Just thinking about shaping up, losing weight, or eating healthier makes many women exhausted. Changing habits is hard work, but sometimes we approach healthy lifestyle changes in the most difficult way possible. Instead of picking your biggest challenge, consider starting where you know you can be effective, where you can get some lasting bang for your buck, and where you can start growing motivation and momentum.

Here are five relatively painless and struggle-free tips to help you create lasting healthy habits:

1. Get some zzzzzs. Sleep affects just about everything we do and without enough sleep, we all tend to unravel. Inadequate sleep affects your cravings, your metabolism, your energy level, mood, activity, focus and motivation. If you aren’t regularly getting seven hours of sleep a night (or more) this is the first area to address. If you are exhausted and try to keep going, you aren’t likely to be effective and you’ll probably be drawn to mindless “zoning out” activities that are really just busy work. Go to sleep instead.

2. Identify your trouble spots. Don’t just focus on what you want to do. Be smart and identify the things that have led you off track in the past. A positive attitude is great, but a proactive plan for how you will do it differently this time is even better.

3. Grow tools for managing emotions and stress. Emotional eating (including stress eating) is one of the primary causes of overeating, weight gain, and weight regain. Without the strategies you need, stressful situations can trigger very unhealthy (and self-sabotaging) responses such as overeating, smoking, alcohol use, avoidance, or numbing out in front of the computer. Hard times are also the time when many women abandon or lose track of health, fitness, and wellness goals. Instead of only focusing on what you’ll eat or when you’ll work out, invest some energy in addressing any real issues that are the trigger for the habits you are trying to kick.

4. Don’t lose yourself. One of the biggest reasons that busy women get off track is that they get distracted by other life demands.

• Designate a time to check in with yourself—at least weekly—and evaluate how things are going. Use this time to schedule the additional time you’ll need throughout the week for exercise, stress relief, meal planning, etc.

• Post your goals somewhere where you will see them and be reminded of them regularly. Make sure you identify milestones along the way to your big goal and reward yourself for reaching them.

5. Keep it positive. Don’t ignore your mindset—it has the power to impact your mood, your energy level, your choices and your progress. Focus on what you’ve done rather than what didn’t happen.

Acknowledge the accomplishments (change is difficult) and celebrate your achievements along the way. Adopt the mantra, “I’m doing my best” instead of “I have to get it perfect” and you’ll be much better prepared to keep going when the going gets tough, recognize your progress and your efforts, and take good care of yourself along the way.

Author's Bio: 

Are you a smart, busy woman struggling with emotional eating, overeating,and balancing work and life? Claim your free psychologist-designed audio series: "5 simple steps to move beyond overwhelm with food and life" at http://TooMuchOnHerPlate.com. Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, is a Psychologist, ICF Certified Life Coach,and emotional eating coach who specializes in providing smart resources to busy women struggling with food, weight and overwhelm.