One Healthy Change Leads to Another

13SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/1/2012 6:00 AM   :  31 comments   :  16,075 Views

Whether you hope to lose weight, improve your diet, get active—or a combination of all three—sometimes it's just getting started that is the hardest part. Giving up bad habits and implementing new ones can be overwhelming. It's a big reason why so many people just keep doing the same things instead of changing their lifestyles.  They think they have to change everything overnight to be successful. And since changing everything is going to be so difficult, they might as well not even try.
 
Well what if I told you that you could do just one thing and see noticeable improvements? That taking one step—making ONE healthy change—could change your outlook and set you on the path to better health? I doubt you'd say "that's too hard." More likely, you'd say, "Let's do this!"
 
I heard a fascinating study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that looked at this very idea. When researchers had people change just one habit, the results were amazing. When they changed TWO habits—look out!—results were even better. And that is all they did: Change two things to improve their lifestyle. When they asked people to watch less TV (or spend less time on the computer), they automatically snacked less on junk food and consumed fewer calories.

No one told them, "Hey, you should eat less." They simply said "Be less sedentary," and the rest took care of itself. When they were less sedentary, their time spent in physical activity also increased, even if they weren't told to exercise more. Not only that, but their new habits (and results) lasted long-term! At SparkPeople, we call this the Criss-Cross Effect, and it can be an amazingly effective and motivating way to look at your goals.
 
Here are more details about the study, which you can easily apply to your own healthy lifestyle journey.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine recruited 204 adults who all exhibited four unhealthy behaviors:
  1. Eating too much saturated fat
  2. Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
  3. Spending too much time being sedentary
  4. Not getting enough physical activity
Participants were randomly assigned into one of four interventions, all of which focused on improving just TWO of these habits for three weeks. They were paid $175 per week to meet their new goals (like eating more fruits and vegetables) and log their progress. Not surprisingly, they did better, going from 1.2 to 5.5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, for example. But then, that big payday (certainly a motivator) was over! For six more months, they had to continue tracking their habits, for which they earned a much smaller check ($30-$80 per month) that was not dependent on adhering to their goals—just tracking what they did or did not do. To the researchers' surprise, people by and large continued their healthy habits. In fact, 86% said they tried to maintain their new, healthy habits during the second phase of the study. Their results weren't quite as good as the previous phase, but were still markedly better than where they began the program.
 
What I loved about this study was how well it fits into SparkPeople's philosophy. We're all about taking small steps, which build momentum and confidence, and lead to bigger steps and better results over time. Taking just one small step has a "domino effect" in other areas, improving health across the board and encouraging people to take additional steps.

No one can expect to completely alter their lifestyle overnight. But almost anyone can start with one, two or three small and easy goals to get started. In fact, the entire SparkPeople program begins with just three simple goals like the examples in this study. It's our Fast Break phase of our program and it does wonders to get you over that first hurdle of "getting started" and helping you find motivation to continue.
 
The truth is that small steps do matter. They do count. They do have a positive effect. And as we all know, they lead to one more step and then another. Before you know it, you're nearing the finish line. And it all started with one step in the right direction!
 
Do you believe in the "small steps" approach to healthy living? What small actions have helped you get started and stick with it?





