Small Win Saturday: I’m A Quitter!

Small wins are the little things that give us a (big) boost, and lots of small wins add up to big changes and powerful breakthroughs. Small Win Saturdays are where we share a tiny-but-awesome thing that happened to a HealthFitter or a HealthFit coach in the last week. Try it out for your a mental or physical boost, or share own your small win in the comments!

I Quit My Gym Membership!

Waaaait a minute. Isn’t HealthFit supposed to be about more movement, not less? Well, yes. But we’re also all about stress management. Paying for a gym membership that I wasn’t using was making me feel guilty as heck, in equal parts for spending the money on nothing, and for actually not going.  And guilt is a sure path to more stress.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about dropping my membership for a few months now, but I felt like I shouldn’t. I felt like I should go, even though I have really been struggling to find the extra time that a gym workout would take. Keeping the membership was part of the “I’ll get there next week” lie I was telling myself. To be clear, I am still exercising, but I’m finding it way more convenient these days to sneak in a workout at home or go for a quick run than to add another half-hour of gym-commute time into an already packed day.

Once I gave some thought to where the go-to-the-gym pressure was coming from, I realized I was trying to meet some expectation that I had formed for myself: That if I didn’t do this, I was giving up on healthy and that would make me a total loser – and that’s much nicer than what my brain actually says.  As an aside, I had a great reminder from my psychologist recently: it’s mind-boggling how we speak to ourselves, and recognizing it when it happens can actually make a big difference. 

All this guilt and self-disappointment, despite the fact that I’m still practicing what I preach. I’m often slow to act on the opportunities to decrease stress in my own life, but I finally figured out that I could reframe “I should go to the gym” to “I prefer to work out at home”. I’m guilt-free (at least about this!) and have $60 bucks a month to spend on yoga classes that I will enjoy way more!

Small wins can be big wins! What was your small win this week?


Healthy Made Easy: The Power of Habit

Isn’t living a healthy lifestyle supposed to be a lot of work? At best, it’s a boring life full of Tupperware lunches and hours at the gym, right? We say “nah”…


Healthy living does NOT have to be like that. Trust me. Over the last decade, I’ve helped hundreds of people discover that “healthy” can come in many forms, and that healthy choices can be flexible enough to meet your needs and still be enjoyed.

One of the ways we make healthy easy at HealthFit Coaching is through harnessing the power of habit.

Almost half of our daily actions and activities are done out of habit. Essentially, we live much of our lives on autopilot. When I think about my days – how much I absentmindedly click over to Facebook when I’m at the computer, or have a snack as soon as I get home from work whether I’m hungry or not – I can readily believe that I’m this driven by subconscious habit.

Habits are created when you do something repeatedly, especially when they are linked to a specific event, situation, time of day, or other trigger (like getting home from work, in the example above). When you do something repeatedly, your subconscious “learns” the trigger and the action to take. This means your conscious mind doesn’t actually have to expend any energy on deciding what happens next, freeing your brain up to focus on other things.

Our goal is to help you create new healthy habits that will take the place of old, less healthy ones. You and your coach will identify the habits you don’t like, and what aspects of your daily life trigger you to take those actions. You’ll figure out exactly what you want to do instead (it’s all about the details!) and then with the help of your coach, you’ll develop a plan to turn your preferred habit into reality.

Putting your plan into action is the bulk of the work. While it’s commonly accepted that it take about three weeks to establish a new habit, in reality this process can take anywhere from a few days to several months. The good news: We’ve identified the steps you can take to make sure your habit-development timeframe is on the short end of that scale. These steps form the basis of our process, and you’ll have the support of your coach and the HealthFit community the whole way.

In the end, we want to help you make your healthy choices automatically. When you make them without even realizing it, that’s the easiest thing of all.


Woman tying running shoes before starting to run

Getting Started With Exercise: An Interview

Our Principal Exercise Physiologist and company founder, Erin Haske, chatted to our friends at Just Knead It Sports and Remedial Massage about getting up and going as you kick start an exercise program.

