Over the last few years, I’ve turned my health and fitness around dramatically. I’ve lost weight (more than 20 pounds), gained two certifications (Les Mills BODYPUMP and NASM-certified personal trainer) and have completely overhauled my lifestyle. (Hello, intermittent fasting and plant-based eating.) In fact, many of my friends from high school and college have commented on my physical changes and have even asked for my tips, tricks and advice for living a healthier, more active lifestyle on a consistent basis.

This month’s theme is all about momentum—a body in motion tends to stay in motion. But how do you find that forward motion? And what tools can you employ to initiate and sustain that momentum?

Here are some of my tricks for creating and sustaining healthy habits and self-discipline—tricks that have kept the weight off and the momentum going. As always, check with your health-care provider before making any changes to your health, fitness routine or diet, and remember, each person is unique. What works for me may not work for you.

Enlist accountability partners

It may seem counterintuitive or feel strange, but don’t be afraid to shout your goals from the rooftops. All my friends and family know that I prioritize my health and fitness—in a way, they hold me accountable by accepting that I will not skip a workout class for drinks. I’ll simply meet up with them after! (Sweaty and in workout clothes, of course.)

One of my biggest assets is social media. I like to post pre- or post-workout selfie photos (yes, I’m that person) of my Sunday afternoon meal prep or healthy meals, and other healthy habits for my followers to see and keep me accountable. My trainer and fellow fit friends/instructors also follow me on social, so this is a way for them to hold me accountable, as well.

Create habits you enjoy

I don’t do anything I don’t want to do—that is, I don’t force myself to do things I hate simply because they are “healthy.” For example, instead of forcing myself to do workouts I despise (sorry barre and Pilates), I take classes that I enjoy, like BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK and GRIT. I also eat healthy foods that I love. I don’t force myself to eat kale. Instead, I love eggs, spinach, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts (to name a few), and I make sure those foods are regulars in my rotation because I enjoy eating them—not because I have to.

That said, I do force myself to step outside my comfort zone and do things that challenge me because that’s an important step in growth and change. But don’t confuse doing something you hate with doing something that challenges you. One will leave you discouraged, the other should leave you hungry and motivated for more.

Start slow and build

My story isn’t dramatic—it doesn’t begin with a major health scare or hitting rock bottom. I was at a job I didn’t like, and I started taking a walk every day on my hourlong lunch break just to get away from my desk. Eventually, I started running during that hour. Then I started taking fitness classes and changing what I was eating. I started meal prepping my lunches and forgoing sugary afternoon treats. The moral of the story? I started with one healthy habit, then built from there when I felt ready to tackle more. Most people fail because they try to do too much all at once. Instead, start small and gradually build to avoid exhaustion or burnout.

Set tangible, measurable goals

You’ve heard this before and I’ll say it again: Goals are only as good as they are realistic and specific. Vague goals like “lose weight” or “feel better” don’t mean anything because, well, they literally don’t mean anything.

Pick a specific, measurable goal and then set about a plan to go after it. For example, one goal I’ve had for a long time was to run a half marathon. When my neighbor asked me to train with her for a half marathon this year, I said yes. We signed up for the race and started training. I began running a few times a week, a really healthy habit that I intend to keep up even post-marathon. Had I not set that goal, however, the probability of me hitting the pavement regularly would’ve been slim to none. But a specific, date-driven goal helped me stick with that routine.

Schedule, schedule, schedule

I live and die by my planner. If it’s not in my phone calendar or written in my planner, it’s not happening.

At the start of each week, I get on 24GO and schedule out my week of fitness classes and workouts. I also write them all down in my desk planner. By committing to these workouts on paper and digitally, I set myself up for success by prioritizing my health and fitness and building in my social activities around my fitness schedule. This ensures that I never “run out of time” for the things that truly matter.

Be future-minded

I like to set my near-future self up for success, to make things as easy on her as possible. One way I do this is by only buying healthy foods at the grocery store during my weekly grocery run so I’m not tempted to eat any junk food throughout the week. If it’s not in the house, chances are I won’t eat it, because if I really want it, I have to go out of my way to get it. And let me tell you that once the sweats go on, I’m not leaving the house for the night—not even for a pint of ice cream.

I also pack my gym bag the night before so my clothes are ready and waiting to be taken to work for my midday workout.

Do what works for you

At the end of the day, true health and wellness comes down to one thing: You. Don’t do keto because everyone else is doing it. Don’t do CrossFit because so-and-so says it’s the only good workout out there. You are unique. Your body is unique. What works for this or that person may not work for you. Pick the eating and workout habits that fit into your lifestyle and desired goals—the habits that you enjoy and can commit to—not the ones everyone else says are the only way.

Photo credit: James Chou, Unsplash