Your doctor has probably suggested some lifestyle changes for you. If you have gout, you should avoid red meat, sodas, and alcohol. If you have diabetes, you should count carbs and exercise regularly. If you’re generally healthy, you should quit smoking, get your cardio and eat your vegetables. Chances are you agree when your doctor suggests lifestyle changes…but maybe you don’t really agree.
If you’re ready to make the changes
It is not easy to make changes in diet and exercise, to cut back on drinking or to give up smoking. Many of us plan to make those changes, but find it hard to follow through.
A few months later, you may be back in your doctor’s office looking at a higher A1C, a few pounds more on the scale, or other disappointing results. “I don’t know,” you say, “I’ve really been trying to make those lifestyle changes you suggested.”
Here are some steps that can help:
- Track your behaviors. You might start off counting those carbs or getting those 150 minutes of exercise each week, but then life gets in the way. When you see that you haven’t been able to achieve or maintain the results you want, you may feel that you’ve been trying but it just hasn’t worked. Remember the saying: “You only improve what you measure.” When you check your blood glucose daily, write down your diet and exercise actions, or count your steps, you’ll know where you fell short and be able to get back on track more easily.
- Focus on one goal at a time. For some people, a complete health revamp is easier than small changes. But for many people, it’s easier to focus on reducing alcohol consumption first and then move on to exercise, or to make sleep hygiene a priority first and then concentrate on eating more fiber. Ask your doctor which change should be your highest priority and let your success with that item help motivate you for the next effort.
If you’re not ready
If you know that you won’t exercise daily and you’re not ready to give up smoking, don’t say you will make those changes. Your doctor may be able to make alternative suggestions. Sometimes medication can be avoided with lifestyle changes, but it is available for someone who is not ready to make those changes. In other cases, smaller changes might be suggested, or additional support can be offered.
Honest communication is an important part of your healthcare equation.