Keep Up the Good Work

Young  African American girl smiling in yellow T-shirt raising her arms

You’ve been making progress in adopting new, healthier habits — and you’re there … or almost. Why does this last stretch seem never-ending? Sometimes, anticipation of future benefits isn’t enough to keep us motivated or even sustain the progress made so far.

You may need to reinvigorate your original intent with new purpose. Perhaps your initial goal was to lose 20 pounds, and you’re nearly there. But did you know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also prolong your life expectancy at age 50 by 12 to 14 years? The reasons for sticking to your new fitness and dietary habits have just multiplied.

If you’re running on autopilot, your drive may be diminished. Find new ways to enjoy beneficial habits so you keep it interesting. Tack on a few minutes to meditate after a healthy breakfast. Add variety to revive any routine that has become boring — for instance, mix up your workout with yoga postures or a Zumba class.

If you’ve met your initial goal, create new ways to succeed. If you’ve added more vegetables to your diet, consider expanding your goal by cutting back on sugary drinks if you want to lose pounds.

Keeping Unhelpful Habits at Bay

Remember that just because you met your original goal doesn’t mean you can drop all the strategies you learned. Many people are successful in their first few weeks or months of behavior change but then go back to old habits. Not keeping ice cream in the freezer may have to be a forever change.

Lasting change requires lasting attention. Posting your struggles and successes on social media might keep you in the game. Words of support from your connections can steer you in a healthy direction. If you are becoming lax about your diabetes self-care, for instance, touch base with an informal support group — peers with diabetes, or family members or your medical team — to keep you focused on managing the disease.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

The secret to maintaining the gains you’ve made is to enjoy what you’re doing. Do you like to cook? Find healthy new recipes to try out on your family. If you hate going to the doctor, bring earbuds and your favorite music to make the waiting room time pleasant.

Don’t neglect to reward yourself, too. Rewiring your brain to adopt better habits is an ongoing challenge.

Each time you reach a new milestone, give yourself a gift . This could be new workout gear, a movie, manicure or massage, or a babysitter to free you up to meet with friends. And small, immediate rewards — every time you take part in a goal behavior — have been shown to be a greater motivator than one big reward at the end. Pick rewards that don’t sabotage your goals. Take in a fun podcast every time you walk around the track. Or sip a favorite, no-sugar-added tea with your most healthful meal of the day. Celebrate your success!