It happens to just about everyone on their “getting healthy” journey. Bad habits, once considered banished, creep back in like stealthy saboteurs. 

Maybe you “quit” drinking soda, but have found yourself unscrewing the cap of a liter bottle a little too often to call them occasional anymore? Or perhaps the sworn-off fast food stops may have returned, or your daily exercise routine has been become weekly, or maybe even non-existent? 

A poor diet or lifestyle habit you may have changed or eliminated will commonly return – at least at first – despite your best intentions. Why?       

Real change takes time.  

Our well-intended resolutions to lose weight, exercise more or eat better can be short-lived for a variety of reasons. Many of us set unrealistic goals that are nearly impossible to maintain. Others find they simply lack the mindset to stay committed to them. And for some, lack of support leads to the inevitable fizzle. 

So if you find that some bad habits have returned, here are some ways to get back on track: 

Be Sensible 
I knew someone once that had achieved unbelievable weight loss by limiting herself to only 600 calories a day. Obviously, such self-deprivation was not sustainable. Her body was starving, and in a short time she gained back the weight she had lost. While this example may be extreme, some dieters feel the urge to cut way back on calories in an effort to create some dramatic early results. But if a person is a little too ambitious with cutting calories, they are setting themselves up for failure. Make sure you are eating enough to fuel your body for success.  

If your goal was to train for a marathon, and you just can’t find the time, then consider setting a more realistic goal. Start by walking 30 minutes a day several times a week. This can be done in short intervals. Park further away from the office, squeeze in a 15-minute lunchtime walk before eating, and if you have stairs at home, use them – a lot. You’ll be surprised at how the steps and health benefits add up, and you will soon have increased energy to do more. 

Get Clear 
It may be time to examine your intentions and get clear on what you really want, and more importantly, what those changes will mean to your life. 

A desire to lose 30 pounds, for instance, is likely about something more. Is it about wanting to be healthier so you can live longer to see your grandchildren grow up? Is it a desire to address self-confidence, and achieve greater success? Is it because you are just plain sick of wearing constricting undergarments? 

Whatever IT is, ask yourself “why” until you get to the core of what it is and have identified what will motivate you to make the desired changes in your life. Then write it out on paper and post it on your bathroom mirror, computer monitor and refrigerator door. 

Setup for Success 
How is your environment?  Have you set yourself up for success?  While this may seem like a no-brainer, it sometimes needs restating.  The kids do not need to have M&Ms in the house if you are only going to raid their stash. Getting healthy requires a plan and a supportive environment. 

Cleaning out the pantry, fridge and freezer, and ridding the house of unnecessary temptation will go a long way in helping you banish bad habits. Make a basic meal plan for the week and stock up on vegetables, fruit and nuts for snacks. When you are hungry, you’ll be able to reach for a carrot instead of cake. 

Getting emotional support is also an essential part of getting back on track. Enlist the help of a supportive friend or relative that has similar goals, hire a health coach, or enroll in a program that offers mentoring. By all means, get the support you need! There will be days when you just don’t feel up to it. And there will be weeks when you don’t feel you have made any progress toward your goals. Acknowledge these times, commend yourself for the all of the positive action you have taken, and move on with the support of a person who cares about your success. 

Real change takes time. If some bad habits have returned, sabotaging your success, take some time to evaluate your goals and make adjustments where necessary. Get crystal clear on what your efforts will really mean for your health, as well as your family’s lasting health and happiness. And set yourself up for success with a supportive environment. In time you will find that your food and lifestyle choices have shifted permanently for the better.