Let’s face it, most of us either have some health related goals or need to get with it and create some. Think about it, less than half of the US manages to meet the government’s minimum exercise target (either thirty minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week, or twenty minutes of vigorous exercise, three times a week).
The trouble with health goals is that you don’t just achieve them and stop. You need to keep up a consistent effort in order to achieve and maintain a good standard of physical health. This means staying motivated and choosing to head out for a jog or gym class when you’d rather just sit on the sofa to watch American Idol while downing a bag of potato chips.
Here are a few ways that will help you stay motivated.
When you’re working on a challenging, long-term goal like losing weight, don’t feel that you have to do it alone. Find a friend who also wants a healthier lifestyle and share your triumphs and struggles with one another. Or, look for someone who’s successfully lost weight – perhaps a family member or colleague – and ask for their advice and tips.
Your doctor can provide a lot of help and support – such as diet plans, referrals to a dietitian, and health checks to ensure there’s no medical problems that would prevent you exercising.
When you’re working on a big goal, it helps to keep track of your daily or weekly progress. (For example, writers often keep track of their daily word count towards a book – 100,000 words is less scary when broken down into 200 days of 50 words each.) You can do something similar with your health goals: being able to see the progress you’ve made can give your motivation a huge lift on days when you’re wondering why you bother.
Some good things to track are:
- Your weight (most dietitians advise weighing weekly, to avoid any discouragement caused by natural day-to-day fluctuations).
- Your waist, chest and hip measurements
- Specific nutrition goals, such as portions of fruit and vegetables eaten, or grams of fiber
- Exercise sessions: keep track of how many you do in a week, and what level you’re working at
If you have a daily goal, such as “do at least thirty minutes of exercise each day”, then mark a cross on the calendar or in your diary each day that you achieve it. The idea is to create an unbroken chain of crosses, day after day – the longer you manage it for, the more reluctant you’ll be to skip a day and break the chain.
Make It A Habit
Do you brush your teeth every day? Hopefully so – and you probably don’t ever think about being “motivated” to do it. Brushing your teeth is simply a habit. A great way to circumvent the need for motivation is to turn your health goals into habits. If you go for a walk every day before breakfast for three weeks, chances are, it’ll become as much a habit as brushing your teeth is. If you always eat a piece of fruit before deciding if you really want that chocolate bar, again, this becomes nearly automatic.
In particular, look out for any bad habits that you have established in your eating or exercising habits. Do you always buy a mid-morning muffin from the canteen at work? Do you pour yourself a glass of wine with dinner every evening? Try limiting your habitual indulgences to occasional treats – you’ll find that you enjoy them all the more.
Try Something New
Lastly, one of the reasons why many people give up on their diet or exercise plan is because they get bored of it. Don’t fall into the trap of running through exactly the same exercise DVD every couple of days, or using the same three pieces of equipment in the gym. Don’t eat the same thing for lunch and dinner every day – even if it does let you tick all the nutritional boxes.
Try mixing things up a bit: it’s good for your body and your mind. Have a go at a new exercise class (even one you think you won’t like). Get the gym instructors to demonstrate a piece of equipment you’ve never tried before. Look through your recipe books, or search for healthy recipes online, and try cooking a dish you don’t normally eat.
Have you got a health goal? How do you keep up your motivation over the long term