Working On Awesome Lifestyle Changes? Avoid These 5 Mistakes

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Working On Awesome Lifestyle Changes? Avoid These 5 Mistakes Title Card, A Woman Stretches on a Path Outside In The Background

Hello Love:

Are you working to change your lifestyle in some way? Or trying to incorporate new healthy habits?

You aren’t alone! The new year often has us working to make changes, many of which focus on our lifestyle.

But, more often than not, the changes you work so hard to create just don’t stick!

Is there a better way to approach healthy lifestyle changes?

Heck yes there is! And I invited the lovely Maryann Auger, certified personal trainer, wellness coach and group fitness instructor, to talk to us about it. She’s sharing 5 common reasons healthy lifestyle changes don’t work. Plus, she’ll show you how you can avoid those mistakes and create awesome new habits.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go! Take it away Maryann…

5 Common Reasons Healthy Lifestyle Changes Don’t Work

A woman stares at her computer and bites a pencil in frustration

The beginning of the year is practically synonymous with lifestyle changes for better health. Everyone is planning on changing the way they eat, adding more exercise, drinking more water and so on with health or weight loss in mind.

How many times have you tried to do some lifestyle changes with no success?

If you answered 1 or more to this question, you may not have been focusing on the right things and need another game plan. I’m here to help by giving you 5 reasons why your last lifestyle changes didn’t work.

But don’t worry, I’m not leaving you there. I’m going to give you tips on how to incorporate healthy habits in your life for good and, more importantly, for the right reasons!

Related: Why a Healthy Balanced Lifestyle Matters (Interview)

1. Focusing (Too Much) On Your Appearance

A woman stares at herself in the mirror

According to a study conducted by Dove, only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful. That means 96% of women would change something about their appearance. (source)

Another study shows that 90% of men are dissatisfied with their appearance. (source)

It doesn’t matter how many times I see this, these stats always shock and sadden me.

Knowing this, it’s only normal to have goals that focus on changing your appearance. You may want to lose weight, “tone up”, get leaner or change your body in some way.

There’s nothing wrong with having appearance related goals (body autonomy yo!)

But if your sole focus is your appearance, you are less likely to stick to your goals.

If the scale stops moving, the inches stop coming off or stop going up, the clothes fit the same, or your appearance in the mirror looks the same, you are more likely to give up.

Once we don’t see any progress, we get discouraged and stop altogether.

A woman stares at herself in the mirror

You are also more likely to participate in disordered behaviors if your goal is to change the weight on the scale or your appearance (source).

These behaviors are often times normalized by diet culture:

  • Burning off the calories of your last meal
  • Skipping a meal to save up calories
  • Obsessing over calories
  • Over-exercising
  • Having a rigid exercise routine
  • Stepping on the scale several times a day, etc.

But they undeniably are harmful.

A More Sustainable Approach

Instead of focusing on your appearance, you could focus on incorporating healthy habits that are sustainable and feel good to you. That could involve things like:

  • Eating more veggies
  • Moving your body
  • Getting more quality sleep
  • Incorporating some tools to help you reduce your stress
  • Socializing more
  • Resting more
  • Etc.

Related: 4 Reasons To Break “The Rules” And Love Your Cellulite

2. Going On A Diet

A plate with a sad face drawn on it. A fork and knife sit on top but there is not food. People often diet when trying to create lifestyle changes but they don't have to.

Thankfully, it’s becoming common knowledge that diets don’t work. In case you didn’t know, 95% of diets fail. That means that only 5% of people can lose weight with the help of a diet and keep it off. (source)

It may seem obvious, but what exactly is a diet?

A lot of people don’t really know and many companies out there (I’m looking at you WW and Noom) use that to their advantage. They pretend they’re not a diet but instead are a “lifestyle change”. But it’s simply a diet in disguise!

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of diet is “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight.” Basically, diets are all about restrictions. (source)

6 Donuts sit on a blue and pink backdrop

Here are a few examples of common diets and ways diets restrict your food intake:

  • Cutting out macronutrients (carbs, fats and/or protein)
  • Tracking macros and counting calories
  • 80/20 rule (80% of the time eating nutrient dense foods and 20% of the time eating less nutrient dense foods)
  • Weighing and measuring food
  • Juice cleanses and detoxes
  • Skipping meals / Intermittent fasting
  • Food rules (only eating at a certain time, cutting out all junk food, etc)
  • Meal plans

Diets aren’t sustainable.

