Graham King, M.D.
Life is busy as we juggle work, kids and family along with other obligations. Often, the hectic pace we keep makes it difficult to cook a healthy meal or find time to work out and take care of ourselves. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this self-neglecting behavior is an increase in body weight. Many times, the resulting scenario involves a closet filled with clothes we either dream of fitting into again or look at selling outright in order to start over.
Adding insult to injury is the diagnosis by our health care provider that because of this weight gain, we are now also prediabetic, with borderline cholesterol levels and prehypertensive blood pressure. Understandably, this causes even higher levels of stress, guilt and depression that can lead to negative behavior, such as comfort eating and additional weight gain.
We end up feeling guilty because we should know better. In response to our ill-fitting clothes that cause both psychological and literal discomfort, we come up with a plan to lose the weight, which includes:
- Ridding our homes of any dessert, candy, soda and processed food
- Promising to buy and eat only whole foods made from scratch
- Going to the gym five days a week and working out for one hour each time
- Hiring a life coach to help get our life together
- Reducing stress from work and our jobs
Sound familiar? Most of us do okay for three to four weeks then slowly revert to old habits that leave us feeling more discouraged and adding even more weight.
Start your path to better health
It’s time to break the vicious cycle of exercise and diet plans that simply aren’t sustainable. To start your path to better health, I want you to change one thing.
Simplify your goals.Instead of coming up with six or seven goals right from the start, focus on one thing you can change either in your diet, exercise habits or weekly routine.
For example, the recommended physical activity per week for cardiac health and weight loss is five to six sessions of at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. This is a great goal many people can achieve.
Start by committing to 30 minutes at the gym, with the eventual goal of one hour. Recent studies show that even one visit to the gym, while not optimal, is still better than not going at all. Plus, you can feel good knowing you’ve had success, and perhaps in a month or two squeeze in some additional time on another day. Even adding a half-hour walk with your significant other or a pet several times a week is great. It all starts by changing one thing.
One change can make a positive difference to your health
Think about this: if you’re someone who drinks multiple sodas daily, you can lose upwards of 10 pounds a year simply by reducing your intake of one soda per day, even if you change nothing else. This is a theoretical number based on calories alone. Yet, you’re creating success for yourself by changing one thing.
Try eating a salad every other day with a meal. This is something you can manage and feel successful with. Eventually, you can implement other healthy things into your eating routine. For example, add a water bottle with fruit infusions at work to help keep you hydrated and lower your urge to snack. Plus, it’s a great alternative to other drink options throughout the day.
Here’s something to think about: when a child starts to learn a skill, whether it’s reading, sports or whatever, they experience success. This experience builds momentum and provides confidence that leads to long-term sustainability.
Motivation by success works much better than motivation by guilt. Unfortunately, much of our motivation to change is guilt-based. This doesn’t work with motivating our children — or with managers and leaders with employees in the workplace — so why do we expect it to work here?
Remember, these are simply examples of ways to make healthy adjustments in our lives that will give you the confidence to change one thing.Graham King, M.D., is a family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.