Find your inspiration to make a healthy lifestyle change and you'll succeed.

How to Make a Healthy Lifestyle Change: A 6-Step Plan

Ten years ago, I couldn’t run 10 minutes on a treadmill. This year I participated in my first Iron Man triathlon. People ask me how I did it and what I tell them is, it’s all about motivation and making a choice.  The thing about running, or any kind of fitness training, is that it’s easy to get started. What’s hard is keeping it up. I see so many people take up running or some other sport and they’re all excited, then they do it for about six weeks and give it up and everything goes back to how it was before. So here is what you need to do to make the change to a healthy lifestyle.

1. Find Your Inspiration

If you want to make a big change, what you need is a reason – something to carry you through when you get discouraged. For me, that inspiration was my mother. I was in a very dark place in my life after losing my mother to cancer. I was very depressed and had gained a lot of weight. Then I thought about how before she died, my mom kept telling me she wanted us to be healthy and see our grandchildren grow up, since she didn’t get to do that. So I decided to make a change.

2. Make a Conscious Choice

The first step is making a conscious choice, whether it’s to take up exercise, eat healthier, or something else. I had read about people who quit smoking cold turkey, and how they just decided to do it. So I decided if they could do that, I could choose to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And my choice was to run.

3. Find Others to Support You

A lot of people who are afraid to start making a healthy lifestyle change – they’re afraid no one will support them. Or they’re afraid they’ll fail and be embarrassed. But it can really help to have at least one person who’s on the same path. When I first started, it was just me and my sister. We decided we wanted to run the local Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in San Jose, where I’m from, and we really had to train for it. It was hard -I couldn’t run 10 minutes on a treadmill! But gradually our enthusiasm spread to my whole immediate family. Now it’s about 30 of us that run it each year; this fall was our our 8th annual Turkey Trot. It really helps to have the support of at least a few other people. They say misery loves company, and sometimes waking up for an early morning run is misery!

4. Spread the Word

One of the most positive consequences of making the change to be healthy is that I became more confident in myself, and I started sharing my story to others in my community. I come from a Filipino Hispanic family and we eat a lot of white rice – that first Thanksgiving, they almost fainted when there was brown rice in the rice cooker! But soon my cousins and friends started noticing I was losing weight and they all wanted to join in. We started running together, which makes it more fun. I see it as paying it forward – I’m giving my friends and family the gift of health.

5. Build on Your Achievements

Once you’ve made one change, you can add others. Running became my gateway exercise; then I started weight lifting, cycling, swimming, and training for triathlons. It’s been a 10-year journey. When I first started I couldn’t run a 5K; this year I completed my first Iron Man triathlon. People look at me now and they only see where I am now, but I tell them, you should have seen me 8 years ago.

6. Remember Why You’re Doing It

Making a lifestyle change isn’t always easy. You are going to get in a rut, everyone does. Some days are just going to be hard – if getting fit was easy, everyone would be doing it! And when that happens, you have to come back to the why. Why are you doing this? What’s your overall goal? For me it’s to fulfill the purpose of my mom. For other people it might be something else. I think most people can agree that they want to live long, happy lives, and the one common denominator of that is health. Health is wealth – you can have all the money in the world, but if you’re not healthy, what’s the point?

Francis David is a Finance Manager at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco and is Vice Captain of Kaiser Permanente's teams for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and 5K. In addition to running, Francis competes in triathlons and this year completed his first Iron Man triathlon.