I’m here to support your wellness journey every step of the way, whether that’s reading my Health blogs, booking an appointment or signing up for my 7 Day better Sleep challenge.
Being fit, healthy and happy can mean different things to different people, and therefore your health goals can also differ widely.
The top 8 health goals shared by the Prevention community are:
Get stronger and fitter
Prevent disease and injury
Complete a 5K, 10K or marathon
Whether you find your health goal in this list or not, wanting to lose a few pounds for a summer holiday, eat better to gain more energy, to get fit, run your first race, or to start drinking more water, health goals are essential for a long and happy life. Most health goals are inter-linked, so to improve one area may have an added benefit of improving another aspect of your overall health and wellbeing.
Here are my top 5 tips for achieving your health goals.
#1. Find your motivation
Why do you want to get healthier? Is it for your kids? To look and feel better? To help you sleep, or live longer perhaps? Get clear on what you want and use this as motivation when things get a little tough, or you feel like quitting.
Set yourself a challenge. Be realistic of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to aim low. Starting simple is a good idea but aiming big can be motivating too. Will doing 5K runs help you feel motivated when you can already do four and a half? No, then aim for 10K.
Big goals are more work, but they can help you stay committed and are more rewarding too.
#2. Have a plan
People who don’t take the time to plan tend to wander aimlessly from week to week and wonder why things never turned out as they hoped. Look at it this way; if you wanted to take a road trip, you wouldn’t just get in the car and go, would you? You would plan; find a route, book a hotel, pack a snack etc. Otherwise, you’d arrive tired, hungry and fatigued. The same applies if you jumped into a healthy new lifestyle all in one go.
Planning ahead will help you to reach your goals, and more importantly, stick to them. It will help you to prioritise what’s important to you and maintain balance as well as serving as a roadmap for accomplishing what matters most to you.
Improving your health and wellbeing is a lifestyle change, not a short-term fix, so with your long-term plan in mind, break your bigger goals into baby steps and change one small thing at a time. You’re more likely to keep on track this way.
Be realistic too; to say ‘I’m going to the gym 7 days a week’ is not a realistic target or is it necessary (your body will need recovery time for a start), or saying you want to lose 3 stone in 12 months seems a huge task and will overwhelm you. If you break the goal down and plan to lose 1-2 lbs a week, this is much more attainable. You can then either have a mini celebration at the end of the week or plan to work harder next week.
Planning for the week ahead can also help you stay on track, for example, meal prep on a Sunday, cook your meals for the week ahead, or text a friend to arrange a walk so that you aren’t tempted to quit and get a pizza instead!
#3. Track what you eat
Paying more attention to what you eat can be a real eye-opener. You might eat more calories than you thought you were, or find you tend binge late at night. This isn’t a lifelong habit, but a good way to see where you can make healthy tweaks and hit your weight loss goals without starving yourself or denying yourself the odd treat.
Whether you want to go old school and keep a notebook, or use an app such as MyFitnessPal, start logging your food. After a while, you’ll learn what’s a good day for you, what a portion looks like, and how many calories are in that extra glass of wine!
Make small changes, like sprinkling cinnamon instead of sugar to heighten the flavour of coffee, drink sparkling water instead of soda, or snack on popcorn instead of crisps. Trying to do much in one go will be overwhelming and can lead to failure.
Don’t forget to reward yourself with a day off now and then too. Cheat days are good for boosting your metabolism as well as a mind booster. Just don’t turn a cheat meal into a cheat week!
#4. Add exercise to your daily routine
In order to burn calories, keep muscle tone and maintain a healthy heart, you should take regular exercise. Aim for 30 minutes a day, but if you haven’t exercised for a while, take it slow and build up.
Choose things that don’t feel like a chore to you. For example, if you are not a natural gym bunny, try walking the dog, cycling to work, or take up dance lessons. Even small things like taking the stairs instead of the lift can make a huge difference in the long run, and it’s proven that the more active the individual is, the less likely they are to suffer from cardiovascular disease.
Work out if you are a morning person like me, and then set your alarm an hour early. I have my gym bag ready, so first thing in the morning I can get my exercise out of the way and feel smug for the rest of the day!
If you prefer an evening workout, take your gym bag with you to work, and do it on the way home. Once you sit on the sofa and eat dinner, you’re unlikely to get motivated enough to get up and go out again.
It's a good idea to 'Buddy up' with someone to keep you on track. Having a friend with similar goals means you can spur each other on, especially on days when you just don’t feel like it. They can make it seem like more fun, hold you accountable and become a great support system. Also, knowing someone else is relying on you makes it much easier to find the motivation to carry on and increase your chances of success.
#5. Be kind to yourself
We all have bad days, and some days you might fall off the wagon a bit. That’s ok; it's just a normal part of the process. Just don’t use it as an excuse to quit. Every day is a new chance to start again, so pick yourself up, find that motivation from step 1 and get yourself back on track.
You need approx. 21 days to implement a new habit, so patience and kindness are key to your health and wellness success. Believe in yourself too. Self-belief is important to make goals a reality and not just a dream. Making changes requires consistency and hard work, so instead of thinking up excuses of why you can’t do something, think of 100 reasons why you are going to smash this and make your goals a reality.
Rest up and chill out a little. Darken your room, and get an early night, as sleep will help you to stay focused, as well as help the body heal from a tough workout. When we are tired, we are more likely to give up on our goals, overeat, or skip a workout, so ensure you are getting enough sleep to help you reach those goals.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude! Set a small amount of time at the start or end of your day to feel thankful. This will help you to develop and sense of balance and perspective that will guenuinely enhance your wellbeing.
An easy way to do this is to start a gratitude journal, and even on the worst of days, you can always find something to be thankful for. Even if this is as simple as being alive, warm showers or beautiful weather.
Don’t wait until you reach your goal to be proud of yourself, be proud of every step you take towards achieving that goal.