In our visits with patients, we often discuss the importance of lifestyle factors for reducing the risk of cancer recurrence including a regular exercise routine, good quality sleep and a whole-foods, plant-based diet. However, it is normal to face challenges when it comes to implementing and maintaining healthy habits. You may find that you lack motivation on some days or that unanticipated barriers get in your way. Here are some strategies to help maintain consistency with your healthy habits to achieve your goals:
- Contrary to popular belief, it is progress that leads to motivation, not vice versa. It is natural to wait until we feel motivated to begin working on health goals but oftentimes, motivation can be difficult to come by. Makeing small changes towards your health goals regardless of how motivated you are on any given day, will help you see progress, which is one of the best ways to keep you motivated. An example here is to start each morning with a full glass of water, drinking it with the intention that you are doing something positive for your health, and that you will continue to make healthy choices throughout the day.
- Small changes can lead to big payoffs. When embarking on a new exercise regimen or dietary change, it is common to make big changes and we may take on more than we can sustain in the long term. When these large changes become overwhelming, we tend to fall off the wagon and it can be difficult to get back on track. Instead, try to start with smaller changes. For example, if your goal is to eat more whole foods, start with having one extra serving of vegetables or fruit per day and stick to that for a week. Increase to two extra servings of vegetables or fruit the next week and continue with this gradual increase until you reach your target.
- Let go of guilt. The end goal with making lifestyle changes is not perfection and everyone struggles at certain points. During these times, avoid engaging in self-defeating thoughts such as “I am not good enough”. Engaging in negative self talk at these moments will decrease our willpower at a time when we need it the most to get ourselves back on track. These are times to speak to yourself gently and with self compassion and you will find it much easier to stay the course. Try one of Dr. Kristin Neff's online guided self-compassion exercises to get you started.
Author: Dr. Sukriti Bhardwaj ND