Sticking to a healthy diet can seem impossible when you feel like you have tried everything. Learning how to stick to healthy eating and exercising definitely takes some time, but it is so worth it. In this article, I am going to share the 21 simple tips on how to start a healthy lifestyle and stick to it, simple ways to improve your diet, healthy lifestyle habits you need to implement today, and so much more.
There are some basic lifestyle guidelines to learn and implement which have the potential to change your life.
Let’s get into it!
Please note that the word “diet” in this article is used to describe the kinds of food that a person or community habitually eats. It is not meant in terms of food restriction in order to lose weight.
- 5 Key Elements of a Healthy Lifestyle
- 21 Tips on How to Start a Healthy Lifestyle and Stick to it
- Make a decision.
- List the areas in your life that matter most to you.
- List any unhealthy habits you want to change.
- Journal about your ideal self.
- Learn how to start eating healthy without dieting.
- Create a healthy lifestyle plan.
- Create a simple meal plan.
- My Simple Eating Plan
- Make a grocery list.
- Decide which day of the week to grocery shop.
- Keep filling snacks on hand.
- Sign up for a fun workout class.
- Create a weekly schedule on Friday.
- Communicate your schedule.
- Learn portion control.
- Make one small change at a time.
- Avoid an all-or-nothing approach.
- Keep your future self in mind.
- Don't make it an obsession.
- Start your mornings right.
- Remove the negative triggers in your life.
- Aim for 70% consistency to see results.
- I Want to Start Eating Healthy But Don’t Know Where to Start
- How to Stay Consistent with Diet and Exercise
- How to Stick to a Diet Mentally
- My Healthy Lifestyle Plan Example
- How To Start A Healthy Lifestyle and Stick to it: The Bottom Line
5 Key Elements of a Healthy Lifestyle
- Nutrition. What you eat is one of the most important elements of a living a healthy lifestyle. This is because the food you eat consistently has the power to drastically improve your health. Choosing healthy foods can change your day to day and your entire life. Aim to eat more vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats and high-fiber carbohydrates. I will share more details about this topic later in the blog post.
- Regular exercise. The recommended amount of time to exercise is about 150 minutes per week (or two hours and 30 minutes). This can be as simple as taking a daily walk 30 minute walk five times per week.
- Maintaining a regular sleep pattern. Getting enough sleep every night is so important because this is when the body needs to rest. Those who get fewer than 7 hours per night have been shown to have a harder time losing weight. Not getting enough sleep also wreaks havoc on your hormones.
- Stress management. This is definitely easier said than done, but managing your stress is as important for your health as what you eat. Learn to manage your stress by taking deep breaths, journaling, going outside, sitting in the sun, taking a walk and any other activity that helps calm you.
- Attitude. Believe it or not, your thoughts, feelings and beliefs are the foundation of your healthy, or unhealthy lifestyle choices. Learning to manage your thoughts and reframe negative thought patterns will change your life for the better.
21 Tips on How to Start a Healthy Lifestyle and Stick to it
Make a decision.
This is what it comes down to. Deciding that enough is enough and you are going to make the necessary changes to improve your health and life. Beginning a healthy lifestyle can be hard, but it is so rewarding. You don’t have to change everything at once, but deciding that you are worthy of living a healthier happier life is the first step.
List the areas in your life that matter most to you.
Something that you need to spend time on is making a list of the areas in your life that matter most to you. For example, some areas that matter most to me are: my health, family, job, self-improvement, and having a clean house. This helps you focus on the parts of your life that you want to dedicate most of your time and energy to.
List any unhealthy habits you want to change.
Spend some time listing unhealthy habits you want to be done with. Is it overeating every night after the kids have gone to bed? Or is it constantly promising yourself you are going to go to the gym but you cancel every time? Get it all out on paper so you can visually see the areas in your life that are not working for you and what you want to improve.
Journal about your ideal self.
Another writing assignment. I promise you are almost done. Sit down and visualize what your future self looks like and how they go about their day to day. How does your future self spend their time, what does your future self do differently than what you are doing now? Really lean in to this assignment and feel what your future self is feeling.
Learn how to start eating healthy without dieting.
