5 Ways to Stay on the Health Track

Australia’s Healthy Weight Week might be over but why stop there?

750 Australians registered an event last week to educate and celebrate Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW). This is a great initiative by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) aimed at raising awareness about the benefits of living healthy in the hope that it will inspire people to ‘achieve a healthier weight and lifestyle’.

Last year 482 events were recorded across the country with 942 people participating in an event close by. This means that the AHWW campaign had an estimated reach of 385,700, which is outstanding! But you have to wonder how many participants actually changed their lifestyles once healthy weight week was over? How many people utilise the healthy tips right throughout the year?

There is no question that AHWW would be an ideal time to kick-start your healthy lifestyle (indeed the start of February is when the festive season is likely to take its toll). We all have the greatest intentions when it comes to getting fit and healthy in the New Year. We make plans to change our diet (or even opt into the latest fad diet of 2016) and exercise more regularly. This is a fantastic starting point but, like me, you may find it extremely difficult to stay on track.

Here are top 5 ways to keep your health on track as suggested by the DAA:

Planning and goal setting

It is important to have a plan so that when times get tough you can refer to them and remember why you are doing it in the first place. Set a date for when you are going to start and write down why you want to change your habits. Ask yourself important questions such as the changes you will make to reach your goals and what steps will help you achieve these changes. Make sure you have a support network in place and, most importantly, REWARD YOURSELF when you reach every milestone.

Strategise solutions for difficult situations

One of the most common barriers to healthy eating is time. Just today, I looked up at my clock and said “where has the time gone?” all the while thinking that there is just not enough time in the day to get everything I need done. Sound familiar? Time is a barrier for most of us so planning is the key to unlocking your healthy habits. When shopping, make sure you choose healthy options to avoid temptation and prepare extra meals ahead of time to take to work for lunch or to freeze for later. If you work long hours, try to fit in a lunchtime walk or gym session and have a packed lunch and healthy snacks at the ready.

Our emotions can also play a role in falling off the wagon, particularly if we’re sad, bored or angry. It’s important to take note of these times and find other ways to relieve your emotions like going for a walk or keeping your hands busy with an activity. With social pressures, like going out to dinner regularly with friends, be mindful of what you order and choose smaller portion sizes. Lean meats, dressing or sauce on the side and asking for extra veggies with no butter are a few things you can do to ensure a healthier night out.

Out of sight, out of mind! Avoid temptations by hiding unhealthy food, or better still, remove the temptation all together. Make a list of activities that will keep you busy and whenever you feel a temptation coming on choose something to do on that list instead.

Falling off the health wagon and how to get back on

‘Falling off the wagon’ is a common saying that describes someone resuming a behaviour they had previously stopped to better themselves in some way. It is a common saying for a reason; because it is common behaviour to ‘fall off the wagon’.  Everyone does it. We cut back on foods that are bad for us, like eating too much chocolate in one sitting, but sometimes we have a small lapse and consume an extra bar of chocolate that we probably didn’t need. Whether your weakness is chocolate, alcohol, junk food or any other behaviour you’re looking to stop, it is important to know that small lapses can happen. How you respond to those lapses is the key to getting back on track.

How should we respond to small lapses? The main thing is to remain positive and remind ourselves that a small lapse is just that…small in comparison to the bigger picture. It’s not the end of the world. Be conscious of what led to your lapse and learn from it. Identify what triggered your lapse and make a plan for next time the difficult situation arises. You can also put in a little extra effort that week to offset your small lapse. BUT DON’T SKIP A MEAL! It is important to stay on track with your meal plan for the week.

Reward your efforts

Stay motivated by setting up a reward system for each goal you achieve. Rewarding yourself will drive you to work harder to achieve the next set of goals in your plan. Setting up a reward system can be a little tricky because you have to figure out what motivates you. You can get ideas from your friends about the type of rewards that motivate them but ultimately you have to listen to what drives you.

Make a list of gifts you would like to receive as your reward, determine the frequency by which you can claim your reward and budget accordingly. Remember that rewards can come in many forms not just monetary, so if you are on a very limited budget then think of rewards that work within your assigned budget. Perhaps your reward will be setting aside your weekly reward budget to save for that special something or treating yourself to a lovely dinner at your favourite restaurant. It’s totally up to you!

Useful tools to help you keep on track

You’ve developed a plan, strategised solutions for difficult situations and set up a reward system to keep you motivated, so now what? Implementing your health action plan can be a little daunting if you are unsure of where to begin but there are tools that can help you kick-start your healthy lifestyle.

Being conscious of what foods you are putting into your body will help you stay on track so record what you eat. If you have a smart phone there are a number of different food diary apps that record your meals. MyFitnessPal is a popular app that, not only records your meals, but also includes an exercise diary and calorie counter. Set up your goals and watch your progress and you have everything you need to stay track at your fingertips.

Plan ahead and work out your meals for the week. Create a 7-day meal plan taking into consideration your daily responsibilities. For example, if you work late then think of adding quick and easy healthy meals that can be taken to work the next day for lunch. Looking for some inspiration? Why not try AHWW’s 7-Day Meal Plan. Creating a 7-day meal plan will make grocery shopping a much less cumbersome effort as you will have your shopping list for your weekly meals at the ready.

Article by Jamie Smith from Aspen Corporate Health