Why should you take better care of yourself?

Serious illnesses are becoming all too common.

While these are worrying numbers, there are ways to help prevent chronic illness like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

What are the best ways to prevent chronic illness? 

The Center for Disease Control says the best life choices to help prevent chronic illnesses are to:

  • quit smoking,
  • eat a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products,
  • get regular exercise,
  • limit your alcohol consumption,
  • get screened for cancer and diabetes,
  • get enough sleep, and
  • know your family health history.

Helping Canadians live healthier lives is part of Sun Life’s mission. We proudly support Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations through Meant2Prevent, a type 2 diabetes prevention initiative for children and youth. The program gives healthy living tips and information to health professionals and families. In this way, Meant2Prevent hopes to ensure healthy habits start early and last a lifetime.

Why is it so hard to change unhealthy habits?

We probably don’t need to convince you that helping prevent type 2 diabetes is a good thing. Or that building healthy habits make it more likely you’ll age well. But some changes are more challenging than others.

Think back to the last time you committed to adopting a healthier lifestyle. Maybe you aimed to start exercising by going to the gym 5 times a week. Or cutting out all junk food from your life. Making such drastic changes can be tough, and motivation alone is often not enough to sustain these changes.

What you likely need is clear goals to work toward – and stick to.

Set SMART goals to build a healthier lifestyle

An easy way to help yourself set and reach your goals is by making them SMART. That means they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. You may have heard of these types of goals in a professional setting, but they work well for personal goals too.

Say, for example, you want to lead a more active family life. What could that goal look like if you make it SMART? Let’s break it down by each letter:

S: Specific Put as much detail as you can on your goal. For example, ‘3 nights a week, we’ll plan a long family walk after dinner.’ This is more specific than ‘Get more exercise’. 
M: Measurable

It’s hard to know if you’ve reached your goal if you can’t track your progress. Consider putting a number on your goal. For example, 3 times a week, 15 minutes a day, every second weekend. Whatever your goal, make sure you can count it.

Try adding checkmarks to the family calendar after every walk. Or print this one created by Meant2Prevent. Putting goals in a place where everyone sees them makes everyone accountable. 

A: Attainable 

Make your goal realistic. Remember that life can get busy or unpredictable. Aiming too high almost always leads to disappointment. Maybe your goal to walk after dinner 3 days a week sounds like a lot. Try starting with one day a week and work up to three.

If you are setting your family walks goal when the weather is nice, try to plan for busier winter schedules, or cold and snowy weather. 

R: Relevant

It’s more difficult to work toward your goal if it doesn’t align with your values. For example, think about why you want to walk together as a family after dinner. Maybe it’s more than just about getting your steps in. It’s also about spending more quality time together. Enjoying time in nature. Hearing more about how your kids are doing.

The more your goal makes sense to you and aligns with the kind of life you want, the more you’ll be tempted to stick to it. 

T: Timely

When will you achieve your goal? Think about ways you can organize your schedule to fit it in. Make a plan for how you will work up to your goal. Then, build a workback schedule to break it down. For example, ‘We will walk as a family after dinner 3 days per week by [date]. To achieve this, we will aim to increase our family walks by 1 each week until we reach our goal.’

What if you’re working toward something time-specific like a 5k race? Build a workback schedule and break down your goals. For example, running 1k by this date, 2k by that one, etc.

What resources can help you achieve your goal?

Start by downloading your free SMART goal worksheet. It helps make goals setting easier.

Is one of your goals to kickstart your journey to a healthier lifestyle? A dietitian to help guide you towards healthier food choices, or a trainer to help you exercise could help. You can find healthcare professionals near you by using the Lumino Health Provider Search tool. It’s available to everyone and provides access to a variety of helpful health resources.  

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, or a substitute for that advice.