How to Stick to a Healthy Lifestyle? Tips to Stay on Track

Heather Campbell
 min read

How to stick to a healthy lifestyle and why?

How to Stick to a Healthy Lifestyle? Tips to Stay on TrackWhat makes it challenging to change habits, and what can help us do so?

As a whole, we can live a healthier life by focusing on moving and relaxing more, sleeping and eating better, paying attention to social interactions, and reflecting. It is also crucial to practice self-kindness, and instead of thinking of deprivation, think of ‘wanting to’ rather than ‘having to.’

Working too late, sleeping too long, using the smartphone too long at night in bed, binge-watching a series, eating a whole bag of potato chips by yourself, etc.

The above ingrained habits are likely to be recognized by much of the population.

Read on to discover what keeps us from breaking old habits and learn 12 practical tips for maintaining our good intentions.

How to stick to a healthy lifestyle: Introduction

Habits are easy. We don’t have to think about them. They’re automatic. Changing habits, not hanging out on the couch at night but taking a walk, takes effort.

And even though you know it’s good for you, that it will eventually make you feel more energetic, it usually doesn’t happen automatically at first.

If you want to change habitual behavior, then it is essential to know what you want to improve your lifestyle for

Discover what you can use the newly gained energy for, as explained in our other article Why Living a Healthy Lifestyle and What to Focus On?

The next step is knowing how to make it easier for yourself. How to increase the likelihood of success. We’ll explore that further in this article.

Factors that stop you from changing your behavior

The following things can hold you back if you want to change your behavior because of your health:

Things you have to do

You are held back because you think it is too difficult for you.

This is especially true of things you “have to do,” such as strength exercises, moving more, and meditating.

Things you need to give up

You value your old habits too much.

It’s tough to leave behind what you’re always done such as smoking, drinking, and sweet and fatty foods.

12 Practical tips for sustaining behavioral change

The following 12 practical tips can help with how to stick to a healthy lifestyle.

Don’t worry about how long it takes

Make a new habit, such as walking every day, takes time. Statements are often made about how long this will take, such as 30 days or 3 months.

However, this has not been scientifically substantiated. It varies significantly from person to person how much time they need and, more importantly, what behaviors they want to change.

In any case, it takes longer than a few weeks. This is partly due to events that break routines again, such as vacations or even weekends, which bring the old behavior back to the surface.

(Source: Lally et al., 2010)

Identify emotions that may be holding you back

When changing behavior, emotions often come into play.

Maybe you are very overweight and would like to exercise more. Still, you are reluctant to wear tight sports clothes that accentuate your figure.

This can create a sense of shame that can stop you from finding pleasure in the activity. For example, a slow speed when walking, running, or cycling can also cause embarrassment.

Or suppose you want to start eating and drinking healthier, but your partner doesn’t like the idea of having a glass of alcohol alone.

We also fear that we will not succeed and this can cause us not to start at all.

Examine those feelings and try to find ways to minimize them, eliminate them altogether, or simply avoid them.

Avoid stress and make time for relaxation

Some days you are better able to avoid temptations than others.

For example, stress causes you to focus more on the short term. This is why attention to relaxation is so crucial for sustainable lifestyle changes.

One behavior change, in turn, affects another.

If you suffer from a lot of stress, you will sleep worse, and that affects the production of your hunger and satiety hormones. Those who sleep poorly will eat more unhealthily.

Fortunately, this also works in the opposite direction. If you start by focusing your attention on just one behavioral pattern, the others usually improve as well. So it is a coherent whole.

Tip: For practical stress-reducing tips, check out our other article How to Reduce Stress? Deal with Your Internal Stress-Inducing Factors

Don’t over-reward yourself when things are going well

Research shows that some people reward themselves with something unhealthy when they have lived a healthy life for a while.

For example, they treat themselves to a fat ice cream cone because they haven’t snacked in a week.

Ultimately, this can cause you to gain weight even though you want to lose it.

(Source: Merritt et al., 2010)

Accept that relapse is part of the game

Relapses are part of it. No one changes their behavior for a long time without having a relapse for a while.

More important is that you don’t give up right away.

When you’re out of rhythm for a while, it’s essential not to whine and start questioning everything because you’ve broken your winning streak and have to start again from scratch, so to speak.

Instead, just move on the next day. Don’t think of it as starting from scratch again but as a continuation of the practice of your new lifestyle.

It is called a practice for a reason. Practicing something implies that you cannot yet do it perfectly and that mistakes will inevitably be made. So don’t get caught out by this. It’s an essential part of how to stick to a healthy lifestyle.

Optimize your daily environment

It helps to link your behavior to a particular situation.

What also helps is setting up your environment so that you don’t fall into your own trap:

  • You can park your car further from home by default, so you always have to walk a bit before you go out and when you come home.
  • Remove your TV from your bedroom to sleep better. Or better yet, get your TV out of your house and read a book more often or spend time with friends or family.
  • If you have trouble not eating an entire bag of cookies in one sitting, don’t buy any more cookies or buy them in a small package or divide the large bag into smaller portions.
  • If you plan to exercise at home in the evening, put your mat and towel ostentatiously ready where you can’t miss it.

