4 strategies to stick with your health goals

Want to make a change in your life around fitness, diet or lifestyle? Tips to keep you on track.

How to outsmart your inner perfectionist to get in shape and start feeling better sooner

Become part of a community to make your goal bigger than you. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)

Want to make a change in your life around fitness, diet or lifestyle? These tips are designed to keep you on track.

CBC Health spoke with Toronto family physician Dr. Matt MacDonald, who works as a mental performance coach for athletes and marathoner-in-training Alex Neville who lives in Toronto.

Outsmart your inner perfectionist

Sometimes the desire to get in shape and start feeling better as soon as possible means we tend to be too extreme with our approach. You vow to stay away from all sugar forever and then find yourself with a bowl of ice cream on your lap later that day. Or you swear to yourself that you'll work out four times a week and end up surfing the net instead. Sound familiar? The overcompensator in us strives for perfection and then burns out and goes into avoidance and neglect. The key is to outsmart it by choosing more moderate goals to start with, even though they may feel like a drop in the bucket. Know that there are years of sound psychology behind the power of moderate, manageable goals. 

Marathoner-in-training Alex Neville. (Jess Baumung)

Have someone in your corner

It can feel isolating when we're working towards a change in diet, fitness or lifestyle because we're out of our comfort zone. Whether it's a friend, your partner, a colleague or doctor, make it a point to have at least one champion in your corner who will be supportive when you doubt yourself or want to quit. We are a social species so share your quest with others. Hidden bonus: your support person(s) may choose to join you on your quest, which will only make your odds of achieving that goal even greater.

Become part of a community today

This is about making your goal bigger than you. Joining a community that shares your goal is like taking out an insurance plan for the dark days when that inner saboteur wants you to bail. Pursuing your goal alongside others helps you stay accountable and is a good way to connect with others on the same path. You might join a cycling club, a support group for a habit you want to break, or a meditation circle and then find yourself looking forward to seeing your new friends. And don't wait until you're completely "ready" before joining a community. Everyone needs to start somewhere and your new friends, just like you, were once beginners too.

Be compassionate with yourself

We can have lots of compassion for others but not as much for ourselves, especially when we're struggling. Now that you have your champions and your community, it's time to train your inner coach. When maintaining your goals is challenging, you'll need to lean hard on it. This is a mind strategy that will aid you in recovering faster from low points and place you in a better position to succeed.  Although it may feel awkward at first, try reframing thoughts like, "I'm not doing enough, I'm a fraud, I'm a failure" with compassionate thoughts like, "You are doing enough, this too shall pass and be gentle with yourself today." 


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