Opening the Doors to Healthier and Stress-Free Living
A Column by Alice Abbott-Moore,
Content Access/Information Delivery Teams, Ekstrom Library

Consistent Change: Habits in the Making

One hears it a lot: I am going to start a new diet and start working out. Many people start a new regimen and in a matter of days, most have not continued their original quest.

Unfortunately, healthy lifestyles do not just happen. Realistic and consistent change must occur before a new way of living is adopted for the long haul.

Looking back on my own experience, my lifestyle changes did not happen overnight. In fact, those changes took many years. I used to smoke, and 12 years ago I quit. That was my first major change. Through the years, when I found that my health was in danger, I started making other changes regarding caffeine intake, diet, exercise, and, most recently, sun exposure. I could never have made all those changes in a short time. I have known few people to do that; it is not realistic. For constant lifestyle changes to occur, one must emphasize realistic goals, consistency, and time.

Changes need realistic goals
Permanent change happens when alterations are incorporated slowly, in phases or stages. For example, a person wants to start drinking eight glasses of water a day. If the person is not accustomed to this, at first he or she will find the change challenging (and harder to do than expected). To expect a person who drinks very little water to begin drinking eight glasses of water a day is unrealistic. The person should start slowly and increase water intake.

Choose enjoyable exercise. Who says that exercise cant be fun? Another example of setting realistic goals is the person who wants to start exercising, does not like cycling and running, but does enjoy hiking and swimming. This person should start and stick with the enjoyable activities. Activities that a person dislikes will seem like torture and will decrease the chance of success over time.

Changes need consistency and time
Forming a new habit takes approximately three weeks. Changes that can be easily accomplished and maintained for at least three weeks will be more successful.

To succeed in changing your lifestyle, set realistic goals by incorporating healthy eating habits and exercise that you enjoy, while giving yourself plenty of time to make your changes a habit.