Lifestyle changes that stick – Milford-Orange Times

By Michèle Tenney
Here is your health

Michèle Tenney

One of the biggest challenges I face in my profession is getting clients to make lifestyle changes that stick.

Getting them to know their body and getting them to exercise is the easiest part. Nutritional adherence is by far the most difficult hurdle to overcome and hinders success time and time again. Food is cultural, social, emotional and can also be addictive. Economics and geography also play a role in our success in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

First, there must be a genuine will to change. Often times, people panic when they are diagnosed against them. Sometimes this creates an opening for lasting change. However, it is my desire to inspire you to never get to the diagnostic stage. We must see and use food as medicine for the prevention of disease. People are in general overwhelmed with what is good for them and what is bad for them depending on how much we are inundated with the media and fad diets. And I certainly don’t blame them. It’s frustrating for me to watch.

So here are some tips that can help you improve your nutritional stickiness – note that I am not using the word “diet”.

Start by thinking about food in a different way. Think about brain function, joint mobility, heart health, sleep support, digestive well-being and more. By now, we should all know that increasing vegetables and fruits is a great way to improve our health. But there is more to it; it is also about our behaviors and our beliefs.

Ask yourself questions, such as: What’s my take on restrictive diets? By restrictive, I am not referring to calorie restriction or “starving”. I am referring to restricting foods that do not benefit your body.

Another question might be: What factors will make these types of changes easier or harder for me? I’ve always said that knowing your weakness is actually strength. If you can identify weaknesses or difficulties, you can strategize for your success.

What about: How is my current lifestyle helping or hindering me to make lasting changes? People who eat out four to five times a week will likely have a harder time than those who don’t. Find more farm-to-table, vegetarian or vegan restaurants that will give you healthier options. Meal planning is a great help for long term nutritional adherence, as is knowing how to cook. If you’re not a cook, take a class. You will never regret it. Fitbits and other forms of technology can help keep you responsible and on track.

Finally, what I would really like to take home are relapses: they are an integral part of long-term behavior changes. It’s all about balance. If you’re on vacation, you shouldn’t feel guilty about having fun. But maybe you could choose one indulgent meal a day, like dinner or breakfast, and not three meals a day for a full week.

When we want we can. I believe in you.

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