It’s that time of year again – the holidays have come and gone, the new year is upon us, and after the excess and indulgence of the festive season, we’re all in need of a health boost. Every January, about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Most of these resolutions involve making healthy living changes. Unfortunately, the majority of well-intentioned health seekers actually fall short of seeing their goals through. Among the many reasons? The bar is set too high, the changes too extreme. This year, give the members of your community the tools they need to take small steps towards healthy living that will lead to lasting change.
1. Use Alternatives
By substituting certain behaviors with healthier options, you can create new habits that help instead of hinder. To be more physically active:
- Think about ways you can fit even a small amount of physical activity into your daily life. Do you consistently park near the store entrance? Park further away and walk. Instead of the elevator, take the stairs. Before sitting down to slouch on the couch, first take a 20-minute walk. Hired a yard service? Do your own gardening, mow your own lawn and rake your own leaves.
- For more ideas on ways to get moving, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Tips for Getting Active and Everyday Ideas to Move More .
- You can also consult the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for more ways to be active.
To make healthier food choices:
- Think about your regular eating habits and replace some of the less-healthy options with healthier versions. Drink a glass of orange juice every morning? Eat an orange instead. Picking up drive-thru? Choose a healthier option on the menu instead of a greasy burger or stop by the salad bar at a nearby grocery store. Consistently going out for lunch? Bring a lunch from home instead. Craving a snack? Eat nuts, not of a bag of chips.
- Need some guidance? Consult the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
If you are looking to lose some weight, be reasonable about your goals and abilities. While many people shoot for the moon and set out to lose large amounts of weight and make drastic changes to their physical appearance, this is not realistic.
- Consider your starting weight. Even modest weight loss (5%-10% of your body weight) has considerable health benefits.
- Weight loss shouldn’t happen overnight. Studies show that people who lose weight steadily and slowly (about 1-2 pounds a week) keep the weight off more successfully.
3. Avoid Negative Thinking
Don’t fall in to a funk from slips-ups, setbacks or failure. The importance is how you react and bounce back from these less favorable moments.
- Watch for unhelpful and unproductive thought patterns that can creep in: all-or-nothing thinking, guilt, feelings of failure.
- Be confident in your abilities and forgive yourself.
- Enlist the help of people who support you to boost your spirits and get you back on track.
Small Steps for Lasting Change
Ultimately, there are many things your community can do to improve health and enhance healthy living in their daily lives, and the changes don’t have to be major. Encourage citizens to use the hopeful energy of the new year to take small but impactful steps that create new lasting healthy living habits one at a time. For more information on products to help your community lead healthy lives, browse the Quickseries® library of health guides, including: Healthy Living: Today and For Life, Smart Nutrition 101 and Weight Management.