How to make yourself a priority

Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of major lifestyle changes?

Set simple goals
Long-term goals can be overwhelming, so experts recommend breaking your goals down into small achievable “chunks”. Rather than aiming to lose 30kg by the end of the year, you might aim to lose 5kg in the next two months, or to focus on your 5% and 10% goals. “Think about the bigger picture but at the same time, chunk it into smaller, more digestible pieces,” says Brooke Adam, clinical psychologist and PhD candidate at the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders. “Your goals need to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited.”

Once you’ve achieved each goal, celebrate your successes. “It doesn’t have to cost anything and it doesn’t have to revolve around food,” Adam says. “You could just take time out for yourself on the weekend or go out with friends. It reinforces that you’ve achieved something that you set out to do.”

Be mindful
When it comes to achieving your health goals, understanding your body’s cues is a vital step to success. It’s easy to mistake feelings of stress or anxiety for hunger, or to reach for food when you’re bored. “If you have eaten less than three or four hours ago, it’s unlikely to be hunger,” Adam says. If you’re reaching for energy-dense foods, such as cake, chocolate or chips, try waiting for 10 minutes to see if the need passes. “Develop a skill for putting a finger on exactly what your need is at that moment,” Adam says. “Are you stressed or anxious about a deadline at work and mistaking your internal anxiety for hunger? Or are you really hungry and going for a quick hit, such as biscuits at work, because it’s all that’s available?”

If it’s stress, try to find an alternative release, or if it’s from lack of available healthy options, pack some fresh fruit, yoghurt and nuts to have on hand.

Make mistakes
Scoffed a few biscuits at morning tea? Don’t stress. “You will slip-up because you’re human and not a robot,” Adams says. “It’s part of the process and it’s important that you learn from it.” Rather than berate yourself and eat poorly for the rest of the day, Adams suggests you look for the positives. “Take a helicopter view and put this slip-up into context,” she says. “Look at the things you’ve been doing well and try and weigh up this slip-up in the context of all the positive things you’ve been achieving. It enables you to see, ‘I have actually been doing really well and it’s normal for me to have slip-ups – that’s just life’.”

Hang with healthy people
Surrounding yourself with people who have similar health goals is a good way to keep you on track. “Even if it’s a matter of going walking with a group of friends on the weekend, that’s fine,” Adam says. “That may prove to be your anchor every week.” Just make sure they’re not too dogged in their pursuit of “perfect” health. “The idea of flexibility is very important when it comes to weight loss,” Adam insists.

Laugh your way fit
If the idea of going to the gym makes you shudder, cast your mind back to your childhood and think about what you always enjoyed doing. “Any movement is good movement, so make it fun,” Adam says. “Make it social and maybe start off with a goal of doing it once a week and increase it as time passes.” Try having a hit of tennis with your partner or use your Wii Fit with your kids or relatives for an active laugh.