When you’re 90 year old, in a nursing home, you’re not going to count your calories or make sure the pudding they give you fits your macros.

And let’s be real, life happens. You might go through a breakup, the loss of someone you love, go on vacation, have to work more hours at work, etc. You likely won’t have the energy, time or desire to fixate on food when those moments arise.

There are also holidays throughout the year that are a great opportunity to spend time with loved ones, enjoying good food and good company. It’s not a fun time for over-analyzing your food or counting your calories.

A More Sustainable Approach

A variety of breakfast foods sit ready to be enjoyed, including oatmeal, yogurt and waffles with lots of fruit. A healthy, balanced diet can be a wonderful part of lifestyle changes.

Instead of dieting, you could learn to eat in a way that makes you feel good and happy. You could absolutely eat in a way that promotes health, if that’s important to you. But you can do that in a way that is sustainable, regardless of what life throws your way. The two can go hand in hand.

Bonus, you get to create amazing memories and not be consumed with thoughts around the food you eat!

A great place to start would be reading the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Your Healthy Diet Isn’t Working (And How To Fix It)

3. Focusing On Your Weight

Someone stands on a scale - you do not have to focus on weight when you work on healthy lifestyle changes.

Most lifestyle changes involve losing weight or gaining weight.

Relying on the scale hurts us in 3 ways:

  1. It can be pretty discouraging
  2. It may not be super accurate
  3. It doesn’t determine how awesome you are

Let’s start with number one.

Focusing on weight can be discouraging because the number on the scale may not show you what you want to see. And that can be enough to stop all your efforts incorporating healthy habits.

It can also trigger overeating episodes. If the number you see is “good”, you may celebrate by overeating.

And if the scale shows you a number you didn’t want to see, you may decide to be even stricter with yourself. Which could lead to a “last supper moment” where you try to eat as much food as possible because you’re never going to be allowed the food ever again once your diet starts.

You may also feel intense feelings of guilt and shame.

A woman gets up out of bed only to stand on a scale - you do not have to focus on weight when you work on healthy lifestyle changes.

Because you didn’t reach that goal number on the scale, you may feel like a failure and like you’re not (doing) enough. Which is not the case, I promise you!

Secondly, weighing yourself may not be super accurate.

The number on the scale reflects so much more than the amount of fat you have. That number can be affected by things like

  • The amount of water you are retaining
  • If you ate before weighing yourself
  • If you ate more the day before
  • If you went to the washroom or not
  • The phase of your menstrual cycle
  • If you drank water and if you ate more or less carbs

And lastly, the scale doesn’t determine how awesome you are.

A woman smiles with her eyes closed while the sun shines in the background.

Have you ever stepped on a scale and stepped off either sad or happy? The number you see can either make your day or ruin it.

But the truth is, that number doesn’t determine how kind, funny, smart and amazing you are.

At your funeral, people won’t remember you for how much you weighed. They’re going to remember your amazing qualities and who you are as a person!

A More Sustainable Approach

Focusing on the scale can lead to a lot of disordered thoughts and behaviors. Instead, you could focus on incorporating healthy habits that make you feel good and happy regardless of whether it affects your weight and/or appearance.

Related: This Weight Watchers App Is The Worst (It’s For Kids?!)

4. Setting An Unrealistic End Date

Someone holds a tiny alarm clock up to the camera. Creating an unrealistic time frame can hinder any healthy lifestyle changes

Your last lifestyle changes may not have worked because you set an unrealistic end date. You may have wanted to accomplish a certain appearance or weight related goal in a week, 30 days, 4 months, 1 year and so on.

When you have an end date, you may result in disordered behaviors to reach your goal. For example, if you have a goal to lose x lbs in x days you might go to extremes to reach your goal. Those disordered behaviors aren’t sustainable and, sadly, they will most likely backfire.

A More Sustainable Approach

Instead, if you stop focusing on appearance and weight and start focusing on incorporating healthy habits, there’s not normally an end date.

You’re never really going to stop doing your best to eat veggies because they make you feel good and are good for you.

You won’t stop moving your body because it helps you manage your stress, makes you feel awesome and helps you mentally.

And you’re not going to stop using the tools you have to reduce your stress.

