Is Your Food and Exercise Plan Working?

By Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN – Environmental Nutrition | May 24th, 2024

6 ways to know if new health habits are paying off


Three middle-aged female friends laughing together on a beach walk. Image by photographerlondon. How can you know if a new food and exercise plan is working? Look for these six signs that your lifestyle changes are paying off.

How can you know if a new food and exercise plan is working? Look for these six signs that your lifestyle changes are paying off.


When you embark on lifestyle changes with health in mind, what defines “success”? For many people, weight loss is the primary marker of change they focus on when they are trying to eat better and exercise consistently. But weight change is only one possible outcome of improvements to nutrition and physical activity.

Eating nutritious, whole, and minimally processed foods that are prepared in ways you enjoy has inherent value. So does moving your body regularly in ways that work your muscles, heart and lungs. Here are six small-but-significant wins you may experience as you work toward your overall goals:

Signs of a successful food and exercise plan

1. Better health markers.

Positive changes in blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels can be a sign that your new nutrition and exercise habits are “working.” However, genetics also plays a role, so some people will see more significant changes from diet and lifestyle than others.

2. More energy.

Nourishing yourself with healthy meals and snacks spaced throughout the day will give your body the fuel it needs to run optimally, which can reward you with steady energy levels. Similarly, “spending” energy each day on physical activity will yield you even more energy.

3. Better digestion.

Changes to eating patterns such as reducing meal skipping, eating more fiber-rich plant foods, putting down your fork when you are satisfied but not stuffed, and reducing late-night eating can all improve digestion.

4. Improved sleep.

Shifting more of your food intake to earlier in the day – starting with eating breakfast, then making lunch a bigger meal than dinner if you can – can also promote more restful sleep and may have other health benefits. Regular exercise can also help you sleep better.

5. Increased fitness.

Regular exercise doesn’t always lead to weight loss, but it does improve your strength, endurance, and flexibility. Not only is maintaining and building muscle and cardiovascular fitness important for health, especially as we age, but you’ll find that many routine daily activities become easier as you become stronger.

6. Greater resilience.

Supporting your body with nutrition and the movement it needs supports physical and mental health, which can help you recover from stressful events big and small.

Another benefit of looking beyond the scale – even if you do hope to see the number on the scale shift – is that when you pay attention to how the results of your new habits make you feel every day, this can be more motivating than simply focusing on a far-off goal.

You may also notice a synergy to the changes you’re making. For example, eating better and staying active may improve your energy and help you sleep better, and feeling refreshed and energetic can make it easier to plan and prepare nutritious meals and decide to go for a walk instead of lounging on the couch, which continues to support energy and good sleep.

When you feel better and know you’re feeling better, this can strengthen your new nutrition and exercise habits. It becomes easier to do the work to maintain those habits long term, and to return to them if you find yourself off-track along the way because life throws you a curveball.


Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.

©2024 Belvoir Media Group, LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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