Maintaining health habits

Tips to maintain health habits past your original goal date.

The end of March marks the end of National Nutrition Month®. This may not be of significance to some, while to others it marks the beginning of lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on your health.

With four of the top seven causes of death being a nutrition-related (heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes), there is concern for much of the population. The steady increase of obesity has supported the morbidity and mortality from these diseases. This information is not new to you, but campaigns for National Nutrition Month® brought the need for necessary lifestyle changes to your attention. You implemented changes such as increasing exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables, but how can you be sure these changes stick? There are several strategies that you might find helpful.

  • Have someone to be accountable to. This may be a friend, a relative such as a spouse, a co-worker or maybe someone that you met through your gym. Successful weight loss programs have you physically come in on a regular basis so that you can monitor your success and also find support where you need it.
  • Chart it! This is another way to be accountable. If you record what you are eating, you are less likely to over indulge, or be aware of your shortcomings – such as exercise or dietary changes. It is a great tool, and there are many online tools, or apps that allow you to do this electronically if you choose. You can decide to share it with others, or just keep it to yourself. You may want to use, or try out an app on your SmartPhone like MyPlate, Calorie Counter or Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal.
  • Plan. When you plan for the week, or more, it makes it easier to support your healthy habits. For instance, it is impossible to eat more fruits and vegetables if you don’t have any. Plan your meals and snacks for the week or month, and shop so that you have the healthy food choices available so you don’t turn to the quick fixes, like chips, cookies, crackers and soda. This is also a helpful way for staying on track with your budget. Additionally, if you plan for potential upsets, you can fend off trouble. For example, if you know you are going to a social event where there is likely to be a lot of unhealthy food, eat a small meal or snack before you go and allow yourself a limited amount of the unhealthy food. ChooseMyPlate also provides useful planning tools, and Michigan State University Extension offers classes that can help with menu planning.
  • Be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Is weight loss your goal? If so, don’t expect to have a 10 pound per week weight loss. Rather, expect a slow and gradual decline. You didn’t gain it in a month, the weight isn’t going to come off in a month. Also, don’t expect to give up something like dessert or sweets forever, especially if this is your crutch. Rather, figure out how to work desserts in without overindulging.

MSU Extension and U.S. Department of Argiculture offer several strategies and support that you may find helpful. Your health matters, it is up to you to make your healthy habits stick.

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