As a Naturopathic doctor and Nutritionist I am constantly asking people to make changes to their lifestyle. Over the years I have worked with 100’s of people and have seen a similar pattern of enthusiasm, excitement and hope when they decide to better their health. This is often followed by disappointment, frustration and feelings of failure when they realize the hard work involved with behaviour modification.
It is NOT easy! It is worth it!
Here are a few suggestions that may help you to stay motivated when “the going gets tough”:
1) Surround yourself with highly motivated, like minded people who will remind you through their own actions why you have chosen to make positive changes in your life.
2) Keep a journal and track your progress. It easier to stay motivated when you feel that you are achieving success. Most often sustainable change is slow and steady and you may not realize how much you have actually achieved until you reflect back on the place where you started from.
3) Keep it fresh with something that makes you feel good and is consistent with the change you are working towards. Buy yourself a new yoga top, pick up a new cooking utensil or download a new meditation when things are starting to feel stale.
4) Gather new information by attending a seminar, reading a new book or visiting your Naturopathic doctor. Information is power and new insight and understanding around your goal will keep you excited about the journey you are on.
5) Stay curious and keep it light. When you find that your actions have moved away from the change you desire, smile, remember you are human and kindly bring yourself back to the place that reflects your goal.
By preparing yourself and expecting the process of change to be accompanied by discomfort and resistance you will be more likely to support yourself during the challenging times. The rewards of your hard work will be bigger and better than you can imagine.
Patient: My resolution for 2017 is to eat well and exercise regularly. I was motivated for the first 2 weeks but I am now back to my old habits. Do you have some tips to help me stick to my health goals?
Dr. Lewis: To successfully change old habits takes time, planning and motivation. Here are 5 tips to help you reach your health goals.
1. What gets planned gets done! Write down each goal and create a plan. This can include a schedule, a to-do list, a not to-do list, any obstacles or triggers, your support team, recipes, workouts, etc. Review and edit your plan regularly to keep you motivated and accountable. An example of a goal and plan could be as simple as follows.
Goal: I will exercise more regularly
- make a schedule note the kind and length workouts
- research different workout routines
- track your steps or workouts
- find a workout buddy
- join a gym or exercise class
- buy new workout clothes and shoes
- have some equipment at home to eliminate excuses
- find some online workouts to do at home
2. Have support. Share your goal with as many people as you can so that they can support you and keep you accountable. You can also encourage people to join you. It’s much easier to achieve a goal when the people around you are striving to do the same. Blogging your journey can also help with accountability and inspire and motivate others who might be on a similar path.
3. Remember your motivation. Think about your motivations. Why are you doing this? What will keep you going? Write these down in your plan.
4. Remove the obstacles and triggers. For example, if your goal is to eliminate sugar, don’t have sugary foods in the house.
5. Don’t give up. We are not perfect and most habits are hard to change so if you feel you failed, don’t give up. Remember your plan and your motivations and start again. Reset your resolve, and don’t look back.
Constipation is generally defined as fewer than two or three bowel movements a week. However, you should aim to have one to three good bowel movements a day. Being regular is important for your overall health because it helps rid your body of excess toxins, hormones and cholesterol.
Many factors can cause constipation such as:
- Being dehydrated
- Poor diet that lacks fiber
- Poor thyroid function
- Lack of healthy gut bacteria
- Lack of digestive enzymes
- Low stomach acid
- Food intolerances
- Chronic inflammation
- Magnesium deficiency
- Iron supplements
- Ignoring the urge to go
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Here are some tips to keep you regular:
1. Eat more fiber. Aim to get at least 24 grams of fiber per day. Fiber increases the bulk of your stool to and it feeds good bacteria in the gut. To add more fiber to your diet add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to your food and read Fiber is crucial to your health where you will find tips and a list of high fiber foods that you can download.
2. Eat prunes which are high in fiber and contain dihydroxyphenyl isatin, which stimulates the bowel, as well as sorbitol, a natural sugar that has a laxative effect.