Pop on over to their blog to find out what she has to say about strategies to get up, keep moving, and even enjoy it!

Just Knead It is a remedial massage clinic based in Woolloongabba on the south side of Brisbane. HealthFit Coaching strongly supports the role of remedial massage in short and long-term health maintenance and prevention, whether you are an athlete or not. And you always feel amazing at the end of it!


Small wins are the little things that give us a (big) boost, and lots of small wins add up to big changes and powerful breakthroughs. Small Win Saturdays are where we share a tiny-but-awesome thing that happened to a HealthFitter or a HealthFit coach in the last week. Try it out for your a mental or physical boost, or share own your small win in the comments!

Deep Sleep Music on YouTube

I often struggle to get my brain to shut down in the evening so I can fall asleep. Since finding it earlier this week though, I’ve been able to stop my brain in it’s tracks. This sleep-sounds track has quickly become my sure-fire way to calm down, switch off, and get some shut eye. It’s gentle and unobtrusive, and I can focus on it without getting wrapped up in it. With this on, I drop off in minutes.

As we prepare to sleep, our brains generally decent through four stages of electrical activity from highly active to less active. The final state of low-level activity is the delta wave state, which is associated with deep sleep and dreaming.

This music is designed to help you achieve delta wave state. This particular track is about three hours long. As a norm, your brain becomes accustomed to noises, so it’s likely that you won’t actually hear the whole track. But it’s great to help you relax and kick that sleeplessness and insomnia to the curb. Small wins can be big wins!

Small Win Saturday: Free Deep Sleep Music


Healthy Habits to Prevent High Blood Pressure

Have high blood pressure, or at high risk for it? Building healthy habits can really help your blood pressure levels. In fact, though there is a genetic component to your individual level, lifestyle choices have an enormous impact on blood pressure – for better or worse!

How is high blood pressure dangerous?

Picture this: You’re filling up a water balloon. As you put in more water, the balloon stretches, and the walls start to thin, which makes them much more susceptible to damage (like when you throw it at someone and it bursts on impact!!). On the other hand, a balloon with only a small amount of water in it will be much harder to damage.

High blood pressure (known in medical terms as hypertension) works in much the same way. The increased pressure on the blood vessel walls makes them more susceptible to damage. Vessels can become more stiff and build up deposits of plaque, leading to the blockage of blood that causes heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure can also damage small blood vessels in your kidneys, eyes, and other organs, which in turn damages the organs themselves. And like the water balloon, blood vessels can also weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. An aneurysm that bursts can quickly be life-threatening. High blood pressure is also a risk factor for other diseases and health conditions, increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even cognitive conditions.

These high blood pressure complications are not especially appealing! But the lifestyle choices that keep your blood pressure at healthy levels and help prevent complications can be easy, and even enjoyable.

Simple Changes to Lower Blood Pressure

Get daily exercise or physical activity: A healthy heart and blood vessels can be achieved and maintained with as little as 30 minutes of daily activity. You can even break this up into smaller blocks – there is significant evidence that multiple, short bouts of activity have the same health benefits as one longer one. So if a brisk half-hour walk doesn’t sound good, you could try a 10-min walk in the morning and evening, and another 10 minutes of exercise or even active chores like vacuuming to hit your 30 minutes. If it’s been a while since you’ve been active or exercising, please chat with your doctor prior to starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have health problems.

Make healthy food choices: Choose fresh foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. That is, pick lean steak over salami. Eat more whole foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), and fewer pre-prepared foods, as these are generally higher in sodium, cholesterol, and trans fats. Choosing foods with no added sugars will also help. Don’t forget to include beverages in this category too!

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight: Carrying extra body fat can cause blood pressure to rise, and increases physical stress on the body’s systems. Even a small amount of weight loss can have a big impact on blood pressure levels, and additional weight loss can lead to additional improvements. The above two ideas will certainly help with this.

Choose healthy stress management strategies: Gentle physical activity like walking or tai chi, meditation and breathing exercises, keeping a journal or working on arts and crafts are all healthy relaxation ideas. Take some time to have some fun!

