Making Lasting Lifestyle Changes - Part 2 - Plan for it!

Now that you have decided what to change in your life, what next? Studies show that it helps to create a "change plan" that may involve the following:  

image courtesy of  Sura Nualpradid

image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid

1. Set a change date.  Set a date that is at least 2-3 weeks into the future so you have time to plan for your desired change.  Write it down, circle it on the calendar, and announce your intention to change to someone you are close to.  These steps will help make you feel accountable which can make it more likely for you to take the first step.  

2. Set the stage for change.  Make it easier for you to stick to your change plan by managing your environment, be it home, work, or your car.  It's important to set the stage for change in any environment you spend a lot of time in.  For example, if you are quitting smoking, get rid of ashtrays, extra packs of cigarettes and detail your car so that it no longer smells of smoke.  If you are cutting back on sweets and high calorie snacks, don't keep these tempting foods easily available at home in your pantry.  Make it difficult to access these foods.  To remind yourself to go for that evening walk with your dog, put Fido's leash by the door as cue to get outside.

3. Know your triggers.  In other words, what causes you to overeat, not exercise, smoke, and drink excessively?  It's important to take an honest look at what motivates you to do what you do in order to plan around it.  Many will say that "stress" is a major trigger and that a lot of our poor lifestyle choices are actually poor short term stress coping strategies.  When we feel tired, run down, or frazzled that we are less likely to stick to a healthy diet, exercise, stay in touch with others.  For each of your triggers, determine how you will handle the trigger so it does not derail your change plans.  If stress is a major trigger, what are you planning to do to reduce its impact so that you don't reach for that extra double chocolate doughnut?  

4. Seek the support of others.  Talk to people who support your plan to change and ask them to work with you.  It can help to enlist a walking buddy or have your family members participate in your new dietary plan.  Tell your family and friends why it is important that you change _______ .  Even if they are unable to participate, ask that they work with you and that they don't knowingly or unknowingly derail your change efforts.