This is my first follow-up to my previous post about ditching your diets for healthy habits. In everything I do, I’m a big believer in doing your homework, educating yourself, and making informed decisions. When it comes to our bodies, it’s no different. You can’t just jump into the diet of the month that’s featured in the latest supermarket checkout line magazines and expect to change your life.
Change is gradual and in order for it to be lasting, the processes behind the change must be sustainable. In order to see results, each person has to look at his life and develop a plan of action that he will follow. Let’s get started today with three things you can do to set yourself up on the road to a healthier you.
LOOK AT YOUR BASELINE
In order to affect change in your life, you need to know where you’re beginning. Take a pen and paper or a spreadsheet and outline your current life right now. This is your journal. What should you include?
- For starters, write down everything you eat throughout the day. Record what you eat, how much of it you eat, and how you feel afterwards. This goes for meals, snacks, and drinks – exclude nothing.
- Record your nightly sleep – how much you get and the quality of your sleep. Pay attention to this, as sleep is an important, oft overlooked function of our lives.
- Record your exercise. Did you exercise today? This doesn’t have to be going to the gym or going for a run. It can be anything from walking to work, taking the stairs up to your apartment, walking around the block at lunch – anything that gets you up and moving.
- Lastly, at the end of each day, jot down a sentence or two about how you feel. Do you feel healthy after your day? Energized? Drained? What could you have done better? What threw you off track today? What positive factors contributed to your great day?
All four of these aspects are important. Do yourself a favor and be diligent about your journal. Make it your goal to keep the journal for one week. Most people find it so eye-opening that they keep doing it for several weeks, months, or forever. I have kept a simple journal for nearly a year now and I have no intention of stopping.
Why am I suggesting you do this? It forces you to put your life on paper and be honest with yourself. You never have to show it to anyone if you don’t want. It’s there for you to look at – to quantify what you eat and qualify how you feel. People often tell me that the journal alone provides enough motivation for them to make changes.
After you have your baseline established, it’s time to set some goals. Your know yourself best, so set goals that make sense for you. As a general rule, every goal that you set should have three characteristics. Every goal should be:
- Specific – define your goal as specifically as possible, including a time frame. Not specific: I want to lose weight. Specific: I want to lose 30 pounds in the next 6 months.
- Measurable – be sure there is a metric by which to measure your progress. With weight it’s easy – jump on the scale. If speed or strength is your goal, make sure you can measure your progress.
- Attainable – be realistic. Again, you know yourself. You want to set goals that aren’t too easy but also are not too far out of reach. When in doubt, set easier goals rather than more difficult ones, especially at the beginning. The momentum you gain from achieving smaller goals will propel you forward onto the larger, more difficult goals.
Setting goals is great, but it means nothing if you don’t implement a plan to achieve them. Write these goals down and keep them in a place where you can look at them daily. This will help you stay focused.
FOCUS ON 2-3 SMALL THINGS DAILY
This whole process can be overwhelming. We often fail to establish new habits because we want to make too many changes at once. We overwhelm ourselves and give up. The solution? Focus on a couple basic things that you can do every day to bring you closer to achieving your goals. Losing weight is a goal? Your first 2-3 action items may be giving up soda, taking the stairs at work, and not snacking at the office.
Once you feel you have control over these few things, move on to 2-3 more things, but don’t forget about the first group! Chipping away at your goals little by little makes them less intimidating and more achievable.
So there you have it – 3 things you can do today to start your new life. This is a very general post and the recommendations in here can be applied to any sort of life change. In the follow up posts, we’ll get into the details of eating more healthfully, exercising more consistently, and the importance of attitude.
If there’s anything specific you’d like us to discuss in these follow up posts, let me know in the comments.
Have a great week!