Avoid unhealthy stress management: Two common but unhealthy stress management choices that many people make are alcohol and tobacco use. Keep your alcohol consumption under one standard drink per day for women, and two for men. And we all know that tobacco use is deadly – spiking your blood pressure is just one reason why.

Sleep well: Restful sleep is key to stress management. Poor sleep quality can impair your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, which can lead to increases in blood pressure. On average, adults under the age of 65 should get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Adults over 65 should get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. If you have trouble getting this amount of sleep, or don’t wake up feeling rested, please talk to your doctor about this. It’s one of the single biggest things you can do to improve your health!

Taking action in any one of these areas can make a significant difference. Making more than one of these choices on a regular basis will help you easily control your blood pressure, and potentially even prevent the need for medication. What’s one change that you can make today?


Label Reading 101: How To Pick Healthy Foods

Flip a packaged food over and have a look at the nutrition information on the back. Lots of numbers, big words, tiny print. Is it any wonder people get confused?

Reading labels can be an effort – at least when you aren’t used to it. But they are also a treasure trove of information about how that food might impact your health, once you know what to look for. Learning labels takes a little thought – mainly, figuring out what you are looking for – and then a little practice. Give it a try and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you’ll get the hang of it!

The Background

Many factors determine how “healthy” a food is. But regardless of your personal situation (allergies, intolerances, or other specific dietary needs), there are a few fundamental ways to help you determine if a food is going to be good for you. None of these will probably come as a surprise, but instead of just telling you to “read labels”, we’re going to discuss exactly what you want to be looking for when you’re looking, giving you a clear understanding of how to make the best choice (for you!).

It is generally assumed that the less processed a food is, the higher its nutritional value will be. Higher nutrient value is, of course, a big step toward being healthier and better for your body. More processed foods, on the other hand, are usually made up of whole ingredients that have been broken down, some parts taken out, other additives (sometimes from other food products, other times manufactured) put in to keep some sort of appealing taste and/or texture, and then reassembled into the final food product. Cheap for the manufacturer, often appealing to the consumer, but usually these are not things that our bodies love – even if it can boast being “low carb” or “fat free”. (Though as it turns out, neither low-carb nor fat-free foods are sure paths to a healthy diet.)

Actual real food, on the other hand, is minimally processed and has a much higher nutritional value, and often doesn’t even have a package or label. Common sense tells us “fresh is best”, right? Since that’s not always possible (or practical), this article is directed towards choosing the healthiest of the foods that actually come in packages and with labels.

So, how do you determine to maximize the health and nutrient value of the foods you choose to buy and eat?

Check the ingredients

This is my first stop on a food label, even before the nutrition numbers. Since each ingredient and added component (the additives) of a food need to be listed, the shorter the list, the less processed that food is likely to be. My rule of thumb is that any packaged food that I buy has five ingredients or less.

Interesting side note: Ingredients are listed in order of quantity, so the ingredient that comprises the largest percentage of a food will be listed first, the second largest percentage will be listed second, and so on. This can be helpful if you’re after a specific packaged food that has something relatively undesirable in it, since it can help you gauge how much of that ingredient you might actually be consuming, and whether you are ok with that amount or whether you would prefer to avoid it.

Check the ingredients – part two

Other things I’m thinking about when I’m checking out the ingredients list:

Can I actually pronounce what’s on that list? You should be able to. At the very least, you can probably recognize when something doesn’t sound like it’s naturally occurring.

Are there numbers? Numbers are not ingredients or components of food items occurring in nature. Red 5? Steer clear.

Would I cook with what’s on that list (or at the least, expect that a chef could cook with it)? If you could (conceivably) purchase and cook with each ingredient on the list, you probably have a less processed, more nutritious food on your hands. If an ingredient sounds like you might need to get it from a lab instead of a supermarket, you might not want to be putting it in your body.

The big exception: Many packaged foods are fortified with added vitamins. This is not always undesirable, as these particular additives can be highly beneficial to health and body function. But often what we might recognize as good stuff can be on an ingredient list under a different name – for example, Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin, a name that is definitely more chemical-sounding.  If the ingredient list is pretty simple with one or two exceptions that you aren’t sure about, a quick Google search can tell you all about the mystery words!

