A 5-Step Approach to Making Lasting Changes and Building a Happy Life

“Change your diet or you might not make it to 50.” 

When Adam Zbar heard those words from his doctor, he knew it was time to turn his life around.  

At the time he was the CEO of a fast-growing tech startup. Zbar was sleeping too little, sitting all day, eating lots of hamburgers and pizza, and not a lot of vegetables. Walking up the flight of stairs to his apartment left him winded. His stress was high. And his relationships felt hollow. 

In his new book, Shine An Entrepreneur’s Journey for Building a Highly Successful Business and a Healthy Life, Zbar details how committing to healthy eating, regular fitness, and honest relationships helped him build Sun Basket, a thriving values-based, healthy eating business and become a much happier man at 50.

Our Director of Nutrition, Lindsey Kane, breaks down the five transformative changes that helped Zbar turn his life around:

1. A lightning bolt moment 

Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom before we see where we’re headed and have the ability to redirect our actions. The moment the doctor told Adam that age 50 was not a guarantee for him, the lightning struck and he was electrified with a charge to change.

2. Consider all the things 

Whatever the health issue we’re dealing with, there’s likely more than one contributing cause. Adam acknowledged the late-night pizza, protracted work sessions, persistent stress, sleepless nights, and his wavering relationships. He understood that he needed to address each factor with equal consideration. Instead of focusing only on food or exercise, he gave his entire life a comprehensive makeover. 

3. Develop simple, sustainable strategies

When you want big solutions, you start with small steps. That’s a strategy that Adam used as he began a new exercise routine. On morning runs in the Marin Headlands, Adam developed a method to get to the top of the mountain: He looked at the big picture, in this case, the mountain top, and then narrowed in on one visual marker at a time to get there. While these mini milestones might have seemed insignificant in isolation, over time, each marker of progress translated to a larger victory.  

There’s a reason this template worked for Adam on his runs, and why it helped him change his lifestyle; small, simple progress is one of the greatest secrets to successful and sustainable behavior change.  

4. In order to change your habits, you first have to change your mind 

Adam made a concerted effort to alter his source of motivation from outwards to inwards. Initially, Adam’s behaviors were fueled by a constant desire for external validation, recognition, and praise. In this new mindset, Adam set goals that made him “feel proud inside, not to impress others.” He focused his efforts on health and genuine happiness, effectively shifting his perspective from one requiring external validation to one motivated by powerful internal values and passions. With time, his actions became their own reward. 

5. Be nice to yourself 

A major part of Adam’s mindset makeover embraced the powers of body kindness. “Once I slowed down and appreciated how amazing my body was, I wanted to do everything in my power to take care of it. For years it had taken care of me, it was my time to take care of it.” This gentler, rational approach allowed him to ditch a crash diet mentality and aim for, “general happiness and sustained success that feels easy and natural.“