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Comments

  • MANDELOVICH
    31
    I love this idea! And further, I think it can be applied not just to habits of eating and exercise, but also habits of mind. When we change our perspective, feel proud of whatever we've done to be healthy, accept ourselves as we are, see the joy in taking care of ourselves, it all leads to wanting to do more to keep the good feelings coming! - 7/11/2012   10:38:11 PM
  • 30
    Step by step is easier. so far I changed to drinking water and trying to get to 8 cups a day. When i go out to eat now, I just order water to drink. I am learning the difference between being thirsty or hungry. When I get a headache now I drink water, instead of taking a pill. Drinking water has been helping me - 6/7/2012   12:11:25 AM
  • 29
    You are right so far. I started a month ago and was only going to track my food intake. Now I'm aiming to stay in my recommended range, drinking my water, and exersizing 10-30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Then, when I don't feel like doing anything, I tell myself to do just a little bit and I've found it always ends up being more! - 6/6/2012   2:27:41 PM
  • ROGERSBABE1
    28
    Yes, sometimes we want too much too fast. This week I'm focusing on two things: no sodas (I still have my morning coffee) and spending 15 minutes a day just trying to listen to whatever God has to say---no noise, no distractions, no requests. It's Wed and I'm aching for a diet pepsi, but I'm determined. - 6/6/2012   1:22:05 PM
  • 27
    One change I've been making recently is to drink more water. I stopped ordering a beverage when I'm out to eat, except for water. At work, we're not allowed to have drinks other than water where members of the public can see us, so I've been bringing a 20 ounce bottle of water to work every day and actually DRINKING it! I know that 20 ounces isn't 8 glasses, but it's a start for me! - 6/5/2012   2:42:28 PM
  • 4MONSTERSMOM
    26
    It may sound crazy, but I've started bribing myself to make changes. Everyday that I exercise I pay myself $2.00 and $5.00 for every pound lost. This makes me want to exercise, and if I do that, then I don't want to blow the calories burned by eating junk. Each little change I make in my diet, makes me want to see what else I can substitute or try different. - 6/4/2012   6:02:13 PM
  • 25
    I wrote a blog today on how I cannot seem to get it together and stick with it. I know, partially, it has to do with expecting too much of myself. I try to do it all at once. I even wrote I should start with one thing and focus on only that. What a timely blog!
    - 6/3/2012   2:36:14 PM
  • 24
    I started this journey with 10 minutes a day of exercise, drinking more water and adding more fruit/veggies into my food plan. Also started tracking everything. By starting small I was able to "tweak" my plan along the way...adding/subtracting things that did/did not work for me. Today I workout five days a week (30-60 min), take a water bottle with me where ever I go and eat 5-7 fruits/veggies a day. Starting with small steps definitely works. - 6/3/2012   9:01:33 AM
  • 23
    I totally agree! Make one small change and it can trickle into a waterfall of other positive changes. Just being aware can create change as well. I am living proof. - 6/2/2012   2:35:49 PM
  • 22
    I definitely buy into this way of thinking. The all or nothing approach never works for me, but the little bit at a time, slow and steady way totally works. Right now, my little step is weekly meal planning. I just know if I do this one thing, it will have a ripple effect. So, that's what I'm trying, starting today! - 6/2/2012   10:38:31 AM
  • 21
    Interesting. - 6/2/2012   9:34:43 AM
  • 20
    Thanks for the reminder!! After a setback these past two months, I'm starting over, and remembering that small changes lead to bigger changes will definitely help me! - 6/2/2012   8:46:45 AM
  • 19
    I really enjoyed the blog and truly believe that long term success at anything comes starts with small steps. I am in the habit of drinking at least two litres of water every day. I started small and also began using a jug with the number of cups marked on it. It makes tracking easy. I also add fresh lemon to add flavor to the water. Anytime I find myself off track, I ask myself: how much water did I drink today? - 6/2/2012   8:31:25 AM
  • TURNINGTABLES21
    18
    The final paragraph says it all. - 6/2/2012   8:19:53 AM
  • 17
    "Start small" and check out SparkPeople.com is what I tell everyone who now asks me about the change they see in me. I started with 10 min of exercise and drinking water. Now I run, cycle, drink copious amounts of water with 9 servings of F/V daily. Incredible! - 6/2/2012   6:20:37 AM
  • LEZ123
    16
    Thank you for your honesty it helped alot. - 6/1/2012   10:14:46 PM
  • 15
    I started by walking. That was my first small step. It lead to clean eating, lifting weights........and becoming a better healthier me. - 6/1/2012   7:01:56 PM
  • MSNIKKI1973
    14
    So true, I have made large goals in the past and gave up after a few weeks. This time I made smaller goals, and started with one change (stopped drinking sodas), now my goal is to stop eating fast food. I am cooking more at home, making sure I cook enough to freeze for lunches and quick dinners when time is pressing. - 6/1/2012   2:19:03 PM
  • 13
    Very much agreed with the title of this blog. Too often when people start out changing, they see all these things they want to do different and overwhelm themselves with stuff to remember to do, stuff to remember not to do, and just stuff in general.

    It's much like learning to juggle. If we grab 20 balls and throw them all into the air, we're going to be lucky to catch two. Many will end up cowering under the shower of balls falling and catch none. At that point we spend extra time trying to pick up the mess or we just quit because obviously it's too hard for us.

    If we instead pick up 1 ball and toss it hand to hand until that's easy, then add in a second ball, we feel accomplished. We add in a third and sure, we might drop it a few times, but it's just one ball to pick back up and add back into the mix - and we know we managed two, so we should be able to learn how to manage three. - 6/1/2012   1:36:56 PM
  • 12
    Small changes definitely add up! Trying to be perfect from day one is not only difficult on the mind, but also on the body. So it's not just that it's mentally hard to stick to it, the body resists making a lot of changes all at once. By focusing on just one change and working to sustain it for a week or a month will make it easier to keep the change going. Then it can be followed by another change, and another, and another, etc.

