It's that time of the year when we’re simultaneously gorging ourselves and making New Year’s resolutions to take better care of ourselves. While this is amusing, it’s important to realize that our culture prizes ‘busy’ and puts less energy towards the very activities that keep us healthy (e.g., using better ingredients, getting adequate sleep, making time for exercise). So, how can we help ourselves, and by extension, loved ones, toward positive health changes?
Tip 1: Take care of yourself. Just like the ‘putting your oxygen mask on before helping others’-mantra for plane flights, when you can take care of yourself, you serve as a good example to others. Make good food choices, make time to workout and take extra steps to ensure the best possible sleep. You don’t have to be perfect, and contrary to what’s glamorous, show the work it requires. Taking care of yourself pays dividends in the long run, but it requires time in the short-run. Don’t be afraid to share your successes and failures as you take care of yourself.
Tip 2: It's ok to do it one step at a time. Small improvements can add up. If your loved one is not ready to change their food choices, maybe just giving up grains or dairy or alcohol for 30 days (or even 10) or walking the neighborhood every day is something that would get them headed in the right direction. Strength training in a short 20 minute workout (Next Age Fitness specializes in this) might be more tolerable than other steps that take a bigger commitment. It's a start and it's in the right direction to living a healthy lifestyle.
Tip 3: Form partnerships, aka, ‘accountability-buddies’. A shared effort to get healthier, even if your individual goals differ, can be one way to show support. You can check-in regularly as a part of your normal relationship, and you can help your loved one recognize when their plan is (or is not) working. Cheer them on to find what works best for them to get healthy.
Tip 4: Don’t shame, but create opportunities for reflection. One strategy is to bring up a recent news article (like Next Age Fitness on facebook as we share articles that may help) or item you saw in the grocery to talk about diet generally. You do not want to create ‘demon foods’, judge them, become the ‘food police’, or over-share what has worked for you. The issue is generally more complex than the basics; it’s likely they already know what to do, but they need to get over the mental blocks associated with bad health habits and build motivation to align with their goals. Keep the conversation focused on the goals they have stated for their health and their feelings, not the specific numbers they need to hit. It can be demoralizing. Keep positive about the change they are making, however small. It can snowball into big things!
TIp 5: Volunteer to help them change their schedules or home. For those friends and partners who are particularly motivated, it can be really helpful to have a friend help kick-off healthy habits by auditing what’s in the kitchen (or in the gym bag). Toss out the foods they want to stop eating, go with them to get new work-out clothes, or find other ways to help them rid bad habits.
Tip 6: Consider thoughtful gifts. This can be tricky, and very personal, so do not try this method unless the person has indicated that these would be wanted gifts and/or costs are a barrier to achieving good health. Gifts could include an appointment with a nutritionist, a journal or app to log foods, gym club membership, or a giftcard to the grocery to purchase healthier foods. If appropriate, a clever but useful gift might be helpful. View these as tools to help your loved one more easily say ‘yes’ to building healthy habits every day.
We wish you the best of luck on your health goals, and offer one big tip: Don’t wait to start this goal until New Year’s. You can make big health gains now!
Next Age Fitness Staff