, you’re more likely to succeed and to stick to your goals. For instance, finding a neighbor that enjoys walking is a great motivator for both when you expect the other to uphold their part of the bargain. With a companion, you’ll find you go on your evening walk more regularly.

Getting started on your diet can be the hardest part

In the following weeks, you’ll decide what habits you’re willing to change and how to make those changes. This will be a time when your new behavior still seems unfamiliar and easier said than done. Yet, by providing yourself as much help as possible to keep yourself focused on your new behaviors, soon they will be supporting a healthier you!

For further information on motivation, diet and exercise see the following article from TheDietChannel: How Can I Motivate To Diet & Exercise?