Mary Zylstra, a behavioral health specialist for Comprehensive Mental Health who is working in partnership with Memorial Cornerstone Medicine, appeared on KIT 1280 on Feb. 25, 2014, to discuss ways to make successful lifestyle changes. Whether it’s improving your eating habits or getting more exercise, changing old habits can be hard. Mary has a background in counseling psychology, and she talked about the psychology of behavior change – how people can successfully make changes that sometimes seem overwhelming.
A few key points to remember:
- You’re not going to be 100 percent perfect. No one is. There are steps you can take to make positive lifestyle changes to improve your health if you approach these changes with patience.
- Dieting vs. diet – Dieting implies that a change is temporary. We look at is a temporary restriction. Improving our eating habits or diet is a lifestyle change, which is about making permanent lasting changes to our health.
- It’s easier to take an action than to avoid one. For example, look at a meal that’s problematic, and try to modify that. Add a vegetable, as opposed to eliminating something else. Unhealthy foods sometimes tend to fall away naturally when you add healthy foods.
Steps for a healthier you:
- Identify the reasons the change is important to you.
- Change is easier when it is something that is important to us.
- Is it because you want to be around for your grandchildren? For your children? Whatever that reason is, keep it at the forefront of everything you do.
- Build confidence. We often fail to make changes because we lack confidence we can do so.
Ways to build confidence:
- Start small, set reasonable expectations.
- Break a bigger goal into smaller steps. We lose confidence when we try to overhaul everything overnight. If you need to improve your eating habits and get more exercise, focus on one area first.
- Be specific.
- Write down your plan. There’s something powerful about writing things down or telling someone. It has more meaning.
- You’re more likely to stick with it if it is something that can be measured.
- Track your progress. Keep it visual.
- Keep a tally sheet for the week. Put it next to you during the day to show you were active, if getting exercise is your goal.
- Identify your triggers – things that suck you into unhealthy habits – and find ways to reduce their hold on you.
I need to lose weight and improve my health. How do I get started?
First, it’s important to consult with your physician before starting any new diet or exercise regimen. Your physician can help to determine the best approach for improving your health.
How do I jumpstart my diet and fitness routine? I feel like I’m not making any progress.
It’s important to set reasonable expectations, and to break your goals into small steps to allow you to gain confidence. Write down your goals, make them measurable and track your progress. Also, identify your triggers, those things that make you fall back into unhealthy habits, and find ways to reduce their hold on you.