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How To Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes Sustainable

You've got a new exercise or diet plan—great! Here's how to make sure you don't fall off the wagon.

How To Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes Sustainable
(Source: iStock)

Anyone who has taken it upon themselves to transition to a healthier lifestyle has likely encountered some form of isolation. Whether it is being unable to enjoy meals out with friends like you used to, making time sacrifices to hit the gym or having to undo hardwired eating habits from growing up—and consequently get guilt-tripped about it—it can be tough when you lack the right support. Next thing you know, you're going down a spiral of wrong decisions taking you back to where you started. 

How do you find the right balance? We got enlightened by Sarah Jenks, a holistic nutrition coach and founder of Live More Weigh Less, who shared tips on keeping up your new healthy habits and avoiding common traps. 

understand why you want to change

Before you make any lifestyle switch, Jenks says it is crucial to understand the root causes of it. "I think it's really important to understand why you're doing something but more importantly, why you've been doing it differently your whole life," she says. "I work with people to figure out why they're eating a certain way in the first place. Are you bored out of your mind? Are you super stressed out? I think it's important to do emotional detective work."

Sarah Jenks
Sarah Jenks

stop being defensive

If you find yourself constantly trying to explain your new lifestyle to others, take a step back and understand where the other half is coming from. "Seeing someone else change triggers our own insecurities," notes Jenks. "Here's someone taking charge of her life and it makes us uncomfortable so we want them to stay the same as us so we don't feel uncomfortable anymore." Instead of going on a shpiel about why you are changing the way you eat, Jenks suggests you simply fall back on responses such as, "I'm just not in the mood for [dessert, or whatever food] right now," "I'm actually feeling really full but don't hold back because of me," or "I realize I feel so much better when I don't eat X." "I think it's important to stay upbeat, open and put the person with you at ease," she explains. 

Don't try to change the people around you

It can be tempting to want company as you try out a new diet, but refrain from trying to convert all your friends. "I think trying to change everybody else is really destructive because there's not one right way of eating," says Jenks. Let everyone else do what is right for them.

If you really love cookies and a lifetime without cookies is the worst thing in the world, then why put your body through that stress? The stress is actually worse than having a cookie once a week."

–Sarah Jenks


You don't want to be the friend at the restaurant who snacks on a Ziploc bag of carrot sticks because you can't eat anything on the menu. "It's important to recognize that you might be making other people uncomfortable," says Jenks. "It changes the dynamic of the evening." Be the one who chooses the food venue so you know you will have options. If you're visiting someone's home, ask them in advance what they're serving just in case, so you can also contribute a dish if need be. 


No matter what routine or diet you're taking up, it's more important to pay attention to your mental wellbeing over the scale number or waist inches. "I see people get really uptight. Someone is in this phase of restriction to lose weight—which I don't believe in—she becomes un-fun and now your company wants to shake you a bit," says Jenks. "Be really conscious." The more aware you are of how your lifestyle affects your mental health, the more you can tell if it is right for you or not. "If you really love cookies and a lifetime without them is the worst thing in the world, why put your body through that stress? Stress is actually worse than having a cookie once a week."


"What I believe in is eating healthy food 80 percent of the time and 20 percent of the time I eat food that might not be so healthy for me," admits Jenks. It takes the pressure of perfection off your shoulders. What tends to happen when you're following a new regimen is if you break it, you tell yourself you've messed up and start binging on what you tried to give up. "I really believe there can be some give and take and you don't need to be 100 percent all the time," she adds. Another tip is if you choose to indulge for that 20 percent, go for higher quality. Jenks explains she'd pass on Oreos, but would rather walk to the nearest local bakery for a freshly made chocolate chip cookie. 


Whether it is Facebook, forums, meet ups, a spiritual group or a program like Jenks' Live More Weigh Less, a supportive group will help keep you on track and take the responsibility off your communities. "I find that it's much easier to be with friends I've always had when I have a community who gets where I am at right now," says Jenks. "Our friends can't always catch up and grow at the same rate as us—and they don't have to."