All to often, women get caught up in 21-day challenges or 8-day fixes or 4-day crash diets – programs that are designed to be short-lived. The problem here is not that these programs don’t work, they usually do. Instead, the issue is that they only work for a brief period. Once that workout or diet is done, the benefits quickly disappear. In fact, research has found that 97 percent of dieters regain the weight they’ve lost plus a few extra pounds within three years.

A much more effective approach, then, is to work at creating a healthy lifestyle – one that you can maintain many years to come. And lifestyles are built on habits. Many smaller decisions that become a regular part of your routine all come together to create the results that you’re looking for. To get you started, here are 5 healthy habits of fit women.

5 Healthy Habits Of A Fit Woman

Get Plenty of Sleep: Your body needs to sleep. For a myriad of reasons. While you’re sleeping, your brain and body are hard at work, recovering from the previous day and preparing for the next. Your muscles are rebuilt and repaired, memories are stored and processed, dead and damaged cells are fixed or replaced and hormonal levels are reset. Big stuff happens when you’re doing nothing. Missing sleep, then, can have catastrophic effects on your health – leading to depression, anxiety, obesity and a host of other health problems. While it might be tempting to wake up early or stay up late to exercise so you can make up for some recent lapses in your routine, fit women understand just how counterproductive this can be.

Love Your Exercise: Of course, exercise is a key part of being “fit” but it’s also important that you actually enjoy your workouts. If you don’t and you consistently feel like it’s a chore that you’re just dragging yourself through, you won’t give it your best or stick with it for very long. Instead, find an activity that you love to do and make it a regular part of your routine. Eventually, you’ll find that you crave your workouts and going through them will simply become part of your schedule.

Maintain a Good Relationship with Food: Simply put, food is fuel and should be viewed as such. Emotional eating – and the feelings of guilt that general accompany it – is harmful and counterproductive. Fit women work to change their views on food and make the effort to keep their bodies nourished. At the same time, they don’t beat themselves up over enjoying a treat now and then.

Find Balance: In addition to striking a balance when it comes to food, fit women need to have a balanced view of themselves. This involves doing away with the belief that you need to dedicate hours to the gym every day while starving yourself to be healthy. It also means doing some considerable introspection. What’s healthy for you? Avoid comparing your body to other women through looks, measurements, weight, BMI or any other means. Set your goals and enjoy your life.

Snack: Too often, women undereat out of fear of gaining weight. In reality, this can do some serious metabolic damage– leading to weight gain and progress plateaus. Very often, the reason that women are having difficulty losing weight even when they’ve been dieting for a while is because they actually need to eat more. Specifically, they need to eat more real food. High protein, low glycemic index snacks spread throughout the day will help you feel full and energized, while helping you avoid unhealthy food cravings.