It’s February. Have you stuck to your New Year’s resolution? If not, don’t feel bad. It is so common that there is even a National Quitter’s Day that falls on the second Friday in January. This year it fell on January 13th, 2023.
So why is it so hard to make resolutions or new habits STICK? I can speak to health habits in particular and the biggest two reasons are:
1. the person doesn’t have a good “why” for the change in habit,
2. or it does not fit into their lifestyle.
When resistance is greater than the pleasure or benefit – we give up.
How to Create Health Habits That Stick
Start with Your Why.
You have to start with your “why”. Don’t say, “I want to lose ten pounds.” Think about WHY you want to lose 10 pounds. Is it because you want to feel and look better in your clothes; you want to play with your kids easier; you want to feel sexy in your marriage?
This is true for health goals big and small. Let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds and run an Ironman. Figure out why you want to do that. It can’t be because it’s trendy and you saw someone on Instagram. But it can be because you are pre-diabetic and want to live healthier, or you used to be an athlete and life got in the way, so now you are ready to put yourself and your health first again.
The why has to be powerful and tied to something you want for you and your life.
Habit Stacking and Realistic Timelines
If you want to lose 10 pounds, you can do that in a relatively short amount of time as long as you stay consistent and focused on your why. But, if your goal is 50 pounds and an Ironman, then do not sign up for a race this May. Look into 2024 and give yourself 18 months to get there. When you have a big complex goal, you need small short goals that step you forward to meet your ultimate objective. Break it down – for example, commit to running two miles two times a week for three weeks. Then the next month move it up to three miles two times a week, and one long run, five to six miles on the weekend.
One of the best things you can do to reach your goals and build a habit is habit stacking. Trying to completely change your diet, and your workout, and your sleep, and your supplements all at once is a recipe for overwhelm and eventually you give up. It’s too much all at once. Habit stacking allows you to pair an established habit with a new habit. Start with something you know you can fit into your schedule and then build on it once you gain more consistency.
For example, if you already warm up your coffee in the microwave for a minute, do squats while you wait. Or after you drop your kids off at school, you go directly to the gym; or you can practice balance while you’re brushing your teeth. Whatever you can realistically start with, do that. Then once that becomes a habit, stack something else on top that will help you reach your health goals.
Consistency and Convenience
When you set your health goals, make sure the habits you need are convenient to your lifestyle. Do not sign up for a specialty gym that is way outside of your commute or pick a diet that takes a full day of meal prep if you don’t have the time. Instead, maybe find a yoga studio next to your kid’s karate dojo and take a class while they take a class. Whatever it is, make sure it is convenient and fits into your already busy and demanding life.
Once you have a plan of what you want to do and when, then you have to make it consistent. Consistency breeds habits. If you have committed to working out for 20 minutes on Wednesday evening, then that is your priority. If you find yourself missing it, making excuses, or just hating it the whole time, then you need to change your plan to find something you will do consistently and that brings you satisfaction.
Which brings us to…
Find What You Like and What Works Best for You
Listen to me clearly: You do NOT need to go to the gym to meet your health goals. The point is movement and feeling better. If that’s the gym for you, great! But if it is not, great!
I have a friend who really struggled at the gym. She found ballroom dancing and lost 50 pounds, and she met her husband! She also found a whole community of friends and like-minded people. Now ballroom dancing is a strong habit for her and has completely changed her health and wellness.
Another example is a walking club. When I was a new mom, we had the Stroller Striders, which was a group of moms who would consistently walk together and do exercises in the park with our babies. This sense of community helped keep us all accountable and supported, which was so important for building that habit.
There are also tons of specialty gyms and programs that focus on a particular methodology or exercise that may speak to you. Kaia Fit, Crossfit, YogaPod, Orange Theory – you name it, there is a specialty that might be a perfect fit for you, your personality, and your schedule. You just have to find your niche.
Find Your People
However you decide to make a habit or hit a health goal, make sure you surround yourself with people who are like minded and can support you. Many of the groups, plans, and classes listed in this article come with a community. Especially for women, that sense of community and support are so important. Not even just for physical health but also for mental and spiritual well being. It can be very helpful to have peers who are in the same stage of life, but also a mentor or a coach who can help guide you when it gets hard or you have a sticking point. That is the secret sauce I see in my Fueled to Thrive groups. These amazing women share and support each other to get everyone to their individual health goals, while I guide and coach to make sure they have the tools and feel empowered.