A woman closes her eyes and looks up in relief

If one of your goals is to improve your health, incorporating habits that are sustainable and that you can do for the rest of your life is key. The goal shouldn’t be to do something only for 30 days. It should be about doing them for as long as it feels right. Potentially even for the rest of your life.

As you may have guessed, I’m not a big fan of intentional weight loss.

Intentional weight loss is linked to weight cycling and weight stigma which both have negative effects on our health. (source 1, source 2)

That’s why I always promote health-related behaviors instead of intentional weight loss. But that doesn’t mean that I’m judging you if you want to lose weight! It’s completely normal and you have every right to pursue intentional weight loss if you want. I don’t promote intentional weight loss but I do believe in body autonomy.

A yearly planner lays open with a pen ready by it's side

There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to reach a goal in a certain amount of time. As long as you set a realistic goal.

For example, you may want to squat a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. And there’s nothing wrong with that if your timeline makes sense.

Setting an end date can help you have a bit more structure and help you achieve your goal. But some people prefer not having an end date. Do what works best for you!

Related: Feeling New Year Stress? Here Are 4 Ways To Kick It’s Butt.

5. Focusing On Too Many Things At The Same Time

A man rubs his hands over his face in frustration

We’ve all been there. We’re excited about making these changes in our lives and we try to change a thousand things at the same time (cue the exaggeration).

When we try to change our habits, we usually try to change ALL of them at once. We try to drink more water, eat more veggies, change the way we eat drastically, hit the gym 5 days a week, go to bed early, wake up early, etc.

I’m getting exhausted just writing all of that.

We should instead focus on one thing at a time and make sure that it’s finally a habit and becomes part of our routine before we move on to the next thing.

A woman stretches outside on a path in the woods.

Want a personal example? There was a time when I tried to meditate and practice gratitude every night before bed. I ended up occasionally writing in my gratitude journaling. But I would struggle to make time to meditate afterwards. I got frustrated with myself for not being able to keep up with my goal.

However, when I decided to focus solely on journaling, it became more of a daily thing instead of being something I only did a couple times a week. Now, it’s a habit. I grab my journal before bed without thinking twice about it. That means that I can now work on incorporating meditation more easily to this routine.

Focus on one thing at a time. It’s more likely to work and you’re less likely to be hard on yourself for struggling to reach your goal.

A woman rests the back of her head on her hands, angling her head up and smiling with her eyes closed.

Speaking of being hard on yourself, make sure to be kind to yourself if things aren’t going your way. Slow progress is still progress! Every step counts.

Related: 5 Goal Setting Tips That Will Help You Achieve Your Dreams In A Healthy Way

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of pressure to change our appearance and lose weight in today’s society because we are bombarded by pictures of this specific ideal body type and messages from diet culture. Especially if we’re plus sized.

So before I pass on the mic back to Sara, I want to share the conclusions of a meta-analysis and a study. In case you don’t know, a meta-analysis groups studies on a similar topic that help to determine an overall trend.

In the meta-analysis they were evaluating the association of cardio-respiratory fitness and weight status on mortality. (source)

Here are some conclusions found in these studies:

A woman poses and looks off into the distance

1. “Compared to normal weight-fit individuals, unfit individuals had twice the risk of mortality regardless of BMI.

2. “Overweight” and “obese-fit” individuals had similar mortality risks as normal weight-fit individuals.”

3. “Researchers, clinicians, and public health officials should focus on physical activity and fitness-based interventions rather than weight-loss driven approaches to reduce mortality risk.”

And this study that evaluates healthy lifestyle habits and mortality in “overweight” and “obese” individuals concludes that “Healthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality regardless of baseline body mass index.”

I hope these studies can at least encourage you to start incorporating healthy habits without bringing your weight or your appearance in the equation.

It’s Sara again sweet friend!

Wasn’t this goodness from Maryann so helpful? And I love her final thoughts. Because those studies show that, ultimately, what the scale says doesn’t have as much power as we’ve been taught to believe. 

Here’s to creating lasting healthy lifestyle changes that uplift you and make you feel awesome while supporting your health. Because that’s what you deserve, a life you love.

Have you struggled to create lasting lifestyle changes? What advice would you share with someone who is? Share your thoughts and feelings with us in the comments below. We’re so excited to hear from you!

Health and love,

sara-signature

Thought of the day: You deserve a life that supports your well-being and makes you feel amazing. You deserve a life you love.

