With a lot of effort and awareness on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, at least most people are aware that making healthy choices is the only way that can help us stay healthy; and most importantly, keep lifestyle diseases at bay.
However, at times it’s not as easy as it sounds. Experts say that most of the time people are willing to change their unhealthy lifestyle and start living healthy, but along the way, they give up for some reason.
Although changing habits is not easy, it can boost the ability to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Private Kamanzi, a dietician and nutritionist at Amazon Nutrition Cabinet in Kigali that deals with diet, physical wellness and lifestyle, believes that change is always possible, and that there are proven strategies one can use to set themselves up for success.
He notes that before starting a healthy journey, one needs to put into consideration that lots of things they do impact their health and quality of life, now and in the future, and by sticking to a healthy lifestyle, it will help reduce the risk for the most common, costly, and preventable health problems such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, among other conditions.
What are the steps?
Kamanzi notes that to make healthy choices, one of the most important things to consider is to know your habits.
Here, the nutritionist explains that the regular things you do on a daily basis become your habits.
“These repetitive behaviours that make you feel good can affect your brain in ways that create habits that may be hard to change. Habits often become automatic and they happen without much thought, therefore, working on them first is the way to go,” he explains.
David Rukerabigwi, also a dietician and nutritionist working with Slim n’ Fit, a weight loss and wellness centre in Kigali, says that one should consider looking for patterns in their behaviour and what triggers the unhealthy habits they want to change.
To do this, he says, creating an awareness around what you do regularly is important.
For instance, he says one should start by developing ways to disrupt those patterns and create new ones (which are healthy instead).
“Although nowadays people are aware of what they are supposed to do to stay and remain healthy, it’s still imperative to consult a nutritionist or dietician to make your choices sustainable and of course, healthy,” he adds.
Kamanzi says that another vital strategy to your healthy lifestyle is to always have a plan. He says that this includes small, reasonable goals to help you stick to your healthy habits.
Ways of doing this could include stocking up on healthy foods, removing temptations, or finding a special spot to relax.
Also, one should consider having friends and loved ones involved by inviting them not only to join you but also, support and help you stay on track.
Research shows that people’s health behaviours tend to mirror those of their family and friends. Besides, it’s also important to plan for obstacles that might derail your best efforts to live healthier.
Experts say that staying on track will also help one stick to new healthy choices.
Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says staying on track comes with doing positive things for yourself, which can also be exciting and rewarding at the same time, therefore sticking to it gets easier with time.
He points out that one needs to practice self-control, and that the more they do this, the more they become better at it.
“Focus on how a change might heal your body and enhance your life. When you are guided by this, it’s easier to stick by what you have decided to do for your own good,” Uwiragiye says.
The hardest part when it comes to choosing a healthy lifestyle and sticking by it, Kamanzi says, is consistency.
He explains that most of the time when people are trying to adopt healthier habits, they get challenges along the way, including not seeing the changes, especially for those who are focusing on reducing or maintaining weight.
“The key here is to be patient and understand that choosing a healthy lifestyle and staying healthy is not something that happens overnight. Instead, it’s a lifelong thing, therefore, if you are in for fast results, you might end up not making any changes,” Kamanzi observes.
He adds that it’s also important to understand that change is a process, what is more important is to keep moving forward.
Experts note that no one is ‘too out of shape’, ‘too overweight’, or ‘too old’ to make healthy changes. Try different strategies until you find what works best for you.