Exercise and fruits and vegetables have been on my mind for awhile. Why? Well, because, as the CEO of a nutrition and wellness company who has fallen woefully off the path of good health, I am feeling pangs of guilt for my lack of physical activity and healthy eating.  After all, one should walk the walk if talking the talk, right?

I have to admit this is a new feeling for me. Up until a year ago, I was the picture of health and fitness. A lifelong runner and 30-plus year vegetarian, I never had these pangs of guilt because health and wellness were my routine.  Fast forward to the last year and I can’t count the number of hours that I have devoted to self flagellation over this unexplained falling off the wagon.  Not to mention the added layers of blubber around my waist. What is going on, I ask myself. Have I lost my “edge?” Is it that I am working too hard? Am I getting lazy in my old age?

Or, perhaps, is it in fact my old age and the assault of peri-menopause that has rendered my willpower ineffectual and left me exhausted on the couch eating nachos as I watch Adam Levine on the Voice? All the while I am cursing myself for not having better discipline and self control. I am literally watching, without intervention, myself become unhealthy! Can you relate?

Based on my conversations with friends and family over the last few weeks, I think many of us, after a long, long cold winter, are feeling off the health and fitness track. That’s the bad news for those of us who have fallen out of good habits. But, here is the good news and why I’m writing this.

Research has shown that the benefits of proper nutrition and exercise begin to accrue whenever these practices are started. So, whether you have temporarily fallen off the wagon like me or have never been a healthy eater or exerciser, there really is no time like the present to start! The benefits are many and well worth the start up costs of sore muscles (and swearing off nachos!).

We know that evidence has shown that healthy eating and exercise not only prevent cancer but also prevent many types of cancer recurrence. Not to mention, one feels better when eating right and exercising. And, proper nutrition and physical activity also prevent other diseases like heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. The medical reasons are well documented and compelling but so are the psychological. After all, we want to feel good, too!

So, how to start? Work on developing good habits. Sadly, this does not mean doing the task for 21 days. In fact, research disproves this 21-day myth and shows that the path habit formation is a little more complicated and circuitous. There are three steps that Jason Selk of Forbes outlines:

First, the “Honeymoon. “Everything is easy. That is the first week of running and eating your veggies. You are psyched, committed and on top of the world.

Second, the “Fight Through.”  This is when it gets tough. Bad habits are close at hand and so tempting (this is the “nacho tease” for me). What one needs to do is fight the urge two or three times in order to move to the next phase. This involves a) recognizing that you are at this stage and acknowledging it, b) asking questions like “how will I feel if I eat these nachos?” and c) life projection – how will my life be in 5 years if I do this (obese if I continue to munch on nachos every night).

Third, “Second Nature.”  This is when your habit is formed. But, there are three things that can set you back – a) Discouragement – when negative results leaves you discouraged (the scale is not going down despite the phenomenal amount of self discipline you have shown); b) Disruptions to the pattern like holidays or illness (“just a little bit won’t hurt…..after all its my birthday”); and c) Seduction of Success, when one focuses on positive results and thinks they don’t have to commit to a process. It’s like saying to yourself, “Hey I lost five pounds without that much hard work. I must be special and don’t have to do the hard work anymore.”

For me to break a habit, one thing that is immensely helpful is to write things down. Writing is a great way to commit to something, and the first step in developing a habit is committing to developing it. So write it down. On Sunday night, look at the week ahead and find an hour each day to schedule in physical activity. Then WRITE IT ON THE CALENDAR!

Even better, if your gym requires that you sign up for classes and charges you a late cancellation fee, then sign up for classes all week. It’ll be just that much harder to cancel. To improve your eating habits, cooking at home really is the best way to ensure that you are eating right. Plan your weekly menus, write them down, shop on Sunday and if possible, cook a few and freeze or refrigerate them for the busy week ahead.

Spring is a time of new beginnings so what better way to start it off than to commit to a program of eating healthy and exercise. You’ll be on your way to better health!