It’s the start of a new year.

Whether you make resolutions or not, most of us like to think that we’ve become better versions of ourselves compared to the year before. I know I definitely do.

If you’ve decided that 2018 is the year for improving your health and vitality then I’d like to share with you a statement that could change the way you view your new lifestyle. Depending on what mood I’m in, I either love or hate this statement. Either way, its one of the major truths in life that applies to just about everything:

“Nothing worth having in life comes without hard work.”

I believe that anything worth having in life, anything thats good, anything that fills us with joy and makes us happier, better people, cannot be attained without hard work. Changing your habits around food and exercise is not easy, so it goes without saying that a fit, healthy, energetic body is no exception.

How does this apply to a healthy lifestyle?

I’m glad you asked.

Most high fat, high salt and high sugar foods are highly palatable. This means that they taste and feel fantastic in your mouth. These foods tend to be eaten in excess because we want the amazing taste sensation to last. One piece of chocolate is never enough and who can stop at just one french fry! The trouble is, when these foods are eaten in excess, it can have severe health implications such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, kidney and liver disease. A healthy body can only occur through the hard work of saying no to certain foods that don’t do our bodies any good. You don’t have to say no all the time. I eat everything, but I do know that balance is necessary if I want to keep my body in good shape. Sometimes balance means learning to say no and sometimes this can be really hard.

Exercise, other wise known as physical activity or moving your body is also hard work. When you first begin to exert yourself physically its been described (by myself) as feeling like you want to die. Perhaps I’m over-exaggerating a little but I don’t believe you’re working hard enough if you think that exercise is easy. Physical fitness only comes by pushing the body. Hard work causes the muscles, heart, circulatory system and other parts of the body to adapt and become stronger. Then the next time it has to work hard it has the physical capacity to achieve what you put in front of it. You wont feel like exerting yourself everyday, but if you want a body thats energetic, strong and beautifully toned then that’s what it’s going to take.

If you’ve just read the last two paragraphs and are filled with discouragement, don’t be. Knowing that hard work is ahead of you is good preparation for your new head space. I know, as well as anyone, that weight loss and becoming a regular exerciser all starts in your mind. When you’re prepared for hard work and determined to make a change you will be successful. Without this preparation you’ll give up at the first incidence that your choices become difficult to make. I don’t want you to give up. I want you to succeed.

How do you tackle your health goals?

One of the greatest ways to tackle your new healthy lifestyle goals is to start out slow. Take baby steps. They’re easier than giant leaps and lots of baby steps add up to giant leaps if you’re consistent. Maybe one 30 minute walk a week is all you can manage. Great! Start there. Do that for a few weeks until it’s a solid part of your lifestyle before adding in another session. Cutting out all chocolate, soft drink and lollies may leave you burnt out and frustrated. Instead, consider starting with halving your soft drink intake or swapping one of your chocolate pieces for fruit. Slow and steady wins the race. Never underestimate the power of small consistent changes. They do add up in the end.

I frequently share with my clients that long term weight loss and healthy eating must be about forming new habits. Habits are things that you do automatically. You don’t have to consciously think about them, you just do it. A large proportion of the way we eat, shop and prepare food is out of habit and this is where the hard work comes in. The best way to get rid of an old habit is to create a new one to replace it. It takes approximately 28 days (4 weeks) to form a habit and during that 4 week period you need to consciously repeat that behaviour every time its necessary for it to be reinforced. This constant consciousness over a behaviour that previously required no conscious effort at all can be exhausting, but you need to push through this time for the habit to take over and start performing the task you want it to.

So now what do I do?

I’m glad you asked that question too.

Now that you know what its going to take to get your new healthy lifestyle started, here are some steps you can take to make sure you stick to your new behaviours long enough to let the habit take over and keep you healthy for life.

  1. Commit – a firm solid commitment is vital. Make a promise to yourself and then keep it. Value yourself enough to keep it. You are worth it.
  2. Articulate – be very clear and specific about the kind of habits that you’d like to develop. Maybe it’s having a glass of water before every meal and snack or going for a 30 minute brisk walk first thing every morning. Don’t make them broad or wishy washy. Decide on a new healthy behaviour, show your brain how you want it done and then do it that way until your brain takes over and does it for you.
  3. Plan – set yourself up for success. Put things in place to help you stay on track. Get your workout gear out the night before if you plan to exercise in the morning or organise a fruit and vegetable delivery so theres always fresh fruit and vegetables available to snack on or prepare a healthy meal.
  4. Reward – organise a non-food related reward for yourself at the end of each week for sticking to your new behaviour. This will make you feel good about yourself and encourage you to keep going the next week.
  5. Recruit – get a friend or family member to do it with you. If you’re making a herbal tea while watching TV instead of eating chocolate or other sweet food than get your housemate or partner to do it with you. If they won’t join you at least get them to agree that they wont offer you unhelpful food or ask them to support you in some other way.
  6. Encourage – no more self criticism allowed. You must encourage yourself and learn to give yourself a pat on the back for doing a good job and if you have a bad day, channel the frustration and disappointment into doing better tomorrow. No self-sabotaging or of giving up because you get annoyed at yourself. Tomorrow is a new day and it just might be the day that you never look back. Never, ever give up.