Read the Nutrition Label

In Australia, certain information is required to be on a food label, including:

  • The energy content: In everyday terms, this is the calorie count. The term Kilojoule is also becoming more popular. Both refer to how much energy the food provides.
  • The protein content.
  • The fat content, including the amount of saturated fat.
  • The Carbohydrate content, including the combined amount of naturally occurring and added sugars.
  • The sodium content.
  • The amount of any other nutrient (or biologically active substance) about which a claim is made. For instance, if a package states a food give you B vitamins, it should list those vitamins on the nutrition label. Go look at your jar of Vegemite and you’ll see what I mean!

My goal in choosing a given food is to maximize the nutrient value while minimizing the calorie (energy) content.  I primarily look at energy content and protein. If there isn’t a clear preferred choice, I’ll also check out total carbohydrates and relative amount of sugar, and lastly, total fat and how much of which kind(s).

I’ll also take into consideration the serving size, since the nutrition numbers mean nothing without that figure. And since often the serving size is just some random number, here’s my pro tip for figuring out if that “serving” is realistically what I’ll be eating: Look at the serving size compared to the total package size. For instance, if the total package weight is 400g and a serving size is 100g, I’ll consider whether I’m likely to eat a quarter of that package. If I think that’s unrealistic, but I still plan to buy that food, I’ll do some mental math – or get out my phone – and revise that nutritional data upward or downward as needed.

Lastly, when I have the option, I also like to compare the nutrition data from a few different brands of the same or similar products, since I’m usually shopping for something specific and I want the healthiest version. The “per 100g” column provided alongside the “serving size” column makes it way easier to compare which brand is going to meet my needs the best.

Ignore the rest of the packaging (In general)

Ever heard the saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”??

Simply put, many products that make health claims on the packaging miss the mark in other ways. Because low-fat, low-carb, or sugar-free products have often been processed to meet these claims, these foods are often additive-heavy to keep the food appealing when we actually eat it.

Call me cynical, but I generally regard health claims on food packages with suspicion. That specific claim may be true, but what in that food has been lost in order to meet that claim? Often what has been given up (or taken out) isn’t worth the “benefit” you get, particularly when other options are available. But that’s just one lady’s opinion!

 

Get healthy. Feel great. Enjoy life more. HealthFit Coaching provides guidance and support in making healthy habits work with your lifestyle. Get in touch to find out more about how coaching will help you.


Three Protein-Packed Snacks

Quick and easy, once the prep is done these snacks are pretty much grab-and-go.

Protein is really important.

From helping to maintain muscle mass, to keeping you full and preventing not-so-great food choices, to ensuring your immune system is running on all cylinders, protein is a critical component of your day to day diet. Your body only keeps small stores of proteins circulating for use, and these stores need to be replenished frequently. The best way to do this is to include a variety of protein sources in your day to day diet.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the protein shake. They are definitely useful for quick post-workout refueling, but (usually) they aren’t delicious. Real food is delicious, and has the added benefits of additional fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other factors that can help your body maximize on the nutrients you’re giving it.

Some of my favorite snacks are protein heavy, don’t require super special kitchen skills, and are super satisfying to boot:

Hard-boiled eggs
It took me years to figure out how easy this snack is, but better late than never! These are my favorite protein-packed snack, for ease of preparation and versatility.

For making hard boiled eggs easy: Tip 1: Let the eggs sit in warm water for 10 minutes to bring them up to room temperature. This will help keep the eggs from cracking when you bring them to the boil. Tip 2: Boil them with baking soda: it helps the eggs peel more easily when you’re done. I was never told a specific amount, and I dont ever measure, I just dump a bunch in. For a small saucepan, I probably use 2-3 heaping tablespoons. If you have a batch that doesn’t peel easily, try more baking soda next time.

Once peeled, you can go with classic salt and pepper, but I also love a bit of smoked paprika or some cajun seasoning for a little bit of a kick.

