By Jorge Rubal, CEO & Medical Director,
Laguna Beach Community Clinic
Many of us made New Year’s resolutions centered on a healthier lifestyle. Then came the bombardment of rain, keeping us indoors, and maybe indulging in a bit too much comfort food. The good news is that spring is here, bursting with inspiration for a fresh start at our health goals.
There are hurdles to changing longstanding unhealthy behavior, including a myriad of socioeconomic, attitudinal, