In 2018, I’m going to lose weight.
Come January, I’m going to quit smoking.
This New Year, I’m going to eat healthier.
New Year’s resolutions sound great when you share them with your friends and family. If you’re really serious about making some health-related changes, it’s time to bring in an expert: your primary care provider.
“Making a decision to improve your health is one step in the process,” said Aleea Maye, MD, a board-certified internist and adult psychiatrist at Greenbrier Medical Associates. “Making the right choices to help sustain that change is the next thing that happens. Talking to your doctor gives you the best chance for success.”
When it comes to your improving your health, who better to consult than someone who analyzes your vital signs and sees you for regular checkups? Perhaps the best resolution you should make is to get up-to-date with your cancer screenings. Or, maybe 2018 should be the year you get a better handle on controlling your blood pressure.
Doctors, such as Maye, have years of experience helping patients make better choices for their health. They’ve seen firsthand which strategies help people attain their goals. They also know which ones can set someone up for failure.
In Maye’s office, she has four guidelines for patients who want to make behavioral changes:
Keep it simple.
Big, lofty goals can set you up for defeat. Instead, think of small, concrete changes you can make to reach your goals.
So, instead of declaring: “I’m going to lose 100 pounds,” set your goal to lose two pounds in a month.
If you’re focusing on weight loss, avoid trying a fad diet. Focus on things you can change to lose weight. Cut out soda. Make a pact with yourself to eat three meals a day and never skip breakfast.
For adding exercise, resist the temptation to shoot for running a marathon, especially if you’re inactive. A more realistic goal is to exercise for 20 minutes, three days a week.
“Make your goal attainable,” Maye said.
Create a plan.
Once you have a realistic goal, come up with a plan to reach it.
“Change is hard,” Maye said. “Most people can’t maintain their changes beyond two months. Come up with a plan to make the changes easier to live with.”
Take smoking. You might have a quit date, but what happens next?
“You have to decide what you’re going to do instead of smoking,” Maye said. “Are you going to chew gum, keep sugar-free candies on hand or wear a nicotine patch? You need to have a plan.”
Friends, family and buddy groups can help hold you accountable and keep you motivated throughout the process of change.
“We are social creatures,” Maye said. “We tend to do better when we have the support of friends and family.”
This includes your health provider. “Set an appointment with your doctor,” Maye said. “They can help facilitate the change you want to make and help you maintain it.”
Relapse isn’t the end.
When stress or sadness enter our lives, it becomes extra hard to maintain healthy changes. Many people revert back to old habits. Just remember that the faster you stop engaging in the old behavior, the easier it will be to get back on track.
“The important thing to remember is that relapse isn’t a failure,” Maye said. “This is part of the process of change.”