Natural peanut butter on celery sticks
A throwback to my childhood, I still love this snack. The salty, crunchy celery is a nice complement to the protein-packed creamy peanut butter, plus the celery will do great things for your fiber intake. Smear a celery stick with as much peanut butter as desired: I try for a thin spread, since the peanut butter can carry a big calorie load. Want a little sweet on the top? Dot the peanut butter with some raisins or sultanas for a little extra pop. Peanut-allergy? Try with almond butter, or another nut butter of your choice.

Beef Jerky
Not the store-bought stuff! Make-your-own jerky is actually pretty easy, despite being the most-labor intensive on this list. Really, the hardest thing is slicing the meat, and if your butcher will probably do that for you. Alternatively, in the US you can sometimes find beef sliced for carne asada – this is perfect for making jerky. Check out international or hispanic markets for this. Once the meat is cut, marinate it for a few hours, in the over for a few more, and you’re done! There is a great at-home recipe here, complete with great pictures and instructions, but a quick google will give plenty of at-home jerky options.

Am I missing something excellent? I’m always looking for new ideas. Leave me a comment and let me know what I should try!


Staying Informed About Your Health Care – A How-To List

Going to the doctor or other health care practitioner can be stressful, and it’s easy to feel rushed when you’re at an appointment. It’s quite often “hurry up and wait”, and that pressure can lead us to rush through our part of the visit as well. We worry we’ll seem slow on the uptake if we don’t understand what’s being told to us, or that having questions will make us seem pushy or uncooperative.

It’s totally normal to feel this way – we’ve been brought up with the concept that doctors are busy and important, so who are we to get in the way? It’s important to remember though, that you are uniquely positioned to discuss your health with your doctor, and you have a duty to yourself to take the best care of your body that you can. After all, you’re the only one with the knowledge and experience of living your life, in your body, and how that feels. No one will care more about your life than you!

That’s not to say your doctor doesn’t care about you – they do want the best for you. But when appointment are set 10-15 minutes apart, if you don’t speak up, it can be easy for the doctor to hit the highlights of what’s happening and what they want to do about it. Unfortunately, hitting the highlights can be easy for a doctor with the background knowledge of how a healthy body works, what might be happening with yours, and what can be done to move back towards good health. Take advantage of this knowledge – you’ll find that your doctor is happy to explain things in more detail. You’ll be better informed, and will likely be able to make better choices about your healthcare for years to come. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your doctor’s appointment, though these points apply to any visit with anyone taking part in your health care, including exercise physiologists and personal trainers, chiropractors, massage therapists – you name it!

Come prepared. Whether you have a list of questions or a list of symptoms – no matter how simple, or how complicated – writing these down in the lead up to your appointment will help you make sure you don’t miss anything. This goes even if it’s just a general check-up.

Take notes at your doctor’s appointment. Your doctor went to school for YEARS to simply begin to understand what they are trying to tell you in five minutes. You probably won’t remember everything they are saying, so be a smarty-pants and write it down. Your doctor will be impressed.

Find out in detail what you can expect from a prescription or treatment. If you don’t know what to expect, how will you know if it’s working? Additionally, some treatments and prescriptions can have heavy-duty side effects, and you should be aware of what to look for.

If something doesn’t make sense to you, ask for clarification. Doctors LOVE patients who are actively engaged in their own medical care, and they’ll take more time to explain things and make sure that you understand to your own satisfaction. Don’t hesitate to ask.

Keep track of your treatments, prescriptions, supplements, and surgeries. Don’t count on your medical office to have an up-to-date list, especially if you are seeing multiple health care practitioners. Helping them stay current will help you get better care.

Pay attention to what happens when you do (or don’t) take your prescriptions, supplements, or otherwise follow doctor’s orders.
Taking (or missing) a tablet, an appointment, or a workout may or may not have an immediate effect (and I’m certainly not suggesting you experiment with skipping things you should be doing!) Sometimes we forget things though, and it’s handy to reflect on whether that makes a difference to how you’re feeling in the days after the fact.

