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How to Use Small Wins to Motivate Healthy Behaviors

Building on small wins is key to creating permanent healthy behaviors. You can use the progress you’ve already made to motivate you toward your larger goal of living healthier. Here’s how:

Baby Steps.

Baby steps are at the heart of my WIN philosophy because you don’t create success in one sudden overwhelming swoop unless you win the lottery. Winning at anything is about using each small success to motivate yourself to the larger goal. It works that way with weight loss and healthy living too.

When I am coaching, too many times I hear women bully themselves with negative self-talk like:

I’m so fat I should just give up.

It’s no use. I can’t change.

Why bother eating a salad for lunch when I ate Pop Tarts for breakfast.

I have so much weight to lose. It’s impossible.

But every one of those women has had good moments. Every one of them has made healthy choices on some days. Every one of them is capable of making lasting changes that will make them feel and look better. Whether or not they took two steps back, they have all taken steps forward to living a healthier life. The key is to get them to use those small victories to push toward the larger goal.

You don’t win a marathon by focusing on the finish line. You turn your attention toward the road in front of you and the runners you can see. You propel yourself forward by setting small goals that build momentum and motivate you to the win because winners don’t actually think about winning; they think about performing in the moment.

Staying in the moment is a killer life skill.

And its what small wins, or baby steps, are all about. So, from a healthy living perspective, let’s take a look at your small wins and see how to use those to WIN the healthy lifestyle you want and deserve. Let’s break it down into three easy categories: Number Wins, Workout Wins, and Food Wins.

Building on small wins is key to creating permanent healthy behaviors.

Celebrate Your Number Wins

In honor of the fact that this year the number one New Year’s resolution was to “Lose Weight,” let’s begin with Number Wins. Sadly, when you are trying to lose weight, you have to face your numbers. There’s no way around it. You either have to use a scale, a tape measure, or your clothing size but when it comes to reducing, you’ll need a means of measurement.

Every time you see your number drop, whether it’s a lot or a little, CELEBRATE. You are making progress. You can buy yourself a new dress, tell a friend, take a victory lap, get a fitness tracker, or put a star on your calendar… but you need to celebrate. Because one pound, a quarter of an inch, or one less hole in your belt is a WIN.

Did you get a little buzz from seeing that number? How about a smidge of self-satisfaction? Hell yeah!

Now, while you are still feeling the happy glow from that moment of self-congratulation, set your next goal. Keep it small. Keep it easy. And crush it! Every time you allow yourself to celebrate a small win, set a new goal and keep moving forward, one step at a time. Use the joy of watching your numbers drop to keep you focused on the bigger goal which is your healthiest life.

Celebrate Your Workout Wins

Workout Wins operate the same way. You use the enthusiasm from one success to spur another. Be creative and make it fun.

For instance, put a gold star on the calendar for every three days in a row that you work out for at least fifteen minutes. Once you’ve collected ten stars, buy yourself new workout clothes. With all that working out you’ll probably need new gear anyway!

Plus, psychologists agree that it takes twenty-one days to establish a new habit. Once you’ve awarded yourself ten gold stars you’ve become a Habitual Exerciser. Damn you’re good!

We spend so much time feeling blasé about life. We don’t let ourselves get too excited. It seems to be an unfortunate side effect of being a grown up. Do you remember when getting a gold star was a thrill all by itself? And you couldn’t wait to get another.

If you increase you work out time, degree of difficulty, or frequency, that’s a WIN! And you deserve to feel proud. Let that pride be the push you need to step up your game and to keep going.

Celebrate Your Food Wins

Like working out, eating healthy is really about creating new habits. You have to create a new pattern of making healthy food choices to replace the old habits that you want to change. And like working out and losing weight, learning to eat healthier is best done in baby steps.

On your road to a better diet there may be mornings when you feel derailed by a Danish or when late night pizza makes you feel like a failure. Set that judgement aside. On that same day you may have chosen a grilled chicken salad for lunch or passed up the chips in favor of an apple. Focus on the WINS. Then make a plan to start the next day with a bowl of oatmeal.

When you make a good choice take note of it. Think about how you feel after eating well. Personally, I feel like a freaking rock star after about three days of clean eating. I feel leaner, lighter, stronger, more in control and just plain better. I use those feelings to push myself to improve my diet over the long haul.

You can do that too. When you have a great eating moment, meal, or day, remember how you feel both physically and emotionally. Use those small wins to motivate healthier behaviors.

We all want to embrace a healthy lifestyle. We all want a better life for ourselves and our families. Most of us want to be fit and happy and that’s a great goal.

The trick is to identify the small wins you are already achieving and to use those wins to motivate yourself to keep going. Focus on the moment. When you take the time to celebrate your success, you’re really taking a baby step toward living the happy, healthy life you deserve!

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