Prepare to Succeed

Women giving a high five after a workout

Once you’ve established goals for healthier living, set yourself up for success. Identify and remove any pitfalls in your path. Devise ways to work around temptation triggers. Engage friends and family for extra motivation and support.

Head off Hurdles

Anticipate the barriers that might throw you off track. Bad weather could make it hard to commit to your neighborhood walking regimen; is there a nearby mall where you could walk inside when needed? Does your self-discipline collapse at parties? Bring a favorite nonalcoholic beverage or a vegetable tray to ensure you’ll have healthy choices. Keep your gym bag in the car so you’ll never have the excuse of not having it when passing the gym.

Another way to avoid poor choices is to make decisions ahead of time . Before dining out, check the menu online and select a healthful meal rather than making an impulsive decision at the restaurant. Order groceries online if you’ll be less likely to purchase chips and candy on impulse.

Cue Yourself to Avoid Temptation

Help yourself by creating cues that align with the habits you want to adopt. The most basic strategy is to keep temptation out of sight ! Take the TV out of your child’s room if you’re encouraging her to be more active. Put the cookies on a high shelf to deter you from opening the box without thinking about it. After you disrupt that cue , replace it by keeping fruit on your kitchen counter so you’re more likely to grab an apple.

“Habit stacking ” is another cuing technique. Pick something that you do regularly and add an action to do at the same time. If you watch the news every night, get used to doing a few toe touches during commercials. Or whenever you’re waiting in a line, practice relaxation breathing. Soon, these secondary actions will become habit, and you can stack other small habits on top of them.

Healthy Habit Helpers

Enlist family and friends in your plans for change. Maybe you have a friend who wants to drop a dress size, too. In one study , participants who worked with a buddy lost more weight and inches than those who didn’t. The buddy system can also work if you and your spouse are, say, trying to lower your blood pressure or spend more time with nature. When two people try to make a change together, both are more likely to succeed.

Turning an activity into a social opportunity also makes it more enjoyable, thus increasing the odds you’ll follow through. Shoot baskets with the kids after work or enroll in a support group — virtual or in-person — of people coping with the same diabetes or chronic pain challenges that you are.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Maybe a friend can watch your toddler while you go for a run, or lend you a jogging stroller. And be sure to keep loved ones posted on your progress so they can cheer you along and celebrate small victories.