Ask your doctor if they have additional materials that can help you understand your condition or treatment. This is especially useful if you’ve recently been diagnosed with a health condition, or have been prescribed a new treatment of some sort. People learn and retain information in a variety of ways. If your doctor can show you a video, give you a booklet with pictures and information, or otherwise find ways to help you understand what’s going on with your body, you’re likely to gain a much better understanding. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Talk to the nurses! The nursing staff is a collective goldmine of experience, and can answer many of your health questions just as well as the doctor. You might have a little more time with a nurse, as well, so you might as well make the most of it.

Bring a second set of ears. If you have someone close enough to share your health information with, it can be handy to have a second set of ears to help absorb information, and they may ask some good questions that you don’t think of.

Find out how to get further information. It can be tough to get all your info in one visit, and Dr. Google is a BAD doctor. Find out who you can get in touch with, and how to do it, if you have additional questions or want more information.

Don’t be afraid to change doctors. There are pros and cons to this – in many ways, it’s great to be working with someone who is deeply familiar with your health history. But if you find that your doc is unwilling to share information, or you’re otherwise unhappy with your care, it’s worth finding someone you click with.

Don’t forget, your doctor actually works for you. Stay healthy, my friends!


Knowledge Is Power

I recently read an interesting article in the New York Times Health section discussing informed consent in medical treatment. Sounds exciting, right?

Informed consent – a term your doctor probably uses quickly, if at all – sounds in-depth and jargon-y and like it will take a long, painful time to get through, and I’m sick and just fix me already, would you? Wading through the medical-and-legalese can be eye-glazing and overwhelming. You probably don’t need to read this story to know what I’m talking about.

Despite this, as patients we often hastily agree to whatever our doctor recommends rather than risk appearing to not understand what our doctor is telling us, or not wanting to waste their time with our questions. This is human nature, so don’t feel bad if this sounds like you! This is also unfortunate, because whether you’re in for heart surgery or a sinus infection, you should know what your doctor plans to do with your body, what you should expect to happen because of this, and what else could happen by following the treatment plan or by rejecting it.

Sometimes this knowledge doesn’t change a treatment plan: When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we spend an hour with my oncologist going through his proposed treatment plan, how he expected my body to respond, and what I might experience with side effects. He was very thorough and I’m sure I didn’t hear more than about 20% of what he said. Regardless, when he asked at the end if I wanted to go ahead with treatment, I said “You Bet” and we got started. But after everything sunk it, you can bet that over the next month I pestered every nurse and doctor involved in my treatment about the fine points of this drug, that pill, what does what, and why is this other thing happening. If I didn’t understand the answer, I would ask them to dumb it down. And I’m glad I did…

Sometimes this knowledge does change the plan: About two months into my chemotherapy treatment, I had turned into a rage machine. I was angry all the time, at everything, and truly awful to be around. When I realized I was livid as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, I knew there was something going on beyond the whole “mad that I had cancer” phase. I knew that the steroid doses given to prevent nausea after a chemo treatment can make a person more prone to anger and depression, so I called my doctor. We dropped the steroid dose, and I was back to a much more normal, tolerable state. If I hadn’t been aware of that potential side effect, I may have been murdered by my family before I could finish cancer treatment.

It pays to know your treatment’s side effects, and to know your body!

This is true whether you’re in a serious situation, as I was, or if you have a mild sinus infection that your doctor wants to treat with antibiotics. I want to emphasize that in no way am I saying that you should outright reject the suggestions of your medical team. What I am saying: knowing and understanding what the plan may entail is useful knowledge, particularly when you’re paying attention to how your body actually reacts to the plan once it’s put in place. No one will know that better than you, and no one will care as much as you do.

This is why it’s so important to me that the information you see on the HealthFit Coaching website is evidence-based (i.e. has scientific research to back it up) and accurate, giving you tools to understand your body and your health, and to make decisions that YOU are confident are in your best interest.

Knowledge is power, and you have to be your own best advocate, because no one else will.