Not knowing how to eat healthy without dieting is why it can be hard to stick to a diet. Please note that the word ‘diet’ here is used to describe a person’s typical way of eating. Most women I have worked with have had a long history of crash dieting which makes it very hard to stick to a healthy diet.
Deprivation is the worst thing you can do on your healthy eating journey because it slows down your metabolism and can throw your hormones out of balance. Learning how to start living a healthy lifestyle means learning how to eat in a balanced sustainable way.
You can learn more about this in this blog post: Build Your Meals For Sustainable Weight Loss or you can get your hands on my Daily Pages where I created a guide to help you organize your days, meals and goals all in one place.
In the Daily Pages, you will find information on how to build a balanced meal that keeps you full and satisfied, general nutrition goals to nourish your body, understanding portion sizes, meal ideas, meal planning system, visualization exercise, journal prompts and a place to write your daily affirmations.
Create a healthy lifestyle plan.
Brainstorm on what your healthy lifestyle plan is going to look like. For example, what are the areas in your life that you need to add to your schedule to make sure you are getting it done.
Here is a simple example of what I do:
First, I print out this free Ideal Week Worksheet from Day Designer, then I schedule in the main areas of my life that are going to move me forward in my health and wellness goals. I know that I want to go to the gym four times per week, I need to grocery shop, meal plan and meal prep and have a set time for my morning routine.
I write these in the planner during times I know that I will get them done. Sitting down and filling this worksheet out is one of my favorite things to do during the week. It helps me put all my to-do’s in a schedule so I can physically see it and it helps clear my mind.
Create a simple meal plan.
Your weekly meal plan needs to be simple. If you are a mom who tends to skip meals and overeat later in the day, this method is going to help you so much.
Here is an example of what I do. I am someone who likes routine and for the sake of preventing decision fatigue, I eat usually the same 3 things for breakfast, lunch and most of my snacks. However, this is the most important part: you need to physically write down all of your meals that you are planning on eating for the week. I use this free printable from Day Designer to help me stay organized with my meals and workout schedule.
My Simple Eating Plan
My breakfast is usually one of these options:
- High Fiber Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss (Dietitian Approved)
- Healthy Overnight Oats Recipe for Weight Loss (Easy)
- Kodiak Cakes Chocolate Chip Protein Muffins (No Banana)
My lunch is one big arugula salad with a protein choice (either chicken, grilled shrimp, or beans) and a roasted sweet potato. Simple and quick and it is an easy way for me to get more veggies in.
Dinner is whatever what my family will eat. This is the one meal that changes in my day depending on what the family wants to eat.
Snacks are fairly quick and take little to no time to prep. Here are some examples:
- 15 Healthy Snacks For Moms On The Go.
- 20 Best Healthy Snacks to Buy at Costco
- Meal Prep Ideas for Weight Loss (Healthy Recipes)
Make a grocery list.
After you write out your simple meal plan, it is time to make a grocery list. I typically like to do the meal planning and grocery shopping in one day. I block out 2-3 hours per week for this and I am usually done within a few hours. Having healthy foods on hand is one of the best ways to help you stay consistent and stick to a nutritious diet.
As a dietitian who has worked closely with clients, I see how important it is to have your environment prepared otherwise you may feel like you cant stick to a diet because the decision fatigue can wear you out. Having healthy meals and snacks ready is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success.
Decide which day of the week to grocery shop.
This is pretty self-explanatory but choose one day where you will grocery shop. I like to do my grocery shopping done on a Friday because it frees up my weekend and I can enjoy my family. I feel so relieved when the grocery shopping is done because I know that there is healthy food in the house that my family and I can eat. This also saves us time and money because we are less likely to order food.
Keep filling snacks on hand.
Another easy way to stay stick to your healthy diet. When you keep filling snacks on hand, you are more likely to reach for those when you need something to eat. This is why it is important to write down all the meals you plan on eating for the week in advance so you know exactly what you are going to snack on. When you do this, you are priming your brain and you are not making any last minute decisions that are usually a less healthy option that make sticking with a healthy diet even harder.
Sign up for a fun workout class.
If your local area has fun workout classes you’ve been wanting to try, this is your sign to get in on it. Being committed to a workout class makes it easy to stick to a workout routine. If you are someone who needs that extra motivation to go to the gym, then this is a great way to help you stay consistent with your workout routine.
