Last weekend, I was speaking to a colleague of mine who’s been a strength and nutrition coach for a number of Division I NCAA college football teams as well as for the NFL. And he had some essential, expert advice that I just have to pass on to you. Trust me; it could make or break your chances of being successful in making important health and lifestyle changes.
Improving Your Health Isn’t Always Easy
I know you spend a lot of time learning about how to improve your health. There’s a lot of good information out there—alongside plenty of terrible information—and it can be overwhelming. Sure, at first glance, it might not seem like there’s a lot you need to do. You just move more, eat better, sleep better, and manage stress, right?
But, you know what? If you’re starting out with a poor diet, bad sleep patterns, and a sedentary lifestyle, doing all those things at once for a sustainable period of time is virtually impossible. So, what’s the solution? Well, this may be one of the few times when conventional wisdom and science agree.
The Power of One
So here’s the important tip from my coach friend. He told me that it’s even tough for full-time athletes in a sport as regimented as football to make multiple health and lifestyle changes at once. He suggested—and pointed to data to support his claims—that changes need to be instituted one by one.
He said that when a person is instructed to make one change, they will successfully adhere to it 80% of the time. When it’s two things, successful adherence plummets to 35%; at three things, it bottoms out at five percent.
As you can see, trying to make more than one change at a time may be a recipe for failure. Furthermore, it can take an average of three months to form a new habit, so you want to make sure you’re comfortable in one area before adopting the next.
Make Health and Lifestyle Changes Sustainable
The key, therefore, is baby steps. Pick one area that you’d like to improve. Let’s say you’d like to start with physical activity. Set up a plan where you’re going for a walk, or doing some form of exercise, three times a week for 45 minutes. Once that’s become an easy part of your weekly routine—like almost automatically without even thinking about it—you’ll be ready to implement another change. And so on and so forth…
Making lifestyle adjustments to improve your overall health or reach a certain goal takes time. After all, the key to health and forming healthy habits is sustainability. When you commit to the long-term by implementing changes slowly and one at a time, you’re far more likely to get where you want to be.
“How long does it take to form a habit?” UCL, August 4, 2009; https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0908/09080401, last accessed May 15, 2017.
“Society for Personality and Social Psychology,” ScienceDaily, August 8, 2014; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140808111931.htm, last accessed May 15, 2017.