Making Positive Changes

Making changes to our normal routine or habits can be difficult at the best of times, and especially when the change we want or need to make isn’t one we are excited about. Many people find themselves in this sort of conundrum when it comes to improving their health, fitness, and wellbeing. We know we should be doing something different, and we even have a good idea of what is it, but we just don’t realllly want to.

However, we don’t need to make sweeping changes to have a positive effect on our lives. Making good food choices and moving our bodies more are where we’ll most benefit, and if we can make progress in one or both of these, we are well on our way to feeling (and looking and living) better.

But where to actually begin? There is abundant information available, and mis-information too. Couple that with frequent pressure (both from external sources like the media, and from ourselves) to doing everything right, and the thought of making any change can be overwhelming.

Let’s fix that.

In a nutshell, the key to making permanent change to habits or routine is to set yourself up for success. Pick ONE thing to work on at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed by making a million changes all at once. And go easy on yourself: New habits and healthier routines are created when we make our desired behavior or choice easier than making our old, habitual, less desirable choice.

Example 1: You are on your way home from work and starving. The options: Pizza, or making a healthy dinner… Hmm.

What if you had some chicken and salad ready and waiting for you when you got home? Because there is no work and no waiting involved, you’re more likely to head straight for that (even if pizza sounds more appealing).

Example 2: You are thinking about exercising more, but you HATE the thought of joining a gym. Then a friend calls and asks if you want to join a recreational soccer team (or insert other fun activity here: hiking, running around with the kids, line dancing, etc.).

Picking an activity that involves movement and fun is going to beat the activity that involves movement and boring and hard. Bringing a friend along can also up the enjoyment factor, making you even more likely to stick with it.

Bearing in mind that we want to pick something that is an easy addition to our lives, the best changes we can make are the ones that will have the greatest impact on our lives. We want the biggest bang-for-buck, especially early on, because success in itself is motivating. The more you have, the more inspired you are to work harder, and hard stuff becomes easier because it’s your ticket to continued progress. “Most impactful” can be different things to different people, so it’s worth taking time to consider what life might look like with one new habit versus another.

Bear in mind that you might not come up with an idea that is totally fun and really easy – sometimes you give a little of one to get a little of the other, and that’s ok too, as long as it is ok with you. There are no rules – just keep tweaking an idea until it really works.

The Takeaway: When you want to make a change, make it easy on yourself:

  • Choose one new activity, behavior, or choice to work on at a time. This allows us to focus, and cements this new, positive change faster. Adding a second desired change greatly reduces our ability to make either permanent. Stick with one thing until you find yourself doing it without thinking about it, then consider what change you might like to make next.
  • Choose the simple, most impactful things to work on first. Most of us have a number of ideas about what we can do to “get healthier”, thanks to a seemingly-infinite number of news sources. Worry more about eating less cake than eating more kale (or whatever the latest trendy superfood is).
    • Make it easy by choosing the things that are easy for YOU
    • Think about “bang for buck” – what is the one thing you could do that will give the most progress?
    • Realize that the easiest thing might not have the biggest bang-for-buck, and that’s ok!
  • Master the basics, and then move to greater challenges. Start with something you are confident that you can be successful with. Ask yourself: Am I confident that I can 90% stick with this chance for the next week? If yes, go for it! If not, continue to simplify it until you feel that you can stick with it 90% of the time.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. None of are on our best behavior all the time. This is why we use the “90% test”. When you make a choice that isn’t in line with your changed behavior, don’t stress about it. Every hour of every day can be a fresh start, so if you slip up, shake it off and keep moving forward.
  • Do celebrate your successes. (Maybe not with cake.) One of the best ways to cement a change is to associate it with something you enjoy. This can be done on a daily basis: think about eating extra broccoli as you enjoy that juicy steak, or go walking with a friend instead of by yourself. Celebrate your bigger successes too. When you feel confident in your new habit, reward yourself – go for a massage, get a manicure, see a movie. Treat yo’ self!

Last but not least, remember that small steps are the best approach. Take your time and you’ll create lasting habits and permanent, satisfying change!