Be aware of your sensitive triggers

It is easier for some to keep long-term goals in mind than others which explains how to stick to a healthy lifestyle is sometimes tough and sometimes isn’t.

Among other things, it has to do with how well you can suppress impulses; whether you can avoid distractions from your goals and temptations.

Some people are just more sensitive to temptations like good food and drink than others.

On top of that, today’s society is focused on appealing to our short-term thinking.

It is easier to take the car than the train or bus because if you want to take public transport, you often have to travel some distance to the train or bus station first.

Also, you can buy snacks everywhere, and in the supermarket, unhealthy products are on sale much more often than healthy ones. So we have to suppress all kinds of impulses all the time.

Map out what might be holding you back from your plan. Think about how to overcome each of these obstacles.

Ask yourself “Why?” repeatedly until you find the underlying reason

A simple method of knowing if you really want something for yourself is to ask yourself the question “Why?” enough times

Repeat this up to five times to discover the more profound reason and what really gives you drive.

Suppose you have a goal in mind to lose weight. Then ask yourself, “Why?” Write down your answer and then ask again, “Why?” starting from that answer:

  1. Why do I want to lose weight? Because it makes me slimmer.
  2. Why do you want to get slimmer? So that my old clothes would fit again.
  3. Why do you want to fit into your old clothes again? Because I felt better in those clothes.
  4. Why did you feel better? When I wore those clothes, I had more energy to do things. I want to get that back.
  5. Why do you want to do more things? Because doing fun things makes me happy.

If you don’t know the answer to the second or third “why,” it’s often not something you want to do but need to do. So then you are less motivated.

Is there any other purpose where you still know the answer after three times “why”? Then that’s a better starting point.

Nor does it necessarily have to be an intense soul-searching exercise. As long as you find something that works for you, that’s fine.

For example, someone who wants to quit smoking may eventually realize that the underlying reason is that the house will no longer smell so bad.

(Source: This is an application of Toyota’s Five Whys method of getting to the root of a problem)

See what you can change here, now, today. Look at what you are already doing well and can build on. Often these are things for which you already have enough motivation.

Focus on what you want, not what you have to do

If we want to change our behavior, it is helpful to free ourselves from the word “should. It sounds like this: I need to exercise more, I need to meditate, I really need to lose weight now.

We think other people impose it on us, like the government, the doctor, or the dietitian, or we impose it on ourselves.

That usually doesn’t work. No one wants to have anything imposed on them. That just makes us resistant.

Replace the word “have to” with “want to.” What could be different? What would you like to be different? What do you want to achieve?

Starting to live healthier is your choice. You’re reading this article for a reason. It is you who wants something. No one is forcing you.

Wanting something is more powerful than having to do something. Something you want to work toward yourself gives more drive than something you are imposed to do. It motivates you more to actually stick with it.

Choose the loving approach, which helps with how to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Don’t say: “I’m not allowed to do this and have to do that,” but: “I consciously choose to make time for sports more often so that I can get fitter and feel better.”

Engage those around you to help you

You can use your social environment to sustain lifestyle improvements.

Examples include:

  • It is better to say what you will do than what you will not do and publicly declare that you will replace one behavior with another. Drinking tea instead of coffee at work, for example.
  • Make firm arrangements with a buddy to go for a walk together in the street or go to the gym together at set times during the week.
  • At home, you can inform your roommates of your good intentions to drink only 1 glass of wine per week instead of 1 bottle of wine, for example.

By involving others, you create accountability for yourself. After all, you don’t want to disappoint others, and you want to prove to others that you are capable of bringing something to a successful conclusion.

This increases the likelihood that you will actually do and keep your good intention when others are watching you or counting on your presence to exercise, for example.

Delay your response to an impulse for a moment

What can also work is to build in some form of delay when you are about to engage in behaviors that you just wanted to get rid of, such as snacking or drinking alcohol.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the benefits, and what do I gain?
  • What are the disadvantages if I give in to it?
  • Am I doing it out of boredom, or am I avoiding something else?

Asking yourself these questions buys you time and allows the wave to fade again. Above all, do not push your impulse away but give it attention. Otherwise, it will come back even harder at a later time.

Compare it to a punching bag or speed bag you punch: the harder you hit, the harder it returns.

Buying time can also be done, for example, by taking a ten-minute break every time you have such a tendency. After those ten minutes, reevaluate the tendency and decide whether or not you will give in to it.

Make a clear plan for yourself

Some tips and tricks make it easier to manage your behavior. For example, a concrete plan works better than a vague one.

Make it as clear as possible to yourself by describing the when, where, and how.

For example: ‘On my next visit to the supermarket, I will only go down the aisle of fruit, vegetables, nuts and toilet paper.’

How to stick to a healthy lifestyle: Conclusion

To start living healthier, some lifestyle adjustments are necessary that impact different areas of our daily lives.

Often, to do this, we not only have to start a new habit, but we must first or simultaneously get rid of an old habit.

Here it helps to focus on what you want to achieve and work toward, rather than what you want to get rid of, what you need to stop doing, and what you should not do anymore.

Self-imposed positive reinforcement is a stronger motivator than an obligation imposed by something or someone else, or at least sticks in your mind that way.

Hopefully, our practical tips can help you turn your good intention into a lasting behavioral change in the long term. Good luck!

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More