Wanting to lose weight or quit smoking are often resolutions made at the beginning of the New Year. One University of Alabama at Birmingham wellness expert says there is a key ingredient to being successful health-wise in the coming year.
About half of the most popular resolutions made each year are health-related, according to the United States government. In addition to losing weight and quitting smoking, they include eating healthier foods, getting fit, managing stress and drinking less alcohol.
Meg Baker, director of UAB Employee Wellness, says while the focus on self-improvement is good, an individual must be ready to make a change in order to actually do so.
"Readiness to change is a big factor," Baker said. "Based on the stages of change model: precontemplation (unwilling to make a change), contemplation (considering lifestyle change) and action, you have to want to change your lifestyle to successfully improve your health."
To help prepare for any lifestyle change, Baker offers some tips:
• Develop small, short-term goals that will fit into your schedule; these should be realistic.
• Consider the benefits and reasons for the change.
• Talk to a family member, friend or co-worker about goals; this accountability will increase the likelihood of your staying committed to a new gym regimen or smoking cessation plan, and they may want to join you.
Baker says starting small increases the likelihood of success. Find a form of exercise that you love, make small nutritional changes like packing a lunch or cooking dinner at home, and get digital reinforcements by using tracking systems and apps like those offered by the American Heart Association, Smokefree.gov, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Additionally, Baker says, because so much time is spent at work, it is a good idea to consider signing up for workplace wellness programs, if offered.
"Many companies want to see their employees thrive, so they will offer incentives to help them improve their health, like the My Health Rewards program we are starting at UAB," Baker said. "Talk to your supervisor or human resources representative to find out if a program is available to you."
If after a while old habits start to creep up again, think about why the change was sought.
"Whether it is to boost your energy level, improve mood, combat health conditions and disease, or to be there for your kids' future, there's always a reason that a resolution was made," Baker said. "So when the going gets tough, remind yourself of why you're making a lifestyle change, and this will keep you motivated."
Also, consider modifications to the new plan.
"If the new behavior has lost its luster, switch things up," Baker said. "Variety is the key to life and can keep you from getting burned out. Spice things up by changing your normal exercise routine, finding new healthy recipes online or joining a new class."
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