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6 Reasons Healthy Lifestyle Changes Fail 

Author: Forth

December 28, 2020

Reviewed by: Dr Thom Phillips

General wellbeing

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With up to 80% of people failing to maintain New Year resolutions by mid-February, how do you make lifestyle changes that you’ll stick to?

You may embark on your new challenge with the best of intentions but implementing big lifestyle changes can really test your mettle. That’s why, we’ve put together some tips and advice to help you set yourself goals that are attainable, achievable, and realistic.

6 Reasons Why Healthy Lifestyle Changes Fail 

Studies have shown the main reasons a change in lifestyle fails is that instant results are wanted, the goals are vague and most of all it doesn’t fit with who you are and what you like doing. Here are the top 6 reasons why changing to a healthy lifestyle fails:

1. The Need For Instant Results

Habits are hard to break, so creating a change where you what instant results is likely to fail as you find it hard to break old habits in favour of new. Treating your journey as a marathon not a sprint will help create the right mind set. Take slow, steady steps towards achieving your health goals.

2. Setting The Wrong Goals

Setting the wrong goals or goals that are not specific enough will result in a lack of focus and no sense of achievement. For example, having a goal of ‘I want to be healthier’ is too ambiguous – what does this mean? Do you want to lose weight, eat healthier, lower cholesterol levels, get fitter? And how do you know when you’ve achieved it?

Instead break your goals down using SMART goals to give you greater clarity on what you want to achieve.  SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timebound

And don’t set large goals, instead set small ones that will build up to deliver your end goal. For example, your main goal might be to lose weight. Break this down into smaller goals instead of starting on a crash diet, it might include adding one portion of fruit to your daily diet to replace a chocolate bar and doing this for a week.  Then build upon this goal with a new one each week over the course of several weeks. You will find it easier to break old habits and adopt new ones. Try not to achieve too much all at once and set specific, clear and achievable goals to maintain motivation.

3. You Don’t Enjoy The Process

And this is a big one! Setting yourself goals that don’t make you feel motivated is a waste of time. The key is finding goals that excite you, make you want to do them. This could be finding a physical activity to take part in, instead of going to the gym to get fit.

You are more likely to stick to a new physical activity if you enjoy it and in turn you will get fit. See getting fit as a by product of the physical activity, rather than the other way around. Maybe it’s walking in nature, or joining a netball team, or swimming, or Zumba or taking up horse riding or tennis.  Whatever it is, make sure you enjoy it.

Also, make sure you choose something appropriate for the season. There is no point in setting a goal of starting to run 3 times a week in the middle of winter when it’s dark and cold, instead aim to start something that’s indoors, then as the days draw out mix up your physical activity with outdoor exercise.

Also choose the right time of day to exercise for you. Not everyone likes getting up at 6 am to get an hour in at the gym, so if this isn’t for you, don’t set it as a goal.  And don’t feel you have to exercise every day – research has shown that even moderately intense exercise done 2-4 times per week can have cumulative health benefits.

The same goes for changing your diet. We pretty much eat the same things each week, meaning we can go round the supermarket on autopilot. So making changes to our diet where we have to source new ingredients and learn to cook new recipes can be tough for some.  To make it easier, try taking up a cookery class to help you discover new recipes and improve your cooking skills.  Create meal plans and maybe swap recipe ideas with friends to get inspiration.  Choose recipes that can be cooked quickly if you aren’t a fan of cooking.

4. High Expectations

Having too high expectations at the start will set you up to fail. This comes back to setting yourself SMART goals and being realistic about what you can and want to achieve over a specific time frame.  And don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a couple of days, don’t forget, building rest and relaxation into your new exercise routine is crucial.

The same goes for changing your diet, don’t deprive yourself of what you enjoy. Instead aim to get a good, healthy, balanced diet with a little bit of what you enjoy mixed in – having a bit of chocolate, cake and the odd glass of wine as part of an overall healthy diet won’t harm you.

5. You Don’t Keep Track

We are motivated by feelings of achievement, so if you don’t keep track of what you are doing you cannot see the improvements your new healthy lifestyle is having. But don’t become obsessed! Weighing yourself several times a day is not healthy and won’t show any changes. Instead invest in devices such as Fitbit or step trackers so you can establish what your current routine delivers and set goals on improving those markers.  This will give you something to aim for and can be tracked – again SMART!

That goes for your inner health too. Tracking biomarkers key to overall wellbeing will help support you in achieving your health goals.

6. You Go It Alone

It can often feel lonely and demotivating when you are trying to break habits and establish new, healthy routines – you are stepping into the unfamiliar and dealing with change. The best way to help you stay motivated is to set goals with a friend or partner. You can then support and motivate each other and be each other’s cheerleader when you hit your goals. And this doesn’t mean you both have to have the same goals – in fact it might be better to have different goals so one of you doesn’t feel demotivated when the other hits their goal and you don’t. Reaching out and sharing your progress and achievements with friends on social media will also give you a boost.

How To Get Motivated To Change Your Lifestyle

Once you’ve done the hard part of identifying that you need to change your health for the better, you now need to set your goals and stick to them. But how?

As well as being SMART goals, there are five things you need to keep in mind when setting yourself goals, especially if you want to reach them:

  1. Be consistent
  2. Change one thing at a time
  3. Track your progress
  4. Learn from your mistakes
  5. Reward yourself

We’ll come back to these in a bit, but first you need to find your motivation for implementing the change. It’s no use setting yourself a challenge because you see everyone else doing it, or you get swept up in the latest trend. Doing something because you want to, rather than because you should, means you’re much more likely to succeed.

So, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to change now?
  • Why do I want to change it?
  • What will it look like if you change your lifestyle?

Once you know why you want to change and what for, you’ll find it easier to work towards. Whatever the goal, it’s crucial you do it for yourself.

How To Make Lifestyle Changes That Last

We’ve touched on this earlier in this article, but here are some more tips on how to be successful at adopting a new healthy lifestyle:

Be consistent

Consistency is key. If you want to exercise more regularly then set a specific time for your workouts to take place. Pick a time when nothing else is going to interrupt or get in the way. For example, if you are going to exercise at 6pm, is there a chance work or other activities may interfere with this on some occasions? If so, what about first thing in the morning, before work or at lunchtime to make sure you get away from your desk.

Consistency isn’t about forcing yourself to bring about change but it will require some effort. Of course, there will be days where you will achieve more than others, but small steps of progress are better than none at all.

Change one thing at a time

Slow and steady always wins the race, as they say. Trying to change a multitude of things all at once is unrealistic and probably unobtainable. A steady approach to reaching your goals is more likely to build long-lasting change. If there are a few things you would like to change, approach them step-by step.

Make a list of the things you want to change and as you achieve one, you can start on the next. That way the challenge is less daunting and much more manageable.

Track your progress

“That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.” – Karl Pearson

Tracking your progress is a great motivational tool and will help keep you on target. That’s why measuring the key biomarkers essential to your health and wellbeing over a period of at least three months, will give you a real insight into how well your behavioural changes are working and their positive impact on your overall health. Giving you that push to keep carrying on.

Learn from your mistakes

Remember you’re only human and you may encounter setbacks along the way. If you’re trying to give up sugar and start one morning with two sugars in your coffee or have a glass of wine midweek which increases your consumption when you’re trying to cut down, don’t beat yourself up.

Instead, learn from the lapse and come up with a way to succeed in the future. It’s also vital not to start any new challenges if you are already under stress. Wait until that has passed before you try to reach any goals because stress is likely to hinder your performance.

Reward yourself

If you’ve reached a milestone, reward yourself.  Rewarding positive behaviour will make it much more likely that you will achieve your goals. 

How To Change Your Lifestyle With Forth

Identifying key areas for change is made easier with our Better You Health Check. This twin pack biomarker testing kit analyses the key biomarkers that are essential for your overall wellbeing. Plus, by measuring these biomarkers you will be able to track your progress first-hand and recognise what you’re doing well and where you could make improvements.

We recommend tracking these biomarkers over a period of three months. Many people believe that it takes at least 21 days for a behaviour to become a habit and up to 66 days for a new behaviour to become normal or automatic. Therefore, tracking your biomarkers for at least 12 weeks should show you definite progression and motivate you to continue with your new lifestyle.

There is no better time than now to make the changes to your health and wellbeing that you want to. Whatever it is you want to do, lose weight, eat better, drink less alcohol, or just exercise more, now you can. Equipped with the knowledge you need to succeed and the ability to track your biomarkers to evaluate your progress, you really can ‘Do You Better’.

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Article references

  1. Sikand, G et al. (2018). Clinical and Cost Benefits of Medical Nutrition Therapy by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists for Management of Dyslipidaemia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Lipidology: 12, pp 1113-1122.

  2. Solbrig, L et al. (2017). People Trying to Lose Weight Dislike Calorie Counting Apps and Want Motivational Support to Help Them Achieve Their Goals. Internet Interventions: 7, pp 23-31.

This article was written by Forth

This information has been medically reviewed by Dr Thom Phillips

Thom works in NHS general practice and has a decade of experience working in both male and female elite sport. He has a background in exercise physiology and has published research into fatigue biomarkers.

Dr Thom Phillips

Dr Thom Phillips

Head of Clinical Services