When you woke up this morning, what did you do first?

Did you hop in the shower, check your email or grab a doughnut? What did you say to your roommates on the way out the door? Salad or hamburger for lunch? When you got home, did you put on your sneakers and go for a run, or eat dinner in front of the television?

Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we eat, how we spend our evenings, and how often we exercise have enormous impacts.

So, how do you actually make a lifestyle change that’ll last?

You can do it! Changing your habits is difficult. Developing new habits takes time. Use the tips on this post to stay motivated and meet your goals.
■ Make changes slowly. Do not expect to change your eating or activity habits overnight. Changing too much too fast can hurt your chances of success.

■ Look at ways you can make your eating and physical activity habits healthier. Use a food and activity journal for 4 or 5 days, and write down everything you eat, your activities, and your emotions. Review your journal to get a picture of your habits. Do you skip breakfast? Are you physically active most days of the week? Do you eat when you are stressed?

■ Know what’s holding you back. Are there unhealthy snack foods at home that are too tempting? Is the food in your cafeteria too high in fat and added sugars? Do you find it hard to resist drinking several sweetened sodas a day because your friends do it?

■ Set a few realistic goals for yourself. First, try replacing a couple of the sodas you drink with unsweetened beverages. Once you are drinking less soda, try cutting out all soda. Then, set a few more goals, like drinking low-fat or fat-free milk, eating more fruits, or getting more physical activity each day.

■ Stay positive and focused by remembering why you want to be healthier—to look, feel, move, and learn better. Accept setbacks—if you don’t meet one of your eating or physical activity goals one day, do not give up. Just try again the next day.

■ Get a buddy at school or someone at home to support your new habits. Ask a friend, sibling parent, or guardian to help you make changes and stick with your new habits.
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