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.
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.
Almost a year ago I posted a blog titled “A Whole Body Approach to Dietary Changes” with the intention of sharing the message that diets do not work!
During my years of practice as a Holistic Nutritionist and a Naturopathic Doctor this has become increasingly evident and assisting patients towards whole food eating a focal point in my work.
I recently had the opportunity to watch “Hungry for Change” and this belief has since been further validated for me. After eagerly taking in the information from health experts around the world I feel even more compelled and drawn to the promotion of whole food eating as a way of life and to share this incredibly valuable information to others.
Whatever your current relationship is with food this movie will offer new insight and awareness about nutritional choices for you and your family.
I just gave myself the most lovely gift of a weekend retreat in silence. My time was filled with meditation, yoga, healthy food, fresh air and insight. The retreat took place at the Galilee centre in Arnprior, Ontario, a sacred spot populated by a forest of Oak trees and families of acrobatic squirrels. We were lead by Daryl Lynn Ross, a beautiful and gentle teacher who held a safe space and shared her wisdom to our intimate group.
The theme of the weekend was compassion and insight. Something that I thought I understood and lived very well. As a Naturopathic doctor who eats primarily a vegetarian organic diet, is environmentally conscious, has a daily yoga practice and is committed to nurturing meaningful relationship I thought I had “it covered’.
And then I took a seat on my cushion, inhaled deeply and… realized I had much to learn. Through Daryl’s teachings I began to see the areas of my life where I lacked compassion. The pain and suffering that is caused through judging myself and others, the work involved by holding onto anger and resentment and the true freedom that comes with an open and accepting heart.
As I went deeper into my silence I began to sense that compassion is not a lifestyle or a role that we take on. It is a way of being. I learned that compassion is not complacency rather there is a true strength and courage that comes from the compassionate life.
As I move back into my daily life filled with emotional triggers, old story lines and fantasies about the future I am grateful for this offering of compassion and acceptance to myself and others.
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.