When summer comes around, it’s common for people to set health goals so that they’re feeling healthy and confident throughout these active months. But once midseason hits, you may have noticed that your goals didn’t stick. Many of us are left looking for a midsummer resolution makeover that serves as a plan of reality and not just another letdown.
To find success in reaching your health goals, the trick is setting goals that matter, digging deep into the root cause of your fallbacks in order to understand what’s holding you back, and creating an environment of predictable success.
Know that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, but there are a few little pointers that can make staying “on track” a bit easier.
- Create an Environment for Success
You need to create an environment for success that’s designed to make sure you can realistically stick to your healthy eating and lifestyle goals. How do you do this? Try these steps:
- “Crowd in” healthy foods: So many people focus on cutting out certain foods, and although it’s important to avoid inflammatory foods that are going to increase sugar and carb cravings, it’s helpful to start by “crowding in” healthy foods instead. This may be easier for you if you’re bogged down by the idea of restriction. Instead of restricting the foods that you will have a hard time giving up, bring in more leafy greens, more healthy fats, more gluten-free grains and good-quality protein sources. The more of these nutrient-dense, healthy foods you bring into your diet, the less you’ll want those other, not-so-healthy options that leave you feeling sluggish.
- Plan ahead: It’s when we are ill-prepared and hungry that we end up straying from our healthy eating goals. Planning healthy meals and snacks ahead of time, stocking up on what you need at the grocery store, and even writing down your meal plan for the week can be extremely helpful. To add to this, use one day a week to chop veggies, bake chicken, prepare a big salad and put together a trail mix. When you’re prepared and have a plan, there’s little room for excuses. Any way you can make it easier to “stay on track” will help you to stick to your goals.
- Make small changes: Moving forward with baby steps can make your health goals feel more manageable. Making major lifestyle changes all at once—expecting to completely change your diet, add an hour workout to your schedule and cut out all your go-to comfort foods—can feel overwhelming and impossible. Try making one small change a week or month. Once you’ve become accustomed to one small goal, bring in another one.
- Don’t let yourself get too hungry: We all have our moments of weakness when we’re feeling hungry. Pinpoint the time of day that typically leads to cravings and be prepared. If you always want a cookie or muffin around 2 p.m., then make sure you have a healthy snack on hand instead. Keep sliced peppers and hummus in your bag or kitchen, plan this time of day for your daily smoothie, or make energy balls with raw honey and dark chocolate to get your sweet fix. Don’t let yourself get into that moment of desperation.
- Eat Your Vitamins (and Minerals)
Stay vibrant and energetic by eating nutrient-rich foods. Optimize your micronutrient consumption and absorption so that you’re feeling (and looking) your best. Here are some steps to ensure that you’re getting enough micronutrients in your diet:
- Eat a variety of foods: There really aren’t any tricks when it comes to getting enough micronutrients. You need to eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods and colors. Some great ways to do this is with a hearty salad (with organic meat, beans, seeds, nuts, avocado, leafy greens and chopped veggies), fruit and veggie smoothies (with avocado, leafy greens, berries, nut milk and coconut oil), vegetable soups and stir-fry dishes. Meals that include a range of nutrient-dense foods will ensure that you’re getting plenty of micronutrients in your diet.
- Take a probiotic: Research suggests that taking probiotics may improve nutrient absorption and improve the health of your gut. Probiotics help your body to achieve, restore and maintain proper balance. Taking a probiotic supplement every day or increasing your intake of probiotic foods may help improve the body’s absorption of micronutrients.
- Don’t forget the healthy fats: The body needs fats to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, so adding healthy fats to your diet can be extremely beneficial. Some of the best fats to include in your diet include avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee and MCT oil.
- Overcome the Obstacles
Overcoming the things keeping you from reaching your healthy eating goals can feel like a major uphill battle. How do you reduce the risk of falling back on old, not-so-healthy habits?
- Reduce stress: Why do we often get sidetracked from a health goal and overeat, have a “cheat day” (or two) or pick the wrong foods? Stress! Not only does chronic stress reduce your ability to follow through on healthy eating and lifestyle goals, but it also alters homeostasis and triggers factors for many diseases, which has been shown in many studies. Before you can expect yourself to work through diet obstacles, you need to focus on your mental health and work to reduce your stress naturally.
- Get enough rest: Why do so many of us crave chocolate or sugary treats in the late afternoon? It’s typically because you’re feeling tired, and if you haven’t had enough rest, this is a difficult time to stay on track. Make sure you are getting at least seven hours of sleep every night, and try to stick to the same sleep schedule whenever possible. Your body and mind depend on this period of rest.
- Focus on eating for physical rather than emotional reasons: Have you heard of intuitive eating? It’s simply relying on a better mind-body connection by getting in better touch with your body’s hunger signals versus fullness. Pay close attention to why you are feeling hungry throughout the day. Is it because you haven’t had a meal or snack in many hours and you’re feeling physical signs of hunger? Or perhaps it’s emotional hunger that is stemming from stress, boredom or loneliness? Try to eat only when you are feeling physical signs of hunger, and work on making other lifestyle changes to benefit your emotional health.
- Practice body acceptance and positivity: Be kind to yourself. If you are trying to make dietary and lifestyle changes, remember that it comes from a good place—you trying to improve your overall health. You can’t do that if you are constantly belittling yourself and your body. Recognize every step in the right direction, and be grateful to your body and all that it allows you to do every day.
It may be midsummer, but there’s no reason to lose the motivation you felt just a few months ago. Keep your head up, create a plan and choose success. Then thank your powerful body and mind for allowing it to happen.
Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He operates the No. 1 natural health website in the world at DrAxe.com, with more than 15 million unique visitors every month, and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health company that provides history’s healthiest whole-food nutrients to the modern world. He’s author of the books “Eat Dirt,” “Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine” and the just-released “Keto Diet: Your 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, Boost Brain Health and Reverse Disease.”
Photo credit: Halfpoint, Getty Images