Why a health makeover isn't always the right answer. Why you shouldn't drastically overhaul your entire lifestyle and what to do to make sustainable changes instead.

Spoiler alert: They gain it all back.

Now a confession: I don’t watch much TV, but I stumbled across a show on TLC (which used to be The Learning Channel, but now I’m pretty sure stands for Totally Ludicrous Crap) that really bothered me.

Not because I think the diet advice isn’t QUITE right. And most certainly not because I enjoy watching the slicing and dicing.

But because most of the people fail. The show even tells you that the chances of long-term success are less than 5 percent.

I’m not professing to know how to up those odds, but I’ve got a pretty good idea how YOU can up your chances of sticking to a healthier lifestyle. Without a total health makeover, an extreme diet, or surgery.

The participants on this show go from eating whatever they want, never exercising (or even getting out of bed sometimes), and being waited on to a seriously restricted 1,200-calorie-a-day-high-protein-low-carb-low-fat diet (don’t even get me started…) with major nudging to start standing or walking and going to the gym and taking care of themselves.

Some of them are terrified even thinking about this complete turnaround. But some of them think a massive lifestyle change is going to be a piece of cake.

Maybe that’s what you think, too.

While you’re probably not in a completely similar sitch, I’m willing to bet you’ve entertained a health makeover at some point. Like some of the patients on the show, you think it’s going to be easy.

After all, how hard can changing your diet and exercise habits really be?

You’re super enthusiastic at the beginning. It’s fun to try something new, and all the meal planning and prepping and cooking and smoothies and juicing and HIIT workouts and long runs and barre classes are exciting. There’s so much stuff to do, and you wanna do it all.

But the first time you fall a little bit behind or have to work late and skip a workout your whole plan stalls, you fall into a guilt trap because you couldn’t keep up, and you’re pretty sure giving up is the easiest thing to do now.

So that’s exactly what you do. 

What if, instead of making these grand changes that always have to happen in a day and right now, dammit, you started with one thing? No more cold turkey on every single thing you’ve been doing. 

There are certainly peeps who would benefit from no longer smoking five packs a day, drinking two six-packs at happy hour, surviving on takeout for every single meal, and counting channel surfing as exercise. 

(Just as there are peeps who would benefit from switching their pancakes-and-bacon breakfast to overnight oats and a green juice, from cutting back on the intense workouts, and unwinding with a glass of wine. Everyone’s different, yo.)

But most peeps aren’t gonna be successful if they’re making changes whole hog. And if those changes they’re making aren’t sustainable.

Because, let’s be honest: How long do you really think you’ll be able to keep up eating only organic whole foods you make in your own kitchen, working out for an hour every day, meditating first thing in the morning, keeping a gratitude journal, fitting in a morning yoga sesh (which totally doesn’t count toward your hour workout quota, by the way), and drinking a gallon of water a day while trying to stay sane, text everyone back, and hold down a job your parents deem respectable all at the same time when the week before you were perfectly happy grabbing some fast food on your way home from work at 8 p.m. and crashing on the sofa for three hours before dozing off only to oversleep and hurry to shower and grab a granola bar because you’re already late for your morning meeting?

You’ve got a life. And it’s going to happen.

If you don’t give yourself time to ease in to habits, they won’t become habits.

Life will get in the way, as it has a way of doing. And those habits will be more like a fad. 

Like, remember that week and a half three years ago when I went to the gym at lunchtime? I wonder when that’ll make a style comeback. Like scrunchies.

Okay, so what might this look like?

Maybe you start eating a little breakfast first thing in the morning instead of waiting until noon and then not having the energy to make a decent lunch (hell, to even pick up the phone to order a freaky-fast sandwich).

You might try eating one meal a day that’s a little more plant-y and a little less takeout-y. Or getting interested in new veggies at the store and experimenting with one new-to-you food once a week. Because you’ve probably always wondered what the hell to do with yucca. 

Or maybe you’ve really been wanting to try a yoga class. Instead of signing up for yoga teacher training straight away, you hit up the local studio and sign up for three Yin classes. 

You start small. You ease on in. You grease that wheel.

Because those small things will create momentum. Those little choices every day, the ones you don’t expect to make a difference, the ones you don’t plan for, have the biggest, most lasting effects.

After you’ve got getting in some pre-lunch food, getting fresh with some veggies, and getting your zen on down, then you can make another small change. And then another. Until you feel good about where you’re at with your healthy lifestyle.

I have a feeling that this approach has a greater than 5 percent success rate. Just sayin’.

Here’s what I want you to do right now. Yes, right now. Make a list of ALL the things you think you want to change. You don’t even have to limit it to healthy stuff. It could be things you’re not thrilled about with work, your relationships, your car, your clothes, whatever is bugging you right now. Write ‘em all down.

Then? Take a look at the long-ass list and ask yourself, “If I could only do one of these things, what would it be?”

And once you’ve got your ONE THING, come up with one more thing – one step or action you can take to move you just a little bit closer to that one thing. And then do it!

If you could use some help narrowing in on one thing that will really make a difference, I’ve got you! Claim your spot in Health.Simplified. so I can help you cherry pick a health goal that will have you feeling all kinds of juicy.