When you have a big goal in front of you—adopting the healthy-eating patterns your doctor keeps encouraging—it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. When you’re shooting for a big target, it’s harder to see progress and you might feel like giving up.
A better strategy is to break down your goal into smaller, more achievable tasks, so you’re not trying to tackle too much at once. Here’s how to get started:
Focus on one thing at a time. If you’re trying to count your carbohydrate servings and cut saturated fat from your diet, try just counting carbohydrates at first. When you feel confident about your progress, then start working on cutting saturated fat.
Set small goals, and set a time frame. When you set your goals, choose actions you can have control over, and give yourself a time frame so you’ll be able to measure how close you come to reaching them. Some good examples:
• Finding time to take a 10-minute walk each day for a week.
• Making a healthy homemade meal once a week.
• Not drinking any soda (even if it is diet!) for at least 12 days over the next two weeks.
Why this works: Goals like these may be challenging enough to keep you motivated, but not so challenging that they’re out of reasonable reach. You can meet them—and you will!
Stick with small changes. If you think this approach sounds halfhearted, think again. Small changes are often the most powerful of all, because they’re the ones we’re most likely to stick with. And small changes can produce big results: just adding a little more activity to your day, for example, might be all you need to bring down your blood sugar to a manageable level. Consider that just losing 10 percent of your body weight—that’s 15 pounds if you weigh 150 now—can help lower your risk for heart problems as well as improve control over your sugar levels.
Celebrate your successes. Once you reach a goal, be sure to mark your achievement with a reward. Taking the time to acknowledge your success makes you more motivated to reach your goals. If weight loss is your aim, try rewarding yourself with something unrelated to food: say, a trip to the movies or a new piece of clothing.
After you celebrate, set a new goal. Set the bar a little higher so that you’ll keep yourself challenged—and don’t forget to give yourself a reward once you’ve reached your next challenge.
Before any strenuous physical activity, be sure to talk to your doctor.