Writing down what you need to do to maintain your health or meet your goals can help. (Photo: JESHOOTS.com, StockSnap)

The fight to stay healthy is a war that’s never won. We all know this, even if we don’t want to admit it. Unhealthy habits sneak up on all of us at one point or another. When they do, we either correct our mistakes or slip further into our unhealthy ways. It’s a cycle, and we choose whether it’s one that benefits or harms us.

Luckily, the sooner we catch ourselves in unhealthy habits or activities, the easier it is to correct our mistakes, right? It’s easier to lose 5 pounds than 10. It’s easier to get back into shape for running if you stop for a week than if you stop for a month.

The key is maintaining awareness. It’s easy to forget about exercise if you’ve been incredibly busy with work and the kids all week. It’s easy to consume excess calories on a given day if you can’t even remember what you had for breakfast.


With this in mind, I find one of the best strategies is to write down a checklist. This can be a single list or one that grows over time as you learn new strategies to maintain your health. However, the point is to give yourself a safety net. Use this checklist to keep yourself focused and catch your unhealthy habits sooner rather than later.

Check the scale.
There’s plenty of debate over exactly how often we should step on the scale and weigh ourselves. Some prefer to do so every morning, while others believe daily weigh-ins can be too discouraging, so they op for weighing themselves once or twice a month. It’s one of those things you simply must decide for yourself.

Water weight alone can fluctuate significantly between one day and the next, and it can cause you to weigh a couple of pounds more in a 24-hour period. Oftentimes, this weight is temporary, but it can be discouraging nonetheless.

Whatever you decide to do, weigh yourself at least a couple of times a month. When you start noticing gains of 5 pounds or more, it’s probably time to change up your routine.

When’s the last time you ate fruits and vegetables?
Two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables are the recommended daily amount for adults. If you manage to do this, give yourself a round of applause. Why? Because very few people manage this as part of their diets.

It’s easy to go a few days or a week with few, if any, fruits and vegetables. It just requires you to stop paying attention. Sit down and ask yourself: When’s the last time I ate an apple? How many vegetables did I eat with my dinners this week?

Did you spend at least 15 minutes outside today (or any day this week)?
If you have seasonal affective disorder, you know how important it is to open the curtains during the day and spend time outside. It helps with your mood, energy levels and sleep. However, outdoor time is important for everyone.

Think of it in terms of how our ancestors lived. They were outside all day long hunting, farming and gathering. They went inside for breaks and rest. Many of us now do almost the exact opposite of this, but sunlight and outdoor time are parts of our natural habitat. More is better, but 15 minutes outside a day should be your minimum amount.

When’s the last time you had a serious workout?
It doesn’t have to be the gym, depending on what sort of exercise you prefer. However, when’s the last time you exercised? Exercising three to five times a week is optimal, but keep track on your own. How many times have you exercised this week? This month?

Life does get in the way, but don’t let yourself off the hook. Even if you’re always on the go, there’s always time for some exercise, even with all the excuses we make.

Did you have dessert multiple times this week?
Obviously, pretty much everyone eats more dessert during the holidays. Once 2018 is here, however, keep track of your sweets. Added sugar will disrupt your metabolism, surge your blood sugar levels and cause lots of additional side effects.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a bag of Skittles or a slice of peach cobbler, desserts are loaded in added sugar. Be aware of how often you’re consuming them, because they will have a negative impact on your health.

Did you take your medicine every day this week?
Most Americans, even plenty of healthy ones, are on medication these days. We could debate the merits of this, but for now, let’s keep it simple. If your doctor prescribes you medication, you should follow the instructions for taking that medication. If you don’t, it may not be effective, or it could lead to its own set of side effects. Are you following the doctor’s orders?

Did you spend enough time with your loved ones?
Even if we don’t always get along with our loved ones, deep down we know we’re much better off with them in our lives. Lonely people live shorter, less fulfilling lives. We all need a purpose, and those closest to us help give our lives meaning. Make sure you let them know that’s the truth.

Plenty of what happens in life is beyond our control, but we’re not powerless to effect change. It’s not easy to maintain our health, but there are always ways to make it easier on ourselves. Use your own checklist to keep yourself on the healthy path. A few simple reminders can make all the difference.

Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He’s on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at [email protected] with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.