My mother bought me a beautiful handmade brocade vest when I lost 45 pounds. It’s my favorite. I can’t button it now. Not even close. I haven’t worn it in several years. My personal health goal: Lose weight and keep it off. It may be the most common American health goal. American’s spent about $60 billion on weight loss in 2013. Every year, 45 million Americans go on a diet. So, I’ve learned that I can lose weight, but not keep it off. To attain my goal I need to adjust my health plan.
What is adjusting? Set a goal, try something, be dissatisfied with the result (learn), then adjust. Adjusting means changing a habit. In my experience as a student of individual and organization health, changing a habit is hard, very hard. I think of changing habits like watching water flow – water flows in the path of least resistance, makes a channel, and gets deeper. We mostly like and value those channels. They’re comfortable until they flood or become polluted.
As CEO of our health team, as the driver of our health journey, it’s up to us to adjust. So what motivates us to change, adjust? Certainly, pain and discomfort (spiritual, mental, and physical). Vanity and pride (the vest). And power – desire to be stronger and more in control. The motivation needs to overcome the flood or pollution.
How does someone adjust?
- Announce your intention: Say it – the goal and the motivation – to anyone that will listen. Easy for me, I’m an extrovert. Introverts may prefer journaling – write it, then read it.
- Prioritize: You can’t do everything, adjust everything. You’d collapse. Last time I saw my PCP she said to focus on walking and exercise. Don’t worry about your weight. We’ll deal with it later. What a valuable member of my team!
- Be mindful – slow down: Do anything you can more slowly so you have brain space to be aware of your habits. Chew slowly.
- Nag: Intense reminders. I hate naggers, so I have to nag myself. I use lists and apps (track weight, calories, steps, exercise, time playing my sax).
- Hang out with supportive people: Use your health team as much as possible. Don’t hide from them. Use ’em. Join or create groups working on the same thing.
- Set up your environment to your benefit: no snacks in the house, salad stuff in the fridge.
- Give yourself a break: when it doesn’t work or you lapse, try again. Sometimes the stars need to be in alignment or it needs to stop raining.
- Celebrate small victories and large. Using the same method you use to announce your intention.
I don’t wear vests anymore. Maybe I should, unbuttoned.
If you think self-adjustment is hard, it’s a piece of cake compared to trying to change someone else. If you can’t adjust yourself, can you guide someone else? So much of healthcare seems to be about changing someone else.