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How to Make Healthy Habits Stick

By Barb Brathwaite, RN MSN CS

If you’ve ever struggled to keep your weight off, here is a quick story that you may appreciate:

A patient walks into her doctor’s office for a check-up. The doctor says “You need to lose weight.” The patient paused for a moment before responding. “Oh. No problem, Doctor. It’s easy to lose weight,” the patient said with a big grin. “I’ve done it hundreds of times.”


Joking aside, this describes the classic pattern of yo-yo dieting that we’ve all experienced at one point in our lives. You lose a few pounds. You gain it back. You lose it again. You gain it back and so on. You could just chalk this up to the ups and down that go along with dieting. But there is a more important point: losing weight is easy; the hard part is keeping it off. So how do we break out of this cycle?


The most important thing to remember in trying to maintain healthy habits is that you must allow your health and well-being to come before anything else. Then healthy behaviors will follow. Here’s how:

Assess Your Readiness. Motivation must come from within with a heartfelt desire to change.

Plan Realistic SMALL Changes. Major changes can seem overwhelming. Instead, start small.

Believe in Yourself.
Confidence in your ability to change is essential to drive success.

Track Behavior.
Monitor your behaviors - studies show people who use a food diary are more effective in making changes.

Adequate sleep is so important in trying to make changes. Lack of sleep can lead to poor decisions and irritability, which can affect your attempts to change.

Manage Stress.
Stressful situations can detour the best of healthy intentions. To be successful we need to find ways to cope, we need to set aside time to relax, and we need to let go or delegate some responsibilities. Remember: anxiety and irritability can contribute to emotional eating.

Surround Yourself with Support.
Family and friends and support group participants encourage and reinforce positive changes.

Bounce Back.
Old habits can be ingrained and occasional lapses will occur. We are not perfect. It's important to get back on track with another small step forward and carry on.