“Wait till you hear this! Over the weekend I went shopping with my mom. As we were walking, I realized my shoe was untied. I squatted down, tied my shoe, and stood right back up. It wasn’t until I started walking again that I realized what I had just done. I didn’t grab onto something for balance. I didn’t need help from anyone. I stood up without a problem. For me, that’s a huge deal!”
As a certified health coach, do you know what I heard in this exchange with my client?
Shock. Excitement. Pride. Relief!
Shock that a once-difficult action was suddenly so much easier. Excitement to share this new discovery. Pride that she was well on her way to achieving her weight loss and fitness goals and had a real-life example of its impact. Relief that this very necessary skill was no longer daunting.
It’s no secret that change is hard! When it comes to changing our habits and implementing new, healthy lifestyle behaviors, change can seem especially challenging. However, there are many proven strategies to help make change not only easier but also a thing of permanence. Over the years with my heart patients and health coaching clients, we’ve applied certain strategies that have been especially pivotal in their success. To help you achieve the heart and overall health you deserve, check out my top 7 health coaching tips for health goal achievement.
- Create Your Vision. Your vision is a description of your ideal physical and emotional health, let’s say, a year from now. At your ideal level of health, how do you feel? How do you spend your free time? What do you look like? What does your health look like? Write down your vision, in as much detail as possible, and refer to it often. Your vision will help keep you motivated and focused throughout your journey towards lifestyle change.
- Set Realistic Goals – Want to establish a regular walking routine? Don’t go from “zero to sixty” overnight! When we set unrealistic goals, we run the risk of not achieving those goals. When we don’t meet our goal, we leave ourselves feeling disappointed and defeated. Do you know what follows? Complete abandonment of our goals. Instead, set yourself up for success by creating goals that are just a stretch outside of your comfort zone. If you don’t go for any walks right now, maybe start with a goal of walking on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings for 15 minutes. If you are more likely to achieve that goal, you will create momentum and excitement to expand on that goal over time. Remember these words: a gradual approach leads to lasting change.
- Expect Setbacks - There are always bumps on the road to change. You’ll take some steps forward and a couple steps back. This is normal and expected. These bumps, in fact, are great opportunities to learn. Say one evening you ate snack after snack on the couch. Afterward, you feel you’ve erased all the healthy eating you did throughout the day. Let’s assess. Did you eat enough dinner? Are you stress eating? Could you explore more healthy snack options? Are you bored? Evaluate what may have led to the snacking and create a plan for the next time you want to reach for the snack closet. In other words, expect the setbacks, learn from them, and plan so you are equipped to tackle them the next time around.
- Self-Compassion Goes a LONG Way – You are attempting to change habits that are decades in the making. Be kind to yourself and remember that you are human! You’re not going to go about this change process perfectly. You will mess up. You will make mistakes. You will eat the birthday cake and skip the workout. It’s okay! They will not make or break your health. Your emotional response to eating the cake, however, can. If you beat yourself up about it, all you’re going to do is make it more likely that you’ll give up altogether. Remind yourself that you are putting in all this effort to change your lifestyle because you love and value yourself. So, give yourself a break, enjoy the birthday cake, and get right back on track.
- Learn From Past Accomplishments - Think back to goals you’ve accomplished in your past, preferably accomplishments similar to what you’re striving for now. Have you lost weight in the past or established a yoga habit? If you can’t think of a health-related accomplishment, did you maybe earn a certification or acquire a new skill? Think about what made that accomplishment possible. What did you put into place, what kept you motivated, what did you enjoy about the process, who held you accountable? Putting things into place that helped you succeed in the past will help you succeed now.
- Set Up Your Environment for Success - Setting your environment up for success will set you up for success in achieving your goals. Replace temptations in your kitchen with tasty and healthy options, remove the screens from your bedroom to help you sleep, or keep your dumbbells in a visible location so you're more inclined to exercise. Little steps like this will make the change process that much easier.
- Make Note of How You Feel – My patients over the years reported feeling energetic on a plant-forward diet, strong and happy with exercise, centered and more resilient with meditation. Along your change journey, pay close attention to how you feel, both physically and emotionally, as you make changes. The positive feelings you experience help cultivate your internal motivation, a key driver in goal achievement. The next time you want to skip your morning bike ride, remind yourself of how good you feel when you’re done, and you just might stand up and grab your helmet.
The road to successfully meeting your health goals is rarely a smooth one. Regardless, don’t let those bumps get in the way of what really matters to you. Implement these proven strategies and those healthy habits will soon become second nature.
Here at Pritikin, we emphasize the what (nutrition, exercise, healthy mindset) and the how (effective behavior change strategies) to achieve great heart health. We also emphasize the who. Both your intensive cardiac rehab team and your fellow cardiac rehab peers offer excellent sources of support. Those going through the program along with you can serve as accountability partners, while your ICR team can extend ongoing health coaching, education, and support.
When it comes to your heart health and beyond, we’ve got you.