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Your Health is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Here's how to win.

marathon runner
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

You’ve done it! You made the commitment to being healthier and changing some unhealthy habits. and you’ve accomplished your goals.

Now what?

Yes, you get to sit back and enjoy feeling great and looking great. Do you have to be vigilant and monitor everything you put into your mouth? Should you keep doing what you’ve been doing? To some degree, the answer is yes.

In your journey to better health you have changed some habits. The goal now is to continue with the new habits and avoid having the old habits (the ones that got you into the unhealthy place to begin with) creep back into your life.

Here are 8 ways to maintain your good habits and health without becoming obsessed with it. Yes! You can be healthy, feel great AND be relaxed.

  1. Check in with yourself. Track your food or journal about it. when you feel like things are starting to slip in the wrong direction. You may have done some journaling while you were making your changes. You can certainly continue to write daily journals, but I find it more beneficial to check in with myself now and again. If I notice my habits are slipping, I start tracking what I’m eating and/or feeling. This will often give me insights into what’s really going on and I can adjust as needed.
  2. Exercise/move consistently – The human body is made to move. That could mean hitting the gym, going out dancing or cleaning the house. Choose what makes your body feel best and do it often. Daily is best, 3 days per week is a minimum. Remember, all movement counts. If you can climb stairs at the office for 5 minutes 5 times a day, it counts.
  3. Allow yourself treats – Living healthy isn’t about deprivation. If we are constantly avoiding certain foods, at some point, you’ll say it’s ok to “be bad,” and eat the food. This leads to guilt and an emotional roller coaster. Instead, recognize that all food can fit somewhere in your overall nutrition pattern. If you’re eating well 80% of the time, occasional less-healthy options won’t hurt you. Remember, it’s called a treat because you have it occasionally. If you’re having it often, it’s a regular part of your diet and no longer a treat.
  4. Remember, it’s long-term change, not a short-term fix – When you’re working to lose weight, or make other healthy changes, the “sprint” approach isn’t going to be a long term change. Your life and your health are a marathon. No matter what, we keep going. What you did to achieve your new body will require similar habits to maintain your new body.
  5. Get support – You don’t have to join a group to do this, but telling your friends and family about your goals can help to get everyone into supporting your efforts. Sharing what you’re doing and what you’ve achieved may get them on board and have them making changes, too.
  6. Manage the stress – Stress is often the trigger to disaster. We fall back into old habits that don’t serve our new health. Creating new habits as your go-to when the stress gets overwhelming is the key to maintaining your new health. This may require additional jounaling or reaching out to others to help.
  7. Check-in with the scale – If the new, healthy you has lost some weight, you’ll want to check-in periodically to see how you’re doing. The trick to this is to avoid the daily check-the-scale obsession. Mark a day on your calendar (maybe the first of the month) and recognize that this is a way to check-in, not a way to punish yourself if things are going the wrong way. Having said that, remember, the scale is A tool, not the only tool to measure your health and wellness. Daily weigh-ins can play with your mental focus because some fluctuation (as much as 5 pounds) is normal. If you see an upward trend (several weigh-ins with the needle creeping up), it’s time to re-evaluate. If you’re up a couple and then back to where you want to be. don’t worry about it.
  8. Recognize there is no perfection – When you start to get angry about mistakes, you can backslide into old habits. You will have times when eating right will be more difficult, but you will persevere. Acknowledge that you made a poor eating choice (or several) and then forgive yourself and eat better at the next meal. There’s no need to punish your self. Falling down during your marathon isn’t a problem as long as you get back up.

Maintaining your new health can sometimes be more challenging than making the change in the first place, but when you’re committed to your health, these simple steps can keep you on track. Celebrate your new habits, relax into them and enjoy your new health!

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