Why the Best Time to Start is Now

Richa Mittal, MD

because really there is no "best" time

Organizing fruits and veggies. Image: Pexels - Viktoria Slowikowska

At this time of a new year, you may be inundated with copious messages about health and fitness as well as quick fixes that promise fast (and often unrealistic) outcomes. It is easy to become confused with all the mixed messages and it could feel like you need to “turn a new leaf” and do everything all at once because this is the “best” time.

This mindset can make you feel inadequate and like someone who needs to change everything about themselves.

It is also overwhelming to work on achieving all your goals at once — especially when the new habits and practices are not particularly those that fit into your life. Drastic changes do not allow you to necessarily make room for the lifestyle change in your day-to-day life.

Last, the need to be “perfect” and the all-or-nothing mentality keeps us from seeing and recognizing small progress, which leads to big changes in the long term, if we just kept going.

It is hard to make sustainable lifestyle changes when we are busy judging ourselves, feeling not good enough, and trying to be perfect (none of us are!).

In the end, when you do not see yourself quickly achieving the goals you made during this “new year, new you” time, you may feel like you have failed, once again…

Sound familiar?

Well, here is a different perspective.

There is no “best time” for setting goals, reflecting on our journeys, and for setting intentions for what kind of health habits and other habits we wish to practice.

There is nothing magical about January or any time of the year really.

Yet, there is nothing wrong with pausing at this time of year to reflect and assess our habits and whether our actions are taking us in the direction we envision for ourselves.

Consider writing down your intentions and WHY practicing certain habits matters to you.

Cutting up strawberries on cutting board

Take time to reflect on whether you are someone who has been a perfectionist and has not allowed yourself to make progress over time.

Identify a few key areas or habits you feel life focusing on and give yourself time to get there.

The best time to start making realistic and sustainable changes is NOW- in the moment right here in front of you. When you set a bite-sized goal that you can work on right away, it is easier to achieve.

There is no time like the present moment to pause and consider if your action is taking you toward your path or away.

Instead of trying to set several large goals at once, try identifying small changes you can make in 2–3 areas of your lifestyle.

For example, if you have been staying up late watching television and only getting 4 hours of sleep as a habit, try moving your bedtime to 1–2 hours earlier first. You can start working on that goal NOW, rather than aiming for the 7 hours right away that you are aiming for eventually.

Another example is if you are trying to cut down on stress or emotional eating- practice in the moment pausing when a craving hits and consider why you may be having the craving.

Is it real hunger? Is it thirst? Are you overly restricting food intake or being too perfect as not indulging at all? Are you feeling stressed? If so, can you do something else to bring you some comfort in the moment?

Slicing oranges on cutting board.

These small decisions in the present moment make all the difference over time…

Taking small steps in the moment right NOW can be practiced in many areas of your life. Whether it comes to moving more, getting more veggies on your plate, being mindful of the portion size of an indulgent snack or taking a moment to breathe to relax rather than reaching for that glass of wine, the present moment provides a new opportunity.

Practicing habits in the “now” also helps you figure out the kinks so to speak as you overcome obstacles and practice the new habits in an imperfect way that allows for progress over time!

Instead of focusing on all your perceived “flaws” from that place of “not good enough”, celebrate yourself! Take a moment to visualize your worth — and then identify areas to build and grow while coming from a place of compassion for yourself.

Consider being kind to yourself and making efforts in the present moment to practice healthy lifestyle changes because you DESERVE the rewards, not because you are flawed.

There is no better moment than the present moment to practice self-love, guide yourself with compassion, and make sustainable choices that help you stay on your long term path. What can you do for yourself at this moment NOW?

Dr. Richa Mittal is an Internist and Obesity and Lifestyle Medicine physician in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Her membership-based practice focuses on a patient-centric approach to weight management, cardiometabolic health, and prevention. She offers medical, lifestyle, and culinary medicine tools in her practice to help her patients with sustainable lifestyle changes to optimize long-term health.

Preparing dashboard.