Lifestyle changes — how to make them stick

We know we need to make a change in our lifestyle — to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, learn to relax, quit smoking. Our intentions are good, and we start with a burst of enthusiasm.

At some point, we hit a bump in the road. Vacation disrupts our exercise routine. A stressful day has us reaching for our favorite comfort food. We can easily become discouraged and give up when we realize we’ve strayed from the path to a healthier lifestyle.

Creating a permanent change in our lifestyle is a challenge. Even when we know the benefits, we often find it difficult to stick with the plan. There are steps you can take that increase the likelihood of making your lifestyle changes permanent.

Start with realistic expectations.

Setting a big weight loss goal can actually make it harder to stick to a diet. It is easy to become discouraged and give up when the goal seems too far in the future.

Instead of a weight loss goal of 25 pounds, make it your goal to lose 5 pounds. It’s easier to keep your commitment to a goal that’s within reach. Once you’ve lost 5 pounds, you can set another 5-pound goal.

Find the right program for you.
Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy. Group activities such as team sports or an aerobics class may motivate you to stay with your exercise. Walking or jogging offer time alone with your thoughts or a favorite podcast.

It’s easier to stay with an exercise plan when it’s an activity that is fun for you and suits your personality.

Don’t sabotage yourself. 
We tend to criticize ourselves when we slip up on our goals. But studies show that it’s easier to summon the will-power needed to get back on track when we forgive ourselves for falling short of our expectations.

Remember, you’re only human, which means you’ll sometimes miss the mark.