Healthy Lifestyle

6 Small Lifestyle Changes That Can Lead to Big Results

Published: Sept. 19, 2018

We’re all busy. Between jobs, families and other commitments, it can be hard to find the time and resolve to take care of ourselves.

We know what we should do to get on track. We know we would feel better and have more energy by working out and eating right. Buckling down and doing it, however, is another story. It can seem like more to add to an already enormous to-do list.

While some don’t know where to begin, others bite off more than they can chew. Some people get rid of all the processed foods in their houses and sign up for daily exercise classes. They’re committed!

That enthusiasm is admirable, but those kinds of drastic changes can be hard to maintain. Sometimes we aim too high too fast and don’t reach our goals, leaving us feeling defeated.

The case for small changes

You may be familiar with the “butterfly effect” – small changes over time having a large impact. Instead of turning your life upside down, try making little changes that are easier to achieve and maintain over the long haul.

For example:

  • Introduce or increase exercise: You don’t have to run a 5K every day. Instead, try to be more mindful of your activity and take advantage of opportunities you have. Invite your partner, a friend or coworkers to go for regular walks. Take the stairs instead of the elevator if you can. Park farther away at work or the store. Find a few minutes to do 15 pushups and 15 squats every other day, perhaps during a TV commercial break.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: Improving your diet doesn’t have to mean a salad-only menu. Instead, try to add one fruit or vegetable to every meal. Have a banana or carrot sticks when those afternoon munchies strike. And get adventurous. Choose something different in the produce aisle or farmers market and try a new recipe.
  • Don’t drink your calories: Going cold turkey on pop, fruit juice or sweetened drinks might seem daunting. Try starting your day with a glass of water and slip in another here or there. Carry a bottle of water, not pop, throughout the day. If you’re craving flavor, there are plenty of low- or no-calorie water enhancers. Use half your normal amount of sugar in your morning coffee.
  • Snack smarter: Plan ahead to keep yourself out of snacking trouble. Having fruit, yogurt or trail mix at the ready can help you resist a trip to the vending machine. And since you’re the one packing the food, you have more control over the portions.
  • Slow it down: Pay more attention to how you eat. Take your time and sip water between bites. Let your brain catch up with your stomach, then be honest with yourself: “Do I feel full?” It’s OK to have leftovers for another day.
  • Treat yourself: Your plan doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Go ahead and have dessert but be more intentional about it. Maybe it becomes your end-of-week treat. Maybe you intentionally order the smallest size, or you agree to share with a friend. If you never let yourself have any fun, you could short-circuit your efforts.

Making a few changes like these can start to move the needle without upsetting your daily schedule. Just think: If you were to lose a half-pound per week, you’d be down 26 pounds in a year!

Slow and steady

Remember, you didn’t wake up and suddenly have this lifestyle. It happened over time. Making lasting, positive changes is the same way. Start your journey by focusing on simple, attainable changes. Over time, they can make a big impact.

More resources

About the Author

Barb Fye, a physical therapist assistant, loves sharing in a patient’s healing journey with therapy that incorporates empathy and compassion.

She sees patients at Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest and is an adjunct instructor for the Methodist College Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

See more articles from Barb Fye, PTA
Photo of Barb Fye, PTA