3. Avoid the following foods: sugar and processed foods, dairy, gluten, and soy.
4. Take supplements.
Magnesium pulls water into the intestines to increase stool volume and make it softer, which encourages peristalsis, or contraction and relaxation of the intestines. Be aware that taking too much magnesium cause diarrhea, so it’s important to start slowly. Taking it at night will help you have a good bowel movement the next morning.
Please note that people with kidney or severe heart disease should only take magnesium under a doctor’s supervision.
Fish Oil is one of the highest food sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Natural oils provide lubrication to your digestive tract to help the stool pass through your colon.
5. Stay hydrated to help soften and move the stool through the digestive tract. If you are not sure how much water you should be drinking per day you can use this equation as a guide line:
Your weight (lbs) ÷ 16 = Daily intake (cups) _______________ lbs ÷ 16 = _______________ cups.
Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will help wake up your digestive system by increasing the release of hydrochloric acid and can help with intestinal peristalsis to encourage a bowel movement.
6. Squat first thing in the morning, maybe while you are having your warm water. Squatting relaxes the muscles that allows the rectum to easily eliminate.
7. Exercise to help stimulate circulation and intestinal function.
If you have tried the tips suggested above and are still experiencing constipation it would be a good idea to seek help from your medical professionals to find and address the root cause.
While I am not a believer of new year’s resolutions I do feel the new year offers us an opportunity to reflect on our successes and misses of the previous year and set intentions for the upcoming year. To often we set grandiose goals that are impossible to achieve, only to feel like a failure and return to old behaviours that push us further away from our best selves.
What about setting realistic expectations that will encourage us to succeed and motivate us in a positive direction? Making small changes everyday for the entire year will have a greater impact than big changes that last for only a few weeks. It might not seem like much at the time but I guarantee if you stay consistent over the long haul you will be shocked at what you can achieve.
Here are a few of my ideas that may help you set your own intentions for 2014:
1) Eat more fruits and veggies. I am not talking about a radical shift to vegan or raw food eating, I am simply suggesting that you add more of these foods to your current diet. Consider blueberries with your morning cereal, an apple mid-morning, a side of carrots with your lunch and a mixed green salad with your dinner. A few weeks before my grandfather passed away at the age of 92 I asked him what his secret to longevity was and without pause he replied, “your grandmother always served us two vegetables with every dinner”. Wisdom I think worth pursuing.
2) Drink more water. I know you have heard this one over and over again but many of us are not following this basic recommendation. Whatever your telling yourself, “I don’t like the taste of water”, “I don’t have time to go to the bathroom”, “I forget to drink my water”…change your story. This is so basic and so easy. Fill a 1L container (a glass mason jar is perfect) twice per day and drink it. Just do it!
3) Move. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on gym memberships, sports equipment or fitness machines to get active. Walk, hike, ski, skate, swim, stretch, dance, bike…move your body for at least 20 minutes every day and amazing things will happen. This is the best medicine to help with moods, energy, sleep, blood pressure, digestive function, immune health etc. There are so many benefits how can you not be doing this?
4) Breathe. This is much harder than it sounds and one that most of us struggle with. If you have space in your life for yoga and/or meditation…wonderful. If not, find moments in the every day like brushing your teeth, having a shower, cutting your veggies etc. and use these as reminders to breathe. Inhale…1-2-3-4, Exhale….1-2-3-4.
5) Give. I love the “pay it forward” that is happening all around the world from a coffee to a car people are recognizing the benefits of giving to others without expectation for return. Join the movement. You can’t begin to believe how good you will feel when you give of yourself even if just a smile, a listening ear, a hug or something more material like a sandwich to someone less fortunate or winter jacket that you no longer wear.
Take some time to reflect on what is important to you and how you want to live in 2014. Be kind and gentle with yourself as you implement these changes gradually into your life.