Healthy Habits: A Nutritionist’s Tips for Making Wellness Goals That Stick

Hi guys! It’s Shira here, and today I’m talking about something very near and dear to my heart…

My guess is that most modern women are guilty of talking to themselves unkindly. Whether it’s about our appearance or our abilities (in relationships, at home, at school, at work, etc.), it’s not uncommon to see women bashing themselves. Research shows that this may be affecting our brains. I recently read a study examining self-talk and behavior change. The study found that positive “self-talk” can actually activate areas of the brain associated with self-relevance and value, making us more likely to follow through with our wellness goals.

This is basically a fancy, scientific way of saying, talking to yourself kindly can actually help you achieve your goals. Yes, seriously. When I found this out, it me so personally. Most of my clients are women and girls, and many are so hard on themselves. These ladies have jobs, families, and loads of responsibilities, and when they can’t manage it all seamlessly, they get mad at themselves for not being Beyoncé.

I feel for these ladies—I really do—as a professional but also personally, because I’ve been there before too. So, I decided to break down the mystery behind making and keeping goals that actually stick…

1. Set realistic goals.
Clients with hectic job or school schedules and families often say, “I’m going to work out 6 days a week,” and when they wind up only doing three days, they get discouraged, when in fact three days is a great start. Setting realistic goals helps you stick with them, rather than getting discouraged when you can’t follow through. The same is true for restrictive diets: Instead of making blanket declarations like “I’m quitting sugar,” opt for something more reasonable like, “I’m avoiding all added sugar (in coffee, in salad dressings, and nut butters etc.), but I’m still going to have 1 fruit a day, and portion-controlled complex carbs like ½ cup beans or lentils, and ½ a sweet potato.”

2. Practice positive self-talk and affirmations.
As you now know, there’s science to back this up! Enforcing a “no negative body-talk” rule will help you visualize your goals. It may not come naturally, but I encourage you to challenge yourself. Next time you look in the mirror or try on clothes with your best friend, play close attention to the way you speak to yourself and about yourself. I always tell my clients when we’re first starting out that making a lifestyle change is challenging, but it’s so much more challenging if you’re not on your own team while you’re making that change.

3. Forgive yourself.
Last year one of my clients really moved me. She was a super bright and ambitious young woman, who was attending a world-class business school. And as you could imagine, she had incredibly high standards for herself. My client had struggled with weight her whole life and was truly ready for a change, so we starting working together and focusing on meal planning but also getting back in touch with hunger and satiety cues (when she’s actually hungry and actually full). After about six months she was making great progress and lost around 30 pounds, when something really remarkable happened: She came back from Europe and said “Shira, I have to tell you something…I ate a CROISSANT!” I asked her how it tasted and she described it in detail, how buttery and flakey it was. She said she ate it, enjoyed it so thoroughly and then moved on, and the next day got right back on the plan we had outlined for her. This was the best possible news and the definition of progress in my book. Six months prior, my client would have eaten the croissant too quickly to enjoy it, and then eaten another because she was so mad at herself and then suddenly all her progress was ruined.

Any of this sound familiar? If yes, I know how hard it can be. I urge you to phase out the “it’s all ruined” mentality, and learn to forgive yourself. I’ll fill you in on what I share with every one of my clients: No matter who you are or how far you’ve come in maintaining your wellness goals, at some point you’re going to take a small step backwards. It can be so frustrating and heartbreaking, but it’s a normal part of life. The key isn’t making sure you never veer off the path, it’s forgiving yourself for taking a step back. That’s what will allow you to take that next step forward.

4. Plan ahead.
Have a summer road trip coming up? A bachelorette party? Vacations can be incredibly fun, but they can also throw off your routine a bit. Over the years I’ve noticed that many of my clients know what to do in terms of nutrition, they just aren’t doing it. So the crux of our work plays out more like a therapy session—getting to the bottom of why they aren’t doing it. A lot of the whys are because, quite simply, life gets in the way. They have so many responsibilities and obligations, the days get away from them, and they wind up overeating or making poor choices because they are tired or stressed, or because they go into meals starving.

The best way to combat this is to take a proactive approach and plan ahead. Arm yourself with healthy options like crudités and hummus, ½ an avocado with garlic salt, a packet of unsweetened nut butter with a piece of fruit. Then, be sure to hit up the local grocery store or farmer’s market to stock up once you’ve reached your destination.

5. Buddy up.
We all lead such busy lives, and it can be challenging to coordinate our social calendars and our workouts. The truth is, our social lives and our workouts are both important for health. This is why I’m such a big advocate for combining the two.

Hiking through the Santa Monica Mountains while catching up with a girlfriend and shaking my way through a barre class with a colleague are some of my favorite ways to fuse workout out with finding a social outlet. If you find that you have a hard time workout out by yourself, I highly recommend finding a class or activity you can do with a friend. Workout partners are also great for keeping us honest. Most people might hit the snooze button if it were up to them… But you wouldn’t want to bail on a friend at the last minute!

6. Invest in some cute workout gear.
Let’s be honest, new workout clothes (ones that actually fit and flatter), can really help inspire us to stay on track with our healthy routines. Made it through an insane workweek? Nursing a broken heart? Instead of rewarding yourself with sweets (as most of us do), I highly recommend treating yourself to new workout leggings. Talk about the biggest win-win!

Do you have any tips for making health and fitness goals and keeping them?

Share your tips in the comments below so that other members can read them!

Xx, Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD 

P.S. If you liked this post, you’ll love these:
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Tone It Up: 10 Ways to Boost Your Confidence
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