Change Your Lifestyle, Not Just Your Diet

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

You may have a New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier or lose weight, so you’ve started on a diet. But a temporary diet is not going to help you in the long run. You need to change your lifestyle, not just go on a diet.

Throughout this article, we are talking about diets that you may find out about online or from friends or family, and not ones that a healthcare provider such as a doctor or registered dietitian has instructed you to follow. Continue to follow all guidelines from your healthcare providers.

Diets such as low-carb, low-fat, eating unrefined foods for a month with no dairy or grains, and other popular online diets may seem an easy way to lose weight, but they don’t last.

With a diet, certain foods or beverages might be off-limits – which may make you want to eat or drink them even more! With lifestyle change, nothing is off-limits: you have healthier foods that you eat regularly and less-healthy foods that you eat occasionally.

Pick one thing to change at a time and continue it until it is a habit. If you drink several sodas per day, for example, and want to change it so soda is an occasional treat, try replacing one soda per day with a glass of water. You can get flavored seltzer water if you dislike tap water. Once you’re used to drinking water instead of soda at that time, you can replace another soda with water. When you’re happy with your soda consumption, you can work on reducing mindless snacking, for example.

Replace one thing with another.
It can be easier to make changes if you’re replacing a less healthy choice with a more healthy choice, as in the soda and seltzer water example above. If you find yourself munching chips as you watch TV, but you can’t miss your favorite shows, can you color while you watch? Pick up a craft such as knitting or woodcarving? If you have the space, walk on a treadmill while you watch it instead of sitting still, or go to the gym and watch there.

Get up and move. If you’re still all day at your job, getting moving instead of continuing to be still – such as while watching TV – can have a big positive impact on your health. If you have a dog, commit to walking her every day, and gradually increase the distance. Your pet will get fitter, and so will you! Or decide that biking every Saturday morning with your spouse is going to be your regular “together” time. Our blog post Motivating Yourself to Work Out has additional ideas to help you get moving.

Meal plan
so you don’t resort to fast food. It’s hard to figure out what you are going to feed yourself for 21 meals every week, and harder still if you have a spouse or children. But planning in advance can save you money at the grocery store, as well as stress of not knowing what is for dinner. Be realistic: if you have something an hour after work and need to pick up a prescription on the way home, don’t plan to cook an elaborate dinner. Leftovers or a salad will be a better option.

Choose healthy meals. As noted above, you don’t have to eat 100% healthy 100% of the time, but aim to keep your treats occasional. Meal planning makes it easier to have healthy food in your home.

Katherine Skiff, NP, a Bon Secours primary care provider, has some encouragement for you: “Changing your lifestyle to be healthier does not start out easy but becomes easier with time. You may find some days that you are off track or reverting to old habits. There is nothing wrong with this and it can be a normal part of self-improvement.  Try not to beat yourself up about it or lose hope. The most important thing is to get back on track and celebrate small accomplishments. Changing years of bad choices takes time and determination. Invest in yourself because you only get one body, treat it well!”