Are you ready to make a healthy lifestyle change but don’t know where to start? Advice can come from all directions, and it can easily become overwhelming. Here’s a simple solution: Start small. We consult with Traverse City Behavioral Health Specialist Mandy Remai, who works at Munson Healthcare’s Healthy Weight Center and also owns a private practice, Seasons of Life Counseling, about how to make healthy changes to your environment and your mindset.

As a counselor who specializes in weight and eating issues, can you tell us a bit about your background?

“Munson’s Healthy Weight Center is a comprehensive program which includes nutrition, exercise, behavioral health and medical components. As the Behavioral Health Specialist for the program, I help clients incorporate long-term behavioral changes by developing strategies and tools that fit with their individual situations.

“I have had my practice in Traverse City for 15 years. Helping people with weight and eating issues continues to be my speciality, but my practice has grown. My strength as a counselor is helping people feel better by showing up for themselves the same way they show up for everyone else. So many of us are good at taking care of other people’s needs, meeting our responsibilities, but we end up neglecting our own needs. This leaves us feeling empty and drained. When we start prioritizing our own health and well-being in all areas of our lives, everything improves. We do better when we feel better and everyone benefits from this!”

How do you implement healthy living in your daily life?

“Exercise and nutrition are important to me. So is journaling, reading and having quiet time each day to check in with myself. When my eating or mood is off, it’s usually an indication that something in my life needs attention. Maybe it’s a difficult conversation with someone, more sleep or just some time to relax and recharge. We pay attention to what’s going on with others we care about, and being healthy means we also pay attention to what’s going on with ourselves.”

Read Next: 6 Great Healthy Lifestyle Apps for Food, Exercise and Sleep

For those striving to be healthy, would you recommend changing their environment? 

“Changing our environments can make a big difference. But I strongly believe that the starting point is changing our thinking. If we want to generate different external results, we need an internal shift. Changing the way we think about food, exercise, self-care. Taking good care of ourselves so we can be healthy and feel good versus using will power and discipline to lose weight.”

What tips do you have for people on changing their environment for success?

“I would start with deciding why you really want to make some changes. People will say they want to get healthy. What does that mean specifically to you? Do you want to have more energy for your life? Do you want to get off some medications? Do you want to be able to complete a 5k? Do you want to feel more comfortable in your body? Do you want to enjoy your life more? What do you want?

“And the next question is: What are you willing to do to get it? What changes are you willing to make? Not what should you do, what are you willing to do. Pick one behavior you know you are willing to do and start with that. Be reasonable with your expectations and set yourself up for success.

How about when it comes to screen time? 

“Screen time can be a problem for a lot of us. I think it’s important that we start thinking about how we really want to be spending our time. What do we enjoy doing? What gives us energy and helps us feel excited? What do we have fun with? Are we really enjoying the screen time or are we just using it to zone out because we are feeling tired and worn out?

“Making conscious choices about what really matters and what we can let go of. And again, being reasonable. What can work for you?”  

Read Next: Healthy, Fun Ways to Reduce Screen Time for Kids and Adults

Do you have suggestions for families?

“I think each family can be a little different depending on their personal preferences. Get input from the kids about what sounds fun to them. Bundling up and going for a walk or going sledding might not sound like fun but once you get out there and do it—it usually is! Getting started is often the hardest part.”

To take baby steps toward implementing these changes, what would be the first step you’d recommend people try?

“Again, what are you willing to do? Drink more water? Take a walk most days of the week? Take time to meal plan and prep for the week? Have a family outdoor adventure each week? Have limited screen time each day? Pick one.”