By Nicole Arcilla, MS, RDN, LDN
Follow Nicole on Instagram @YourGutFeelingRDN
Whenever we take on the task of changing our habits, we are also often faced with the question “but how do I keep it up?” This is especially true when we change our eating habits. The moment we find ourselves going back to old eating habits, there is sometimes a feeling of giving up, and suddenly the journey to a healthier lifestyle ends.
If this has ever happened to you or it is currently happening, don’t be disheartened. This is not a sign of failure or lack of willpower. It is a learning opportunity, and often just needs a moment of reflection and a moment to revisit your goals.
If you find it difficult to keep up with new habits, revisiting your goals is a great place to start. As you are revisiting your goals, reflect on your “why” – the reasons and motivation behind these goals. It’s also important to investigate if your “why” connects with your values and also if the goal itself is realistic.
Through your evaluation and reflection, it will help to follow the SMART Goal principles: Make sure your goal is Specific and not just a vague statement of “I want to be healthy”. Think clearly what your definition of “healthy” is and what you value in your health, then start creating step-by-step goals to get there. Examples of this might be “eat one plant-based meal everyday for a week”, or “exercise for at least 20 minutes three times this week”.
Your goal should be Measurable so you can track progress your. Be realistic with your goal, make sure it is Attainable. Consider how to build on the goal, rather than trying to make a drastic change overnight, which is not realistic. Your goal should also be Relevant, make it align with your values. Don’t forget that your goals should be like a step-by-step process, and each goal should also be timely or have a time limit to keep you focused.
Here are three additional tools to consider to keep up your motivation and momentum:
- Phone apps. There are many phone apps available to help you track your goals and your progress. You can specify your goal, how to measure it, your deadlines, and even list your awards. Try an app that will also allow you to take notes, such as noting your emotions or what you may have found difficult or easy in progressing through your goals. These notes will help in your reflection process. Try apps like Productive, HabitBull, or Habitica.
- Weekly or monthly calendar poster. If you’re a highly visual person, it may help to have a poster or board displayed in an area you often work in. Having a visual of your goal progress can keep you focused and motivated.
- Journals. Sometimes going old fashioned with pen and paper can go a long way too. The beauty of journals is that you can also create your own visuals and organize your pages according to your needs and goals. Just remember to leave space for reflections!
Finally, understand that the journey to a healthier lifestyle is not linear. As we age and go through life, our needs and values will change as well. Therefor, our goals should change along with it as well. Without this understanding we set goals that do not align with our needs, are unrealistic, and ultimately set us up for poor motivation.
Move forward slowly and thoughtfully, and always allow yourself time and space to reflect and evaluate your goals to continuously progress and improve your health.