Making Lifestyle Changes that Stick

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The 12-week 2018 HAC Lifestyle Challenge boasted another year of success stories. With almost 50 participants, the competition for first place – which included a year’s free membership, free VIP massages, personal training sessions, and more – was steep. The highest body fat percentage was the posted goal, with the personal goal for each participant being to change their lives.

If you’re not familiar with the HAC Lifestyle Challenge, it’s a once-a-year program held in January that provides participants with either once or twice weekly personal training, fundamental nutrition information and advice, a MYZONE belt, food journal, and most importantly – accountability. While many people in this challenge did lose weight, and some a significant amount, weighing less doesn’t automatically make you healthier – carrying less fat does.

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With 8.9% body fat lost after 12 weeks, Steve Prescott took first place, followed by two-time Lifestyle Challenger Joan-Alice Burn in second with 8% body fat lost. Katie Hook and Michelle Oldham tied for third by losing 7.6% body fat.

Lifestyle Challenge winners

Challenging Yourself

Just because the challenge only occurs in January doesn’t mean you can’t change your lifestyle now. Developing habits that contribute to positive change is what it’s all about.

Now, when we talk about habits, it’s usually in the context of “bad” things we’re doing that are against our best interests. Chewing fingernails, snacking before bed, putting our foot in our mouth.  But “habits” and “bad” shouldn’t be so synonymous. After all, they’re usually hard to give up; something we settle into and rarely change.

To achieve lifestyle change, we have to transition our goal behavior into automatic behavior. We have to form healthy habits. But how do we do that?

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Set a goal.

We like to use the SMART method of goal setting. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Let’s say you want to lose weight. We can make it specific by answering a few questions: How much weight? How are you going to achieve this goal? Why do you want to lose the weight?

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Specific Goal:

“I’m going to work out at HAC to lose 10 pounds so I’m comfortable in beachwear next summer.”

This can get even more specific by setting days and times that you’re going to work out.

Now let’s add measurable into the equation. This helps add some accountability by giving you a concrete method to track your progress. You do have the goal amount – 10 pounds. Since results will take time, it’s good to have a plan to check in on things. Maybe you’ll weigh in once a week. You can also add things like before photos or body circumference measurements.

Specific & Measurable Goal:

“I’m going to work out at HAC to lose 10 pounds so I’m comfortable in beach wear, and I’ll measure my progress by taking a before photo and my waist circumference, and weigh in every Wednesday morning on the scale.”

Now we’re going to go a little out of order. Let’s set a timeframe. If the goal is over the course of too much time, it may not be challenging enough to motivate you, and if it’s over too short a period of time, it won’t be realistic or attainable. It’s June, and you’re looking to lose 10 pounds by the end of summer. On average, most people can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week depending on how aggressive they want their diet and exercise regimen to be.  So 10 weeks would put you into late August. You have to remove 3500 calories a week in order to see a 1 pound weight loss. Removing 3500 calories solely through two nights of exercise a week is not realistic. So from this point, you would need to go back and modify your original, specific goal to include the revelations here. By the end, you might find yourself at:

SMART Goal:

“I’m going to work out on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and I’m going to start packing my lunch instead of buying takeout, to lose 10 pounds by the end of 10 weeks. I will track my progress by taking a before picture, measuring my waist circumference, and weighing in weekly on Wednesday Mornings.”

Find a trigger.

So now you have a goal – a SMART goal. But you still haven’t made it a habit. One of the easiest ways to create new habits is to link them to existing ones.

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Link new habits to existing habits. If you want to floss your teeth more, put the floss next to your toothbrush to remind yourself to floss before brushing.

It’s not exactly easy to throw in a 60-minute workout between brushing your teeth and putting on your shoes, but maybe on Tuesdays and Thursdays your spouse doesn’t get home until 6:30 pm because they take little Johnny to tee ball practice, so if you get off at five, and drive to HAC, you’ve got 90 minutes before any familial obligations. Let’s say you always do your grocery shopping on Saturdays. Now you can link your Saturday workout to before you shop.

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This scenario may not work perfectly for you, but if you can find little breaks in your schedule where you can remove a couple of the obstacles in your way, creating the new habit becomes that much easier.

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Having others to work out with is a great way to keep motivated and hold yourself as accountable.

Tip: If you have trouble holding yourself accountable or finding the motivation, trying a class, finding a workout buddy, or using a personal trainer are great ways to get started. We know hopping into that first class where it seems that everyone knows the choreography but you can be intimidating – fear not! They were all in your shoes once. Plus, classes are an easy way to make new friends at HAC!

Choose a reward.

And make it a good one! If you want to feel more comfortable in your beachwear, try picking a reward like a couple of extra beach days or a new swimsuit or other summer clothing that you wouldn’t ordinarily buy. Remember to make these specific too – “On September 5th, I’m going to go shopping for myself, because all of my old beach clothes won’t fit!”


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