Ever wonder why that holiday season of indulgence is so tough to avoid?
It’s because years of repeated cycles of behavior become practiced, habitual, and automatic. The more habitual they become, the more resistant they are to change – even bad habits.
It takes a great deal of planning, motivation, and practice to change behavioural habits, but it can be done.
If you’re tired of dashing towards yet another attempt to lose weight after the holidays, how about, instead, starting a new journey towards the health changes that really stick?
If your goal is to live longer and be healthier, a new study from Harvard School of Public Health outlines five lifestyle habits to adopt.
- Avoid smoking.
- Consume no alcohol or moderate amounts (one-half to one drink daily for women and one-half to two drinks daily for men).
- Keep a healthy body weight. Although an imperfect measure, aim for a BMI 18.5-24.9.
- Be active. Aim for 30 or more minutes daily of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise. Examples of moderate intensity exercise include brisk walking (3-4 mph), bicycling (10-12 mph), tennis doubles, gardening, or dancing. Vigorous activity includes hiking uphill, jogging (6 mph), bicycling fast (>14 mph), tennis singles, soccer, or swimming laps.
- Eat a healthy diet. This is a diet defined with a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, polyunsaturated fatty acids (particularly long chain omega-3 fatty acids), and a low intake of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fat, and sodium.
These five habits underscore the importance of following a healthy lifestyle for improving longevity. If practiced together, you could add over a decade to your life.
Now, it may be tempting to jump right in and try to fix everything at once. But lifestyle success usually occurs through setting small, clearly-defined goals and achieving them one-by-one.
Ask yourself which habits you’re doing well at and where you’d like to improve.
Choose one area to focus on and one change you’d like to implement. Start with something easy and realistic. For example, if improving your diet interests you, avoid turning to the latest diet trend that tells you to drastically change your food patterns. Instead, just start with adding one more vegetable and fruit to your daily diet or start packing your own lunch for work. If decreasing alcohol is your focus, avoid going cold turkey. Instead, consider cutting out drinking at home and save those drinks for social experiences with friends. Check in weekly to stay accountable.
As this one small change gets incorporated into your regular routine and becomes a habit, add another item. Slowly but surely, you’ll attain all five habits.
Would you be surprised to know that less than one percent of the American population is practicing all five of the top healthy habits for longevity?
Find Expert Support
Make an appointment with a PRO Club Registered Dietitian to receive expert, professional guidance on how to incorporate healthy nutritional changes into your lifestyle so they become effortless and habitual. Visit proclub.com or call 425-861-6258.
If you need further help in overcoming habits, visit with one of our counselors at the PRO Medical Counseling Center.
Visit proclub.com or call 425-462-2776.
Written by Amanda Wood- MS, RD, CD