4 Simple Tips for Sticking With Your New Food or Exercise Plan

The right motivation can make all the difference.

4 Simple Tips for Sticking With Your New Food or Exercise Plan

Q: I try to make myself eat less and work out more, but I end up not doing anything that I promised myself I would. How can I stay motivated?

Answer: Motivation — it's the most elusive ingredient in any get-healthy plan, and the most essential! So think about why you want to become healthier: to protect brain function, to dodge disease, to not break a hip? Whatever it is, recognize that when you drop the ball you're really saying to yourself that those things don't matter. But they do! So...

1. Inspire Yourself

Write out what it will mean to you if you stick with your plan to become healthier. Refer to it frequently, especially when in the vicinity of cake, fries or the couch!

2. Set Reasonable Goals

Don't plan on going from zero to 100 in a flash. When it comes to wellness goals, small changes can have a large impact. Add one serving a day of a vegetable to your diet in week one. Add another each week until you reach five or more servings a day. Plan on walking 20 minutes a day for a week; 30 minutes daily the next week; 60 minutes a day in a month.

3. Cultivate Consistency

Set a reminder on your phone for each day's physical activity — beep, beep, beep! It's 7:30 a.m. (or whatever works for your schedule); time for a walk. Every Sunday write out your week's healthy menu plan; stock the house with the food you need.

4. Get Support

That can come in the form of an online therapist, a trainer, a diabetes educator (if you have diabetes), a nutritionist, an exercise group — say a cycling or walking club, a friend, family member or gym pal. Remember, you matter!

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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