Jumpstart Healthy Behavior Change

If healthy behavior changes were easy, you would not have clicked this post in hopes of finding a quick solution to becoming a better version of yourself. The truth is, making healthy behavior changes requires you to spend significant time reflecting on your habits, values, and goals.

Be better than the day before and keep moving forward.

Be better than the day before and keep moving forward.
RHN Team Picture Bank, ©2020, Clemson University

We are creatures of habit. It takes awareness and effort to pause and think about doing things differently than how we are accustomed. New ways of thinking and doing can be strengthened with intention, time, and energy. As you repeat new habits, they will become part of your new normal.

Gradually working towards change improves your odds of success. Below are some strategies to help you shape a personalized plan for healthy behavior change.

  1. Choose a goal or habit you would like to change. Think about something in your life you want to change that will be realistic to work towards at this time. You are more likely to succeed if you choose something that interests you and feels possible at present.
  2. Think about the future. Is this goal something that will benefit you not only now but a year or more from now? Ask yourself a big question such as, “Do I have a large dream that pairs well with my goal?”
  3. Focus on making one change at a time. Start small and choose something you feel confident you can accomplish. If your big dream is to lose weight, but you are not quite ready to make healthy eating a priority, focus on adding more activity into your lifestyle instead. When you have tackled this change and feel comfortable maintaining, then shift attention to a new goal.
  4. Break change into even smaller bites and be specific. Once you have established your goal, break it down further to help you succeed. For example, plan to take a 10-minute walk in your favorite park 3x a week on the evenings of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The more specific you are in creating your goals, the easier for you to hold yourself accountable and envision yourself completing them.
  5. Commit to becoming a better version of yourself. Make a promise to yourself and another important person in your life that you will stay consistent and follow-through. Be specific about the change you chose, how it fits within your larger goal, and why it matters to you.
  6. Plan for challenges. Think about potential barriers to implementing your change. What are some ways to overcome these obstacles? Make the healthy choice the easy choice.
  7. Be patient. It may take time to see results; remember that the path to success is rarely a straight line. Things may not go as planned, but it is important to keep a positive attitude and know that everything will work out eventually.

When making healthy behavior changes, use the strategies above, and focus on progress over perfection. All you can ask of yourself is to be a little better than the day before and continue moving forward.

For more information on physical activity and nutrition as you begin adopting a healthier lifestyle please see: HGIC 4031 Physical Activity for Adults, and HGIC 4010 MyPlate.


  1. Hongu, N., Kataura, M., & Block, L. (2011). Behavior Change Strategies for Successful Long-Term Weight Loss: Focusing on Dietary and Physical Activity Adherence, Not Weight Loss. Journal of Extension, 49(1). Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://joe.cfaes.ohio-state.edu/joe/2011february/tt5.php
  2. Peterson, S. (2016, December 1). 3 Ways to Make Healthy Habits Stick. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/make-healthy-habits-stick/art-20270175
  3. Prochaska JO, et al. “In Search of How People Change,” American Psychologist (Sept. 1992), Vol. 27, No. 9, pp. 1102–14.
  4. Publishing, H. (n.d.). 7 ways to jumpstart healthy change in your life. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-jumpstart-healthy-change-in-your-life

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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