About Maryann Auger

Maryann of Mani Fitness, certified personal trainer, fitness coach, group fitness instructor and healthy balanced lifestyle advocate shares 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Building A Sustainable Healthy Lifestyle at mshealthesteem.com

Maryann Auger is a certified personal trainer, wellness coach and group fitness instructor. She creates Daily Inspirational Posts on social media where she shares tips, tricks, experience and advice to help you build your healthy balanced lifestyle.

She’s a self-love advocate that strives to help people get fit while loving themselves and their balanced lifestyles. She loves her dog Zea, food, Disney movies and fantasy books.

You can find her goodness right here:

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Sara | Ms. Health-Esteem

Sara Flanagan is a wellness writer and the creator of www.mshealthesteem.com, where she shares her story of being diagnosed with Graves Disease, a chronic autoimmune disease, and empowering herself to do everything she can to thrive in spite of her diagnosis. She writes articles on self-love, acceptance, wellness and nutrition. Join the Health-Esteem Family today and share in the journey.

21 Comments

  1. Reply

    Jessica Collazo

    January 22, 2020

    This are some great tips. I get discourage all the times or sometimes I get lazy and I know I have to do some changes and I try to push through

  2. Reply

    Stephanie S

    January 22, 2020

    Great tips! I really think that with lifestyle changes we need to really just focus on the positives. Start out small, make changes that make you feel great about yourself. I think if we focus on those small achievements we are likely to stick with these changes.

    Stephanie S. @ crazylittlelovebirds

  3. Reply

    Denise @In-Home Medical

    January 22, 2020

    This is great advice for someone trying to make lifestyle changes. There’s a lot of things that can trip you up so it’s all good advice.

  4. Reply

    Matt Taylor

    January 22, 2020

    Thank you Sara! And wise words from Maryann. I think at times we make things way to complicated and lose focus, then nothing gets accomplished. Or we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Great tips!

  5. Reply

    The JOYOUS Living | Influencer (@thejoyousliving)

    January 22, 2020

    you are so right to recommend not focusing so much on the appearance. i have had some really down times since becoming sick looking at myself in the mirror and comparing myself with how i looked before i got sick. keep up the great tips on your blog. joy

  6. Reply

    Dreaming Loud

    January 23, 2020

    This is so me..! I am so guilty about number 4 which then results to number 5 . Hahaha thanks for reminding that we are only humans. Lol.

  7. Reply

    Ann

    January 23, 2020

    I really like the way you have divided your article, it makes it very eary to read 🙂

  8. Reply

    Nicole

    January 23, 2020

    These were som great tips for making a lifestyle change. I am going to start doing some of these!

  9. Reply

    Ntensibe Edgar Michael

    January 23, 2020

    You are very right! Setting unrealistic dates for your transformation will instead break you down.

  10. Reply

    Dreams Abroad

    January 23, 2020

    These are some amazing tips on self love and esteem. I too believe that you do not have to follow trends and people. Do you.

  11. Reply

    Fatima D Torres

    January 23, 2020

    Skipping meals only hurt your health. Always go with eating right over not eating at all.

  12. Reply

    Serene Xi

    January 23, 2020

    I’m definitely working to change my lifestyle in some way. For this new year, I’m also trying to incorporate new healthy habits. Thanks for your insights!

  13. Reply

    katrina Kroeplin

    January 23, 2020

    great information. for the diet i usually tell people to made a long term goal and then short term goals along the way. it seems to help if they have 30 pounds for the long and then 5 pounds along the way to get to the 30.

  14. Reply

    littlemisadvencha

    January 24, 2020

    these are really good tips! and i totally agree with what you have written here. we must really focus on the long-term goals. and i love that i am starting as early as now. 🙂

  15. Reply

    forkwardthinkingfoodinista

    January 24, 2020

    I hear you on this one. All these points are valid and I know what you mean about burning out, as I can take on too much at times

  16. Reply

    Lily

    January 24, 2020

    Great tips on self-esteem. It’s a lot of things that stop people from having a self esteem that is high but these tips can help.

  17. Reply

    Neha

    January 25, 2020

    Very well said. I completely agree with you that instead of focusing on weight and appearance we should focus on incorporating healthy lifestyle.

  18. Reply

    Thelondonflowerlover

    January 26, 2020

    refreshing

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I’m a wellness writer, Graves Disease thriver and self-love advocate.

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