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Too often, individuals don’t take time to invest in the importance of good nutrition and exercise for their bodies. Many take their health for granted. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a realization or diagnosis of bad health or a health condition for the behavior changes to start.

Important information about dietary guidelines, physical activity guidelines and SMART goal setting have all been discussed in prior articles. However, even with this information in your health knowledge toolbox, living a healthy lifestyle comes down to everyday decisions. Will I ride my bike to work today or drive the 8 blocks? Should I make some homemade lasagna or stop and grab something at the drive-thru for lunch? Should I walk for 15 minutes during my morning break or enjoy my regular cup of coffee? Should I purchase some strawberries or my favorite potato chips at the grocery store? The list of decisions made each day goes on and on.

Overcoming Barriers

One of the first steps in making healthy choices each day is realizing the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and truly making a behavior change. If you have a major barrier preventing you from living a healthy lifestyle, try one of the tips below for overcoming a few common barriers.

  • Time
    One of the biggest, most frequent barriers expressed. To overcome this barrier, it takes true honesty and assessment of your normal routine. Try tracking your everyday life and decisions, identify time slots where physical activity or other health enhancing activities could be incorporated (i.e. can you walk during work breaks, while you play with your children, 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after work?). As far as food preparation, assess whether time is the true barrier to preparing a healthy meal. Some simple, healthy meals take very little time to prepare. For easy recipes and tips, visit Quick & Healthy Recipes or stay up to date with Stirring Up Quick & Healthy. Try planning meals ahead of time; this can save families time and also expenses on food purchasing.
  • Access
    Access to fitness centers, grocery stores, health facilities and other healthy living resources may be scarce or unavailable in your community. Although it might seem like this is a barrier you can’t overcome, try thinking creatively and advocating for change. Can you work out in your house, at a local school or church or can you create a walking club? Can you plant your own garden or start a community garden? Can you try purchasing more frozen and canned fruit and vegetables? Can you advocate for development, policies or access to exercise amenities? Can you start a community coalition to help improve access and education about these issues?
  • Too tired
    “I’m too tired to prepare a full meal or do any type of activity.” If tiredness is a common barrier for your health decisions, think about assessing your sleep routine to improve your health. Sleep may be the component to solve your healthy living barriers. For tips to improve your sleep and the role it plays in your mental function, read Brain Health: Sleep and Mental Rest.
  • Social Influences
    We eat for pleasure, entertainment, when we are bored, socially and for many other reasons. Additionally, individuals you surround yourself with may be influencing your activity levels, both good and bad. Assess how your social environment is influencing your health behaviors and target areas where easy changes could be made. For example, could you replace a regular dinner date with a walking date once or twice a month?

In Summary

Awhile back, I heard a saying that has stuck with me over the years, “It’s easy to lose weight, which is why most fad diets out there often work. The hard part is keeping the weight off and truly changing your normal behaviors for lifelong health.

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