How to Make Your Health Goals Stick


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Making goals is the easy part. Moving forward with them is pretty easy for a while, as you’re excited and motivated by your new life path. But after a few months, or even weeks, that motivation can really start to sag. You may feel like you’re ready to give up on that healthy living promise to yourself. There’s always next month, right? Well, yes and no. Any time you can make changes to live a healthier life you should do so — but why not now? There is never a good reason to put off improving your health, so here are tips for making those health goals stick.

Start small

The purpose of any health goal is to alter your life in a permanent and positive way. Otherwise, what’s the point? Why make all these great changes only to revert back to your old ways and undo all your hard work? For many, the only way to work up to a drastic change is to log a few smaller successes along the way. In the context of better health, it’s easy to set smaller goals in the hopes of achieving that more broad, grandiose goal of “healthy living.”

As US News puts it, “the beauty of habits (provided they are healthy ones) isn't just that you perform them regularly, it’s that you perform them automatically and without thought. That means they hold up even when motivation wanes.”

Start by adding one good habit and removing one bad one. For example, start practicing yoga every day and stop your intake of nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol (especially if it is giving you problems). Or, cut out fast food and add salmon to your weekly diet.

Find a way to hold yourself accountable

It’s best to pick a goal that is clear, measurable, and specific. For instance, you can track exactly how many calories you’re consuming, how many drinks you’re having per day, and how much you weigh. These are all measurable, so they can be the basis of good goals. Overly general goals like “get healthier” may prove too broad and subjective to stick to. That’s more of an overall goal that you need multiple smaller goals to achieve.

Find ways to motivate yourself

It’s not always easy to start a new habit or routine, especially when it comes to something like exercising. So, when you’re first starting out, don’t hesitate to give yourself a little incentive in the way of new gear or equipment. Also, if you love listening to music, invest a little money in a solid, reliable pair of earphones that offer sweat protection. That way, when you start burning calories, you won’t have to worry about your sweat session ruining your gear.

Measurable goals help hold you accountable

Another way to hold yourself accountable is to involve others in your goals. Hire a trainer or a nutrition coach, or simply reach out to a friend or family member to serve as an exercise partner or diet buddy. The bigger your support system, the more likely you are to stay motivated.

Take stock of what you’re fighting for

Are you getting healthy to combat obesity or other illness? Are you doing it to set an example for your kids? Are you doing it to look good in a bikini? Whatever your reason, it’s valid. But it helps to know your true reasons for trying to get healthy and use them as motivation when things get difficult. “People tend to forget what health is for. Health is not the prize — a better life is the prize. Healthy people have more fun: more vitality, more energy, more capability, more time. Once you understand how abundantly investments in health pay you back, staying motivated simply isn't an issue,” says Yale MD David L. Katz.

A healthy body is a healthy mind. Eating right and exercising improves mood, staves off depression, and aids in the recovery from a number of disorders, including addiction.

Goals have a reputation of being left behind and forgotten. The good news is that you can always set a new one. Failure is a part of life, and in reality, you aren’t failing -- you are simply human. Making a big change such as improving your health is tough. It will take hard work and there will likely be setbacks, but if goals were easy, we'd all be crushing them left and right. You can set a goal any time you want, as long as you’re serious about it and have the desire to stick to it. As long you’re truly motivated, you can turn a simple goal into a lifetime of healthier habits.


Sheila Olson