    Think about it: if you worked on making one small change each month, in 12 months you've made 12 changes! If you put in the effort to make a new small change each week, that's 52 changes you'll have done in a year! These could be as small as adding in an extra 100 steps a day, learning to leave 3 bites left on your plate after every meal, doing a new exercise, or even making the choice to be kinder to yourself and say something positive to yourself every day. None of these will add much time to your day or take a lot of extra effort, but keeping them going for a long time will add up to make a big difference! - 6/1/2012   12:52:31 PM
  • FIT2WIN4
    11
    I now wear a pedometer to keep track of my steps. As a result, I am motivated to do more more and to become more active. I aim for 10,000 steps daily. Right now, I am averaging 8,000 steps. am heading in the right direction. - 6/1/2012   10:44:15 AM
  • 10
    The only thing I gave up in this lifestyle is drinking soda. The trickle down theory there has been wonderful! Because of giving up soda, I learned how much dislike the taste of the fake sugars. I stopped eating chemically sweetened food and now eat more REAL food that fill me up better and have better nutrition. Instead of pre packaged, chemically laden, "peach flavored" yogurt (look at your ingredients folks, not just the calories!!) I now eat Greek yogurt with real peaches.
    I also drink way more water so that I can eat my calories and not drink them. One small step has paid off in many ways. - 6/1/2012   10:08:06 AM
  • 9
    "They think they have to change everything overnight to be successful. And since changing everything is going to be so difficult, they might as well not even try."

    Nailed it. - 6/1/2012   9:39:43 AM
  • 8
    Changing one thing really does make a difference. Over a year ago I committed to get back on SparkPeople and just read the articles each day. From that goal I moved more, started tracking my food and my sugar levels to going back to Curves working out three days a week. I now work out 3-5 days a week at Curves depending on my schedule. My challenge today is to do something for at least ten minutes on my off days. I feel stronger, have more energy and endurance as well as my mental abilities are sharper. Thank you for being there SparkPeople! - 6/1/2012   9:38:53 AM
  • KRABBY52
    7
    I blamed my weight gain on my health disabilities, but it was really laziness. Yes, I have issues (end-stage COPD), but starting tiny and working myself to small has strengthened my body and my mind. I can do much more than I thought I was capable now! The food tracker makes me accountable for my calories and the fitness tracker makes me honest about my exercise. Good job, Spark! - 6/1/2012   9:08:38 AM
  • 6
    When I first started Spark People, I think what made it easier for me to change my goals is that I had a specific plan in mind! I put on the "armor" so to speak! I was getting married and I wanted to look good in my wedding dress. I think if you set your goals based on something small for example: I want to fit in the those size 12 jeans instead of size 14. Then you have something to shoot for. I would never set my goals to high. For example: I want to go from a size 14 to a size 6 jeans because then your pushing yourself and you really need to take baby steps! It really is mind over matter! You have to have faith in yourself every day that you can do this and be your best at it! The rest will fall into place! I have been doing it a little over two years and I have managed to maintain my weight! Just never give up is my food for thought! Have a great day everyone! Keep on Sparkin! - 6/1/2012   8:54:24 AM
  • CALMMAMA2
    5
    interesting - 6/1/2012   8:49:47 AM
  • 4
    That really got me started 10 months ago -- just deciding to make ONE change. Then it led to another. And another. - 6/1/2012   7:39:01 AM
  • CWHEATLEY
    3
    I am learning more and more everyday that making smaller changes is the best plan for me.

    It started by eliminating soda from my diet, which has in turn caused me to drink a whole lot more water to make up for that void.

    I have also started making sure I eat a healthy breakfast each morning - which now means I'm not as tempted to snack as much during the day. And I feel more productive at work after getting something nutritious into my body first thing.

    I've tried before to change everything all at once - it obviously didnt work, hence this being my third or fourth time back to Spark, so this time I am taking a different approach and so far I'm loving the results! Great blog! - 6/1/2012   7:23:55 AM
  • 2
    Spot on. This approach works wonders. - 6/1/2012   7:15:39 AM
  • 1
    Great article, changing one thing really does lead to more. If you would have told me 6 months ago that I'd be running 15 miles a week and going down the organic aisle of the store comparing protein to carb ratios of breakfast cereals I would have told you that you were crazy.

    Now here I am. It seems like every change I make motivates me to make another. It started with just eating less. Simple as that. Then led me to eating healthier as well. Now I'm looking at carb/protein/fats and eating so many more vegetables. Way more work than I ever thought I'd do when I started getting motivated to lose weight. Every change I make that I see results from, whether on the scale or in the mirror just motivates me to keep going. Fix another hole in my plan next week. Success builds on success. - 6/1/2012   6:23:09 AM

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