How to Prepare to Make Positive Health Changes

It’s never too early or too late to begin planning ways you can implement simple changes to improve your health and wellness in Planning for Success graphicthe new year. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but I am a believer in careful planning. (For more information on making successful resolutions, see Ten Reasons Resolutions Fail and Ways to Succeed.) The following tips can be applied any time of year, but seem particularly appropriate right now. I also want to thank multiple members of one of my networking groups who suggested and requested this post. 

Following are my tips for creating a plan for positive change: 

  1. Figure out your priorities: What do you want to accomplish by making positive changes? I often hear people say they want to “eat healthier.” If I ask them WHY they want to create healthier eating habits, they can’t come up with an answer. Attaching a specific outcome to a change we wish to create will greatly increase the likelihood of success.
    .
    Take time to sit down and make a list of specific health improvements you wish to create. Don’t think about what you’re writing down, just brainstorm. Your list may have a few items or may cover several pages. After you create the list, look at it very carefully and ask yourself why you wish to accomplish these changes. Dig down deep and make sure the changes you wish to see are your personal desires and are not intended to impress other people or cater to someone else’s wishes. Eliminate any items you wrote down that are more for others than for you. After that, prioritize your list. Write each item down on another piece of paper (or move the items around if you made your list electronically) in order of most important to least important. 
    When creating goals, focus on your top three priorities. If your top three priorities are huge, you may want to focus on one at a time.

    .
  2. Ease Your Way Into Each Change:  If your goal is to run 25 miles a week but you rarely leave the couch right now, it is very unlikely you will accomplish that goal without causing yourself serious harm. Whether the goal you’re focusing on involves changing your eating style, changing your thought patterns, or moving more, start very gradually. Set a specific goal each week and then increase the goal for the following week. Break large goals into ‘stages.” For example:  If your goal is to lose 100 pounds, set a goal of losing five pounds each month. That is a very “do-able” goal that is not overwhelming. Breaking your goals into bite-size chunks help prevent becoming overwhelmed and also helps you regularly celebrate successes. (Celebrating success and rewarding yourself with non-food rewards is important. Don’t skip that part!)
    .
    Depending on the magnitude of the changes you make, easing into things also helps your body gradually adjust to the changes. The changes we make affect our body chemistry. Making drastic changes too rapidly can overwhelm our body’s ability to adapt and may cause negative health results. Slow and steady wins the race. Remember that every change you make counts. Changes you consider “tiny” eventually add up to large rewards.
    .
  3. Be Specific:  It’s easy to become overwhelmed when trying to create a list of healthy changes. Many of the lists i see include items such as “eat healthier, lose 100 pounds, run 50 miles a week, drink more water, stop smoking, and only think positive thoughts.”  Although those may be valid goals, each of them is far too large and very non-specific. After identifying your priorities in Step 1, create very specific, measurable changes (goals) to associate with them. For example, instead of making your goal to “workout,” create a goal that says you will “walk ten minutes two days a week and do a light hand-weight routine for ten minutes two days each week.” That goal is very specific, eases you into things, and is very measurable.
    .
    Instead of listing a goal of “eating healthier,” consider making it your goal to “eat one serving of vegetables with every meal and two daily servings of fruit as snacks or dessert.” Again, this goal is very specific, very measurable, and relatively easy. If eating five servings of fruits and veggies each day is overwhelming, start with something as simple as, “eat one salad everyday.” You know yourself and know what’s realistic for you. Create goals that are realistic and achievable, not ones that will require superhuman effort.
    .
  4. Jump start your success with a detoxification program:  A great way of preparing your body for positive change is by doing a 3-10 day detoxification program. A gentle detox program serves to rejuvenate the body and helps eliminate toxins which may impede  your success in reaching goals. Most people who do a detoxification program lose 10 pounds during the following year even if they don’t change their eating and exercise habits. Detoxification program typically require a bit of added discipline, which is a great way to start the process of creating positive change.
    .
    Your detox program could be as simply as giving up coffee and alcohol for ten days, or could be much broader. Click here for more information about my upcoming Detoxification and Cleansing Program, or here to purchase Detoxification and Cleansing Kits.
    .
  5. Find an accountability partner:  Making changes by yourself can be tough. Making them with a friend is easier. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable along the way. Find someone you like and by whom you’re comfortable being held accountable. Share your goals with each other, work together to set goals and create plans to meet them, and then meet weekly or chat on the phone frequently to share your successes and discuss your challenges. Before you begin, pick specific non-food ways to celebrate your successes and attach dates to those celebrations. Rewarding success is an important part of accountability that is overlooked far too often.
    .
  6. Track your progress:  As you begin making changes, it’s important to track the changes you make, your successes and challenges, and the results you see from the changes. I recommend starting a journal. On the first page, list your goals and any measurements associated with those goals. Potential measurements to list include weight, cholesterol, blood sugar or A1C, measurements of specific body parts, blood pressure, muscle mass, etc. Pick measurements that make sense to you and which you hope your changes will positively impact.
    .
    On a daily basis, log information pertinent to your goal. You may wish to log what you eat, how long you work out, the positive affirmation you chose for the day, etc. In the midst of tracking specifics related to the day’s activities, also list items such as how you felt that day, what your emotional status was, any challenges you faced, etc. Make a point of sharing your journal entries with your accountability partner and reading his or hers.
    .
  7. Stay positive:  You’re human. Accept it. One of the fun things about making changes is that you get to learn a lot about yourself and about successful ways to achieve success in spite of challenges. If you have a day (or ten) when you completely blow it and don’t follow your plan, that’s ok. Learn from it and move on. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but don’t give yourself permission to continue. Record your challenge in your journal, noting what you learned about yourself and how you deal with challenges of that type. Use that knowledge and experience to achieve success next time. 
    .
  8. Use meal planning, but keep it real:  Most health changes involve changing our eating style. Planning menus and meals can be a huge help in sticking to a new eating style. Basic meal planning includes selecting meals for the week, creating a shopping list based on those meals, and then sticking to it. Some people view meal planning as pure drudgery, so I recommend using the following guidelines:
    .

    • Stay flexible:  If you planned to make lamb chops but the store is out of them, be flexible. This also applies if you notice something not on your meal plan for the week is on sale at a deep discount. Stay flexible and be willing to use other meals based on what the store has on sale and in stock. Keep a list of ten “go to” meals you can easily substitute if you’re unable to make something you planned for the week.
      .
    • Don’t be rigid about scheduling:  Some people schedule specific meals for specific days, while others pick 5-7 breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week and fit them in as their schedule allows. Do what works best for you, but be flexible and be willing to change your plan if your schedule changes.
      .
    • Make enough to create leftovers:  Cooking more than can be eaten at one meal is fine. Leftovers can be used for lunches, frozen in individual servings for nights when things are crazy, or even eaten as breakfast.
    • Stick to real food:  Meal plans should include whole, real foods, not processed food that comes in a box. It doesn’t take significantly more time to cook simple meals from scratch – I promise – and the health benefits are huge.

Being flexible and not overly rigid in scheduling can also easily be applied to exercise planning.

What changes are you planning ot make in 2015? 

The following two tabs change content below.
Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

Latest posts by Dr. Pamela Reilly (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *