You’ve been working hard in changing your lifestyle and incorporating healthy habits into your everyday life. You have watched your energy levels increase, the scale go down and felt your clothes get looser. Maybe you’ve even seen your cholesterol levels drop or your blood sugar values improve as well. These are great motivational factors…but what happens once we reach our original goals that we set for ourselves? How do we stay motivated? How do we adjust our eating and exercise habits? Let’s take a closer look:
Increasing Your Food Intake
First of all, you have probably been watching your caloric intake as you’ve progressed toward your goals. Now that you have reached the point that you feel comfortable and happy at, it’s time to focus on maintaining your current weight and stop any further weight loss. It’s okay (really!) to gradually increase your calorie intake up to a maintenance level; we’re not talking a large amount. You may have even found your body adjusting to its own set point—where it feels comfortable and healthy even though that may not be exactly what you had in mind and that’s ok too. Increasing your caloric intake slightly will not pack on the pounds so don’t worry. Your body burns more calories at rest if you have added more muscle since you started working toward your goals. If you do not supply your body with the energy that it needs, your metabolism will slow down to compensate.
Staying Motivated for Exercise
Keep up with your regular exercise habits which hopefully include stretching, aerobic and weight training activities (as well as relaxation activities as we can all use some of those!). Just be sure that you are varying your routine and not pushing yourself too hard. This can lead to an early burnout, which may steer you away from the habits you have enjoyed up to now. You may want to think about trying something new now. Try running or walking in a race, or join a rugby or softball team. There are many ways to stay active! If you try something new, you can set new goals such as participating in so many races/events per month, scoring so many points per month in your new sport, or continuing to set new “personal bests” for yourself. Tap into your interests and let them feed your motivation.
Dealing with the Reactions of Others
Be happy about your success, and share that with others around you. Take pride in the fact that you were motivated and ready to take the steps necessary to improve your health. Others may view your success as their own failure, which may lead to resentment. Try and share your tips, habits, etc. with them and be a positive support. Just remember that there are various stages of change, and someone else may not be as ready to take those first few steps yet. Maybe your family has made healthy changes right along with you and that’s great! Children follow the lead of their role models. Just be sure that the attitude is one focused on healthy lifestyles and not “diets” or “right or wrong” foods.
As I mentioned before, you may have seen positive changes in your blood lipids, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels (just to name a few!). Your bones may be stronger if you have increased your exercise. Stay focused on these “metabolic fitness” goals as well. Talk with your physician about your latest laboratory values and keep an eye on the results each time you have them checked. Improvements in health aren’t only seen on the scale.
This journey is not a temporary one and there is no end, just a continued progression that is ever changing…just as you are. You may find that your goals have changed or that different factors motivate you today than did last month or last year. A healthy lifestyle is just that—a state of healthy living that continues on from day to day. Reassess your goals on a regular basis, make sure they are realistic, and most importantly stay true to yourself!
Congratulations on meeting your goals. It’s now time to set new healthy ones, and there is no time like the present. Good luck!