It all started in March 2023, when one of my best friends heard me complain about my physical appearance and energy levels. He told me: "I love you, but you gotta stop feeling bad about yourself. If you want to look and feel different, you gotta make a change." That was my turning point to make adjustments in my life and basically TAKE CONTROL. It's been a year of reflection, change and growth and it was all the healthiest and happiest I've ever been. There's so much I would love to share about my journey so I'll try to keep it brief and direct and hopefully help and reach as many people as possible to help motivate you to start your journey if you haven't already.
As we enter a new year, many of us are eager to make positive changes in our lives. Whether it's losing weight, eating healthier, or exercising more, setting resolutions is a common practice. The first step I took was to learn how to create habits, therefore I read the book that so far changed my life: Atomic Habits. The most important lesson I learned here was that resolutions are nothing without actions. It's one thing to have willpower, but another to have skill power. We want to create habits that stick, whether it's a New Year's resolution or any time of the year when we want to make changes for good, changes to make our lives healthier and happier.
Why do healthy habits matter?
Prioritizing our health = Self-love
Healthy habits are the foundation of a vibrant and fulfilling life. They contribute to our overall well-being, both physically and mentally. Prioritizing our health is an act of self-love. We give our body more energy, feel better about ourselves, and are better equipped to handle the challenges that life throws our way.
How can you kickstart a healthy, new you?
Find your why!
First thing I did was be very clear about my 'why'. Why was I doing this? Was it because of physical appearances? Was it for myself? How much was I willing to change in my life to get where I wanted to go? Long-term solutions aren't achieved by short-term actions. For me personally it wasn't about dieting but rather about learning and fixing my relationship with food.
For you it could be that, it could be moving your body more or letting go your unhealthy/toxic relationships. Once you know your why, your path is clear and unobstructed, from there it's all about walking on it. Sure, your can stumble and maybe sometimes even fall out of the path but your why is always your north star. One that has a meaning, a purpose, a happier, healthier you in mind.
How to make healthy habits stick?
Here's a summary of the steps this book recommends as well as some insights as how I applied it them to my own journey.
- Make habits obvious: Start by creating obvious cues that prompt your desired habits. I scheduled 3 weekly tasks: weekly meal planning (deciding which meals I would eat each day of the week), weekly grocery shopping (getting the list from the first task), and weekly meal prepping. This way I was creating visible reminders and structuring my environment to make the habit of eating health more visible and easily continued.
- Start small: Break down habits into tiny, manageable steps. These small actions, when consistently repeated, can lead to significant changes over time. Clear refers to these as "atomic" habits because they are the smallest units of a larger system. If you don't want to change your whole lifestyle at once, begin with removing things each day that simply don't help you such as removing sugar or reducing the carbohydrates you consume per day and take time to listen to what works for you and what doesn't.
- Use habit stacking: Attach new habits to existing ones. This technique involves piggybacking a new habit onto an established routine, making it easier to remember and integrate into your life. Saturday mornings were always my day of unwinding and focusing on mobility so I would do the meal planning in the morning, went to the gym and while walking back I would do the grocery shopping. Meal prepping on the other hand, I attached it to Sunday resets so right after resetting my home I would get to cooking and then had the rest of the afternoon to relax, read, see friends.
- Create a habit loop: Develop a cue-routine-reward loop. Identify triggers that cue the habit, establish the routine, and then reward yourself for completing the habit. Over time, this loop reinforces the habit. Another habit I started implementing was waking up earlier. My trick with this one (as a true coffee lover) was leaving my coffee set up ready to make my coffee as soon as I woke up. My early risings were so happy as I was super excited to do my coffee routine adding my collagen, magnesium and protein to my beautiful thermos to take to work. It made each morning special and unique.
- Employ habit tracking: Monitor and track your progress. This helps in staying accountable and motivated. Tracking your habits can also provide insights into your behavior and patterns. For my case I kept a journal. I wasn't trying to measure weight but rather how I was feeling and writing about it each day helped reflect back as what was working and what wasn't. As an avid crossfitter I was mostly worried about my energy levels lowering and even though that was the case at the beginning, my body quickly adapted to using my energy from a different source rather than glucose (but that's a whole other article).
- Stay consistent: Focus on being consistent rather than aiming for perfection. Even on days when motivation is low, stick to the habit in a scaled-down form to maintain the momentum. Like I said, I might've fell out of that 'path' some times, specially at the beginning and it wasn't even about the diet, it was about how I felt when over eating or consuming foods that upset my body, rather than saying "oh well, might was well start again tomorrow", it was simply about getting back to the steps I was already taking.
- Use habit shaping: Refine and adjust your habits over time. Be willing to adapt and tweak your approach to make the habit more sustainable and aligned with your goals. This has been my favorite time of my health journey, seeing the progress and how each lesson helps you move forward, helps you feel better and even happier.
Remember, creating healthy habits is a lifelong journey. It's not about perfection but progress. By taking small steps and staying committed, you can kickstart 2024 or any day for that matter with a healthy, new you that lasts beyond the first few weeks of the year.
Here's to a year of growth, self-care, and positive change!