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Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Don't Fall Back into Bad Habits

How to keep a good thing going
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Keep Moving continued...

To avoid slacking off on your exercise program, Turley and Ray offer the following tips:

  • Set measurable goals -- like number of minutes walked or number of weight-lifting reps. Be specific, but realistic.
  • Find an "accountability partner" who can exercise with you.
  • Tell close friends and family your intentions and goals to help keep you on track.
  • Decide in advance how much time each day or each week you can devote to a fitness program. "Make sure it is realistic," says Ray. "Schedule it like you would a meeting or other things throughout your day."
  • Use reminders -- Post-it notes, computer memos, whatever works for you.
  • Track and celebrate your progress.
  • Create a reward system for yourself.

Motivation is ultimately the key when keeping up any lifestyle change, says Lou Manza, PhD, associate professor of psychology and department chairman at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa.

When you begin to feel discouraged and want to fall back into old habits, Manza recommends getting away from your workout program for a week or two. Don't be inactive during your break; just do another form of exercise that is less taxing on your body and mind.

And don't use a temporary setback as an excuse to give up on your workout.

"Don't let a setback completely derail your lifestyle change," Ray adds. "If you miss a day or even a week, don't give into the temptation to quit altogether."

Going Easy on Yourself

Too often, people take an "all-or-nothing" approach to sensible eating and working out, which can lead to giving up altogether, says Debbie Mandel, MA, author of Changing Habits.

"If you can't do an hour workout today because you are tired, do 15 minutes instead," she suggests. "See how that goes, and then see if you can do another 15 minutes. Sometimes 15 minutes is good enough, and other times you'll find yourself completing the whole hour."

According to Mandel, it takes about 21 days for a new habit to take hold, so don't be hard on yourself if the first few weeks are a struggle. To help the process along, Mandel offers the following advice:

  • Take one small step at a time. "A small change is manageable," says Mandel. "Too many changes at one time can be overwhelming."
  • Don't be unkind to yourself. Enjoy the day off from working out or savor that special meal or treat, then be eager to get back on schedule the next day.
  • Don't overdo. Too much exercise can lead to fatigue and even injury; too little food can actually slow your metabolism down.
  • Change your routine. Vary your workout and your meals. "Introduce fun into your life!" she says.
  • Get group support. Work out with a friend, join a league, start a lunchtime fitness group at work.
  • Post affirmations and motivating quotes inside and outside the refrigerator.

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