A healthier you in 2022
Are you thinking about changing your habits in the next year to achieve better health? Are you thinking about trying to eat healthier or perhaps becoming more active? If the answer is yes, then you have joined thousands of others who are setting goals to adopt a healthier lifestyle, whether it be to protect yourself from serious health issues such as heart disease or diabetes or simply to improve how you feel or have more energy.
As the adage says: “Old habits die hard.” Changing your habits, whether it be healthier eating or becoming more active, is a process that involves several stages. If you are thinking about making changes, then you are in the Contemplation Stage. The actual process of thinking about making changes to taking action can be hard and may take time. It’s important to realize how the benefits of making the change or changes will benefit your overall health in the long run. For example, some “pros” of eating healthier might include ideas such as you will have more energy, lower your risk for medical issues or maintaining a healthy weight. The cons to making these healthier choices might include the need to spend more time on meal prep, eating out less often, or even convincing your family that eating healthier is better for them as well.
The second stage of change is known as the Preparation Stage. During this stage, you will start to make plans and come up with specific ideas of what you want to work on and how you will achieve your goals. As you enter the Preparation Stage, you might find that you face more or different challenges than you expected. You may also find that you are overwhelmed and struggle to find solutions. For example, many of us struggle with time…you may feel that you don’t have the time to cook healthy. One solution might be to plan a week worth of meals at a time and set one day a week to go grocery shopping. If you don’t like to exercise, then finding someone that you can be active with may help you stay motivated.
The Action Stage is the third stage. Here, you are acting on your plan. The Action Stage may last for months as you overcome old habits and see the benefits on your new habits. During the Action Stage, setting “SMART” goals will help you put your plan into place and reach your destination. SMART goals are those goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. An example of a SMART goal is “I will walk for 20 minutes 3 times a week” instead of “I will exercise more.” It is important to record your progress during this stage. Tracking progress will help you stay focused on your goal as well as help you identify any hurdles you are facing.
The final stage of change is known as the Maintenance Stage. Here, you have become used to your changes and they are part of your usual routine for at least 6 months. At this point, adding variety to your routine, whether it be healthier eating or increased activity, will help keep you motivated as well as give you additional strategies to use when you face challenges or setbacks. If you do have a setback, don’t give up. Setbacks happen to everyone and serve as a learning opportunity. Once in the Maintenance Stage, take the opportunity to re-visit your goals. You may be ready to revise your goals or change your strategies on how to achieve your goals.
Remember, changes – whether they are big or small – can lead to healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Regardless of what stage of change you are in, St. Luke Community Healthcare has professionals that can help you in achieving your goals. St. Luke Registered Dietitians Diane Grogan and Alex Banuet are available to help you navigate through the stages of change. They may teach you about healthy eating or help create a meal plan that won’t leave you hungry or feeling deprived. The physical therapy team can help create a safe and enjoyable activity routine that will help you achieve your goals. The SLCH team can help you track your progress, overcome road blocks, and stay motivated while you work your way to a new and improved you. Visit stlukehealthcare.org to learn more or call 406-676-4441.
Make your future a healthy one. Remember that eating healthy, being active, taking medications as directed, and regular visits with your healthcare provider are lifelong habits, not one-time events.