Ready, Set, Go

Are you ready? No, are you really ready? Changing your health habits is a challenging task, even though it’s presented as absurdly simple in magazine cover lines that,  promise you can “Lose 10 Pounds in Two Weeks.” It takes commitment to make  as absurdly simple in magazine cover lines that and of changes called for on the Live /t Down Plan, along with the support of family and friends, One thing that will help is understanding your own risks, as you’ve done in this chapter, for studies show that people are more likely to make a healthy change if they believe it’s relevant to their situation. Other ways to get on track and stay there:

Shout the news. Tell everyone in your life that you’ve made a new commitment to your health, from eating well to exercising to reducing your stress. Their questions and support will help you remain strong

Track your progress. There’s no better way to succeed than to see your success. The weekly logs that are part of the 12-week Plan starting on page 206 will help.

Make a list. Write down all of the reasons you think this won’t work, then prove yourself wrong. For instance, if you think you can’t exercise because you don’t have time, list five ways you can find 30 minutes a day. Try skipping a TV show (or else exercise in front of the tube), dropping a commitment you can do without, or walking during lunch and eating your sandwich at your desk.

Take small steps. As you’ll see in the week-by-week Plan, we don’t expect you to go from 0 to 60 immediately, By making just a few changes at a time, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed—and more likely to succeed.

Set realistic goals. Your goal shouldn’t start as: “Cut out all red meat.” Instead, set a more reasonable goal such as: “Eat no more than one hamburger per week for the first three weeks, then switch to chicken or veggie burgers.” Make your goals very specific, and make a list of steps you need to take to reach them. In the hamburger goal, for instance, your step-by-step to prevent fast-food lunches might look like this:

  1. Make a list of three different lunches | can pack.
  2. Buy ingredients for lunches at the store.
  3. Buy an insulated lunch bag.
  4. Pack lunch the night before.

Plan for roadblocks. The holidays, a vacation, or a deadline crunch at work can all stall your progress, so plan ahead. To cope with a work crunch, for instance, bring along a bag of healthy snacks to the office and get your exercise by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Be flexible. Don’t take an all-or-nothing approach. If you miss your daily walk one day, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that there’s no point in walking the next day. If you couldn’t resist the french fries, vow to return to the Plan when you finish licking the grease off your fingers. Remember, this is a permanent lifestyle change, not a short-term solution

Build in rewards. Every time your cholesterol drops treat yourself to something special, like a new golf club or a manicure.

Be patient. Studies show it takes at least three weeks of daily repetition before a change begins to feel natural, and longer before it’s automatic.

Also understand that just as people move through various stages when they grieve, they move through stages when they’re trying to change habits. The fact that you’re reading this book means you’re past stage one (precontemplation) and havereached stage two (contemplation). Stage three, preparation, means you’re getting ready to put the advice in this book into action, such as by purchasing a bottle of olive oil, cholesterol-lowering margarine, or a new pair of walking shoes (you’ll read about “Getting Ready” on page 205). In stage four, action, you’ll begin following the 12-week Plan starting on page 206.

It won’t always be a smooth road. You may backslide (maybe the sausages on the breakfast buffet were just too tempting to pass up) or become frustrated if you don’t see quick results. That’s okay. Just don’t give up. As we’ve said before, this Plan is for life.

Which brings us to stage five: maintenance. You’ll know you’ve reached this stage when you automatically order a salad at Wendy’s instead of the Big Bacon classic (or stop going to Wendy’s altogether and pack your own lunch instead), or walk to the post office instead of driving. You’ve found renewed energy, watched your cardiac risk factors—including your cholesterol—drop substantially, and perhaps even wrangled a muttered “good job” out of your overworked doctor.

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