Another easy way to learn how to start a healthy lifestyle and stick to it is by trying new things. As someone who loves weight training, but dread going to the gym, I wanted to change it up a bit and decided to try pilates. It is now my favorite workout and I get excited to go to the gym. Try something new! It may surprise you and motivate you to stick to your schedule.
Create a weekly schedule on Friday.
The reason I say Friday is because you go into the weekend feeling motivated and relived that the following week is all planned and booked. You know exactly what you’re doing and when, what healthy meals you will be eating, what time you are free to go to the gym and when you’ll spend time doing whatever needs to get done.
Every Friday, sit down and look at any upcoming activities you need to schedule in, then fill in the times you will be going to the gym, what time you’re eating and anything else that will help you live an overall healthier lifestyle.
Communicate your schedule.
As a mom myself, I totally understand that things can come out of nowhere and your entire schedule is thrown out the window. To help eliminate some of this, make sure to communicate your schedule with your spouse. This helps you stay on the same page and they also know what your schedule looks like.
Learn portion control.
This is one of the most commonly asked questions that I get. If you are confused about portion sizes, here is a simple method you can start using today:
- 1/2 plate non-starchy vegetables. This is pretty much all vegetables except corn, potatoes, green peas, sweet potatoes, beets, squash, turnips.
- 1/4 plate protein. Examples: meats, fish, tofu, beans, chicken.
- 1/4 plate high-fiber carbohydrates. Examples: quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, whole grain pasta.
- Healthy fats do not typically have their own place on a plate because they are usually mixed in with your food. For example, olive oil in the salad dressing or adding in some avocado. Fats is also found in animal proteins, nuts and seeds.
If you want to read more, make sure to check out this article from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Make one small change at a time.
Try to choose one healthy habit at a time that you want to implement. If you are someone who gets overwhelmed with too many changes, then decide on ONE area to focus on. This can be as simple as eating a healthy breakfast consistently.
Remember building healthy habits takes time and patience and it is not going to happen overnight. Take your time because learning how to change your lifestyle to be healthy is something you will be working on for life. Do not rush into it so that way you are constantly moving forward even if it is in small gradual steps.
Avoid an all-or-nothing approach.
This tip may take some mindset work if you are a perfectionist. Healthy eating is not all-or-nothing. You can not eat perfectly healthy all the time, nor do you need to in order to see results. It is completely okay to indulge occasionally. It is also okay if you have days where you need to order pizza because life got crazy. This does not mean you throw everything you’ve been working on out the window and go the opposite direction with your eating.
When you overindulge, forgive yourself and tell yourself that it is okay. You are learning new habits so there will be days where you feel like you could have made better choices. It is okay, learn from it and move on. You can make a better choice at your next meal.
Keep your future self in mind.
This tip is one of my all-time favorite hacks for anything in life.
Keeping my future self in mind has been one of the most life changing things I have ever done. This habit took about a year for it to kick in for me, but now, anytime I am making a decision, I think about my future self.
If you are having a hard time sticking with a healthy diet, get in the habit of asking yourself the following question: What decision does my future self want me to make today?
And that is how you can push through the discomfort of going to the gym, continuously working on self-improvement, staying calm and patient with your kids, or any other habit you are trying to build. It is all about wanting your future self to look back and be proud of the decisions you made today.
Don’t make it an obsession.
It can be very easy to become obsessed with healthy eating and seeing quick results, but this can backfire and can potentially cause an eating disorder. Do not make healthy eating and healthy living your personality. Find seamless ways to incorporate healthy living in to what you already do. Small changes here and there can drastically improve the quality of your life.
Start your mornings right.
Don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to wake up at 5 AM to start your day.
If your mornings are as chaotic as mine, starting your mornings on a productive foot can feel hard. Between getting your kids fed, ready and out the door on time, packing lunches, doing all the things, it may seem that mornings are the worst time for you to spend time prioritizing you.
All I ask is you take 5 minutes to review your schedule, the meals you will be eating, and any workouts you have planned so you have a clear actionable plan for the day. Planning should be done the week before so all you are doing is reviewing it in the morning. That’s all.
Remove the negative triggers in your life.
Get to know yourself when it comes to negative triggers. Ask yourself what triggers you to stop eating healthy and sticking to a healthy lifestyle. Is it when you overindulge late in the evening, or weekends, or when you have a chocolate bar and you think to yourself, “oh well, I ruined my diet. I might as well start again tomorrow.”
Write down the situations that can cause you to give up on your healthy lifestyle goals. For example, I had a client where anytime she drank alcohol, she found herself overeating and forgetting all the goals and plans she had set for herself. Once she understood her trigger, she was able to change what wasn’t working for her.
So if you are asking yourself, “how can I change to a healthy lifestyle,” then you need to learn what triggers you and why you believe that trigger stops you from moving forward.
Once you learn these triggers, you can either avoid them or make peace with them so they stop triggering you and throwing you off course.
Aim for 70% consistency to see results.
You do not need to eat healthy 100% of the time to see weight loss or health results. You can eat anywhere from 60-80% healthy. This method will improve your health and it is how to stick to a diet easier because it gives you flexibility.
Let’s quickly do the math:
If you eat 5 meals a day 7 days a week, that is 35 meals total.
60-80% healthy meals equates to only 21-28 healthy balanced meals a week.
If you eat a consistent healthy breakfast, snacks and lunch it gives you flexibility with your dinner and you still see results! Focus on eating balanced healthy meals the majority of the time and you will reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
Now that we have covered the 21 tips on “how to start a healthy lifestyle and stick to it” portion of the post, I wanted to cover a few commonly asked questions.
I Want to Start Eating Healthy But Don’t Know Where to Start
As a dietitian, I believe that small changes have the biggest impact. Start small. You can start with one meal a day and work yourself up.
If you are completely new to healthy eating, make sure to check out:
This will give you an easy way to build your meals. Try to implement this strategy for 1-2 meals or snacks a day. Once you have figured that out, you can add more.
If you are completely new to exercise, start with 20 minute walks three times per week and work yourself up until you have built that habit. Start small and slow and build that consistency before you make too many changes and get overwhelmed.
How to Stay Consistent with Diet and Exercise
Have a clear plan on when you are going to exercise and what meals you will be eating throughout the week. Having a clear, simple plan will help you stay consistent with diet and exercise.
Here are the 4 weekly steps you need to accomplish to make it easier to stick to your healthy lifestyle:
- Meal plan
- Grocery shop
- Meal prep
- Schedule in weekly workouts
How to Stick to a Diet Mentally
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Taking care of your mental health while starting a healthier lifestyle is crucial.
Learning how to manage your feelings and dealing with everyday stresses in a healthy way can be challenging. This is why it is important to put your own needs first. You can’t take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself.
Make sure you are finding time to relax and do things you enjoy, like reading or taking a bath. Reward yourself when you accomplish a goal and take the extra time to spend it with your family and loved ones.
Practicing positive self-talk is another way to stick to a diet mentally. Negative self talk can do a lot of harm to your confidence and self-esteem which can stall your progress. Reframe the negative self talk to a positive, loving voice that is reassuring and encouraging.
My Healthy Lifestyle Plan Example
If you are looking for some inspiration, here is an example of my healthy lifestyle plan broken down into goals and days.
My health goals for the week are:
- Go the gym 4 times per week
- Plan my meals
- Grocery shop
- Meal prep
- Family time
- Evening routine
- Tidy house
- Family time
- Evening routine
- Soccer practice
- Evening routine
- Tidy house
- Family time
- Evening routine
- Plan upcoming week
- Meal plan
- Grocery shop
- Family time
- Evening routine
- Meal prep
This schedule has been working so well for my family and I. Not only does it help me stay organized, but it also helps me move forward with my personal and professional goals.
How To Start A Healthy Lifestyle and Stick to it: The Bottom Line
Learning new habits and breaking old ones is not easy, but it can be very rewarding and fun. Take the time to plan your goals and write them down. When you create a clear plan as to what you want to accomplish, the rest is simply following that plan you made for yourself.
Don’t forget to enjoy the process as you’re learning and getting to know yourself better. This is not only beneficial but also makes it easy to stick to.
You may also like: