THE BLOG
08/22/2014 08:32 am ET Updated Oct 22, 2014

The 5 Secrets to Lifestyle Change

I'm a trained wellness coach and certified personal trainer and have helped many clients make permanent lifestyle changes. It's not an easy thing to do. Look around. There's no escaping the fact that the world is conspiring to make us all fat and lazy. Fast food drive-thrus are ubiquitous and most of us are tethered to our desks. This is our reality, and we need to learn to find a way live in the real world, rather than grasping at the latest, greatest miracle weight loss solution. McDonald's is not going out of business any time soon. Nor are we about to return to our ancestral hunter-gatherer ways.

Being healthy in this setting is a Sisyphean hurdle, one that requires 24/7 diligence. Sometimes you'll feel like you're in a rip current. While this is a formidable challenge, it is doable, and it trumps feeling lousy, living on meds, and eventually dealing with chronic illness.

I have distilled the five secrets that hold the key to making lasting lifestyle changes:

#1: Emulate the tortoise, not the hare. Most people who get fed up with themselves make short-sighted moves like going on a diet or depleting your bank account for a gym membership. Chances are they've tried both before, were rewarded with short term gains, and eventually returned to the habits that got them into trouble in the first place. Get off the weight roller coaster. Don't panic and try to turn yourself into a kale-eating gym rat overnight. Try small, gradual adjustments that don't send your body into shock, leaving you feeling deprived and exhausted.

#2: Be an underachiever. Every time you decide on a lifestyle tweak, ask yourself: "Is this something that I can do for the rest of my life?" If the answer is anything other than a resounding "yes," don't go there. If beef is "what's for dinner" in your world, don't resolve to go cold turkey and never eat red meat again. You're setting yourself up for failure. I promise you that as soon as your fire up your backyard BBQ and get a whiff of that cheeseburger, they will scream, "Eat me. Eat me." You will succumb. A more practical goal would be to cut back your beef consumption from seven to five times a week. Be realistic, not extreme.

#3: Take "exercise snacks." Change your attitude about exercise. My parents never made a concerted effort to exercise, yet they were in good shape. Broaden your horizons. Look for excuses to move your body throughout the day. Latch onto any pretext, no matter how flimsy, to get up and move. Consider a stand-up desk. Host walking meetings. Pace up and down during conference calls. Take the stairs. Little things add up on the exercise front. Get away from the mindset the "working out" means going the gym for 90 minutes. Find things you actually like to do. It might be line dancing or digging in the dirt.

#4: View weight loss as a "happy byproduct." Don't make your bathroom scale the barometer of your self-worth. The weight will come off, but to banish it for good, you have to ride the local train, not the supersonic jet. You didn't gain 25 pounds in three weeks and you can't safely lose it in that time frame. Be patient and step away from the scale. Otherwise, you'll quickly get discouraged and descend into the black hole.

#5: Be a little bad. There's no need to join the nunnery or a monastery to be healthy. Give yourself permission to be a little bad. Food is one of the most enjoyable aspects of life. If your favorite treat is Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby, don't ever make it verboten. Allow yourself to enjoy it, just find your own personal moderation solution.

Keep these five rules in mind, and you can change your life for good!

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