It's only the beginning of the New Year and you may have already given up on your resolutions. Here's a trick to get back on track: keep a journal of the things you want to change. You probably know what your bad health habits are in a general sense but you may not know specific trouble spots. Keeping a journal is one way to figure out how you go off track.
Here are ideas for keeping journals for four specific problems:
Weight loss. If you have the discipline to write down everything you eat for just a few days, you may be able to spot exactly where you are going wrong. For example, you may start the day right with a healthy breakfast but fall down at the office when someone offers a homemade cookie or other snack. These little missteps add up. After you've written down everything, go back through the list and add the calories and other nutritional information. It helps to be prepared to face regular temptations. You can also do this online with a number of apps that easily track food and calorie contact.
Exercise. We all know that we should be getting 45 minutes to an hour of regular physical activity but sometimes that's hard to manage. Try keeping a diary of your activity (or lack of it) throughout the day to see where you might be able to insert even 15 or 20 minutes of extra exertion. You don't have to get that hour all at once. For example, you might try walking around the block for 15 minutes at lunch rather than grabbing that extra cup of coffee or parking at the furthest part of the office lot to give you some extra steps. Again, online apps can help with this. Some iPhone apps even track your activity if you have the phone with you when you're walking.
Sleep. This is a big problem for many midlifers. We get so used to feeling tired and out of sorts that we think we just have to accept this state. Not so. Keeping a sleep diary can help you get a sense of what's keeping you up at night. You should track everything you do all day that might interfere with sleep and then record how you slept that night. Some things to track include caffeine intake and time, exercise, TV watching, computer use (the bright light can keep you awake), spicy food (a cause of heartburn), alcohol intake and time and stressful events. You may ultimately want to see a sleep doctor about the issue and this diary will give you and your doctor a good start.
Stress: We all have obvious sources of stress in our day but sometimes we're not aware of what is making our blood pressure rise. It can help to make a list and then figure out if there is anything you can do to eliminate at least some of the issues. I tried this myself and was able to fix something at the very start of my day – being late to the office. I went through my morning routine and realized that I wasn't allowing enough time for all the stuff I had to do. Getting up just 15 minutes earlier and following a routine helped a lot. You can't fix everything that is stressful in your life but adjusting some of the little stressors can make a huge difference.