I have a friend who once ate 21 donuts in one sitting. I know what you’re thinking – that it was some guy. Nope. It was a woman friend. And she’s one of the most health-conscious and petite people I know. She was young. And she just did it – she ate all those donuts. You probably have a memory or two of your own – when you overate or engaged in some other poor health choice. I do; my stories tend to involve cookies – I think I was the original cookie monster. We all have lapses. Don’t feel guilty about yours. Accept the fact that you’re human and move on.

How good do we have to be when it comes to healthy habits? It depends on your goals. If you want general good health and you want to live a long life you need to exercise and you need to adopt a few other good habits as well. If you want your kids to be healthy you need to teach and model healthy habits to them.

If you do nothing else for your health, please add exercise to your schedule. Exercise is like the fountain of youth. Studies show over and over again that it extends life, protects from cancer, reduces stress, boosts our mood, keeps us strong as we age, and protects us from dementia. If you don’t exercise, start now and start small. Simply add one or two gentle activities/week then build up slowly. If you aren’t motivated to exercise for yourself, do it anyway – for your kids. Your behavior is a powerful model for them. More than you probably know.

And don’t be too hard on yourself. That’s one of the biggest mistakes we make – we belittle ourselves and engage in all sorts of negative self-talk that makes us feel bad and then we eat more and exercise less… It doesn’t work.

Here’s what does work. These are my top 5 Tips for being “good enough” with your health habits. Practice these and teach them to your kids:

  1. Exercise – it doesn’t matter what you do – do something.
  2. Practice deep breathing to reduce tension and let go of the stresses of your day.
  3. Adjust your health habits so gradually that you barely notice. Quick fixes don’t work and they often backfire. Take baby steps.
  4. Learn to love veggies. Strive to find recipes that are simply delicious. Why? Because you can stick with an eating plan that is filled with pleasurable foods. Keep looking – there are plenty to choose from.
  5. Forgive yourself – readily – when you over eat or when you experience a lapse in your exercise plan. Simply start again.

Keep in mind, this is not a race – it’s a lifestyle. And it’s the long haul that matters. It matters for you and for your kids.

By Amy Sluss, RN. Amy Sluss the cofounder and content manager for Message a Day, a text messaging service designed to help you live a healthier and happier life! Check out the healthy lifestyles section for exercise motivation, weight control support, healthy habit formation, and healthy recipes:  www.messageaday.com