Now that we’re a few months into the new year, have your resolutions fallen by the wayside? Don’t worry—every day is a new day. Lifestyle and behavioral change can be difficult, so remember: making small changes can go a long way. Here are six steps to help you through the process of changing your habits for the better—for real.
Step 1: Assess your readiness to change.
If your goal is weight loss, check out Mayo Clinic’s readiness assessment.
Step 2: Set a SMART goal, but don’t try to change everything at once.
Focus on a few realistic changes at a time. SMART goal stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-orientated. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal, you must answer the six “W” questions:
- Who: Who is involved?
- What: What do I want to accomplish?
- Where: Identify a location.
- When: Establish a time frame.
- Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
A general goal might be, “Eat Healthy.” But a specific goal would say, “I will incorporate two cups of fruits and vegetables five days per week.”
Step 3: Analyze your change plan to ensure it will be sustainable long term.
Identify any potential barriers to this change such as time commitment, accessibility or availability of foods or exercise equipment.
Step 4: Keep a food journal.
This will help you to identify any patterns and guide you to where change is needed. There are many food and exercise trackers available electronically; choose the one that works best for your lifestyle.
Step 5: Don’t guess. Measure.
As with any type of record, accuracy is important. Make sure to measure your portions. Guesstimating can make the difference between weight loss and gain. Be honest with yourself. Record any and all food choices, even if they are not the healthiest picks.
Step 6: Seek out assistance from the experts.
When in doubt, consult a registered dietitian. If you are considering a plan that avoids entire food groups, it is important to understand which nutrients you may be missing to limit risk for nutritional deficiencies.
Ready to make a change? Start here, with Altru’s Weight Management Program.
Jennifer Haugen has over 13 years of experience as a registered dietitian in the Grand Forks area with seven years in the health and wellness field. She obtained the Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential in July 2011 and also has completed training in adult weight management. Jennifer enjoys many outdoor activities such as ice skating, biking, running, fishing and hunting and spending time with her family.