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Column: How to make healthy lifestyle changes

With the New Year approaching, this is a perfect time to evaluate the habits that fundamentally shape our health and therefore, our life, says Columnist Brielle Green. The start of a new year often brings a desire for change and self-improvement. Many people set resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, or reduce stress. However, maintaining these lifestyle changes can be challenging. In this column, we will explore some strategies for making healthy lifestyle changes that are sustainable and achievable. It's important to start by setting realistic and attainable goals. Instead of aiming to completely overhaul your lifestyle overnight, focus on making small, incremental changes. For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, start by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet or swapping out sugary drinks for water. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise routine or incorporate small bursts of physical activity throughout the day. In addition to setting realistic goals, it's essential to have a plan in place. Plan your meals in advance, make a grocery list, and stick to it. Having healthy food readily available can help you make better choices when hunger strikes. Prepare your meals at home as often as possible, as you have more control over the ingredients used and portion sizes. When dining out, choose healthier options and ask for modifications, such as grilled instead of fried or dressing on the side. Another key aspect of making healthy lifestyle changes is finding activities that you enjoy. Exercise doesn't have to be boring or feel like a chore. Find activities that you look forward to and that fit into your lifestyle. It could be dancing, hiking, swimming, or even taking your dog for a walk. When you enjoy what you're doing, you're more likely to stick with it and make it a habit. Creating a support system can also greatly increase your chances of success. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share similar health goals. You can find support through friends, family, or even online communities. Having someone to hold you accountable and provide encouragement can make all the difference. Consider joining a fitness class or finding a workout buddy to keep you motivated and on track. It's important to remember that setbacks are a normal part of the journey. Don't be too hard on yourself if you have a slip-up or miss a workout. Instead of giving up altogether, use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Reflect on what went wrong and how you can prevent it from happening again in the future. Remember, progress is not linear, and every small step counts. In order to make lasting lifestyle changes, it's important to prioritize self-care. Take time for yourself and prioritize activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction. This could include practicing mindfulness or meditation, taking a hot bath, getting a massage, or engaging in a hobby that brings you joy. Taking care of your mental and emotional well-being is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Accountability is also crucial for sustainable lifestyle changes. Keep track of your progress by journaling, using a fitness tracker, or tracking your meals and exercise in an app. This can help you identify patterns, celebrate successes, and hold yourself accountable. Seeing your progress in black and white can be incredibly motivating and reinforce the positive changes you're making. Finally, it's important to celebrate your successes along the way. Reward yourself for reaching milestones or achieving your goals. This doesn't have to be anything extravagant; it could be as simple as treating yourself to a new workout outfit or enjoying a relaxing day off. Celebrating your accomplishments boosts your motivation and serves as a reminder of how far you've come. In conclusion, making healthy lifestyle changes is a journey that requires dedication, patience, and self-compassion. By setting realistic goals, having a plan, finding activities you enjoy, creating a support system, prioritizing self-care, and holding yourself accountable, you can make sustainable changes that will positively impact your health and well-being. Remember, every small step is progress, and each day is a new opportunity to make choices that align with the healthy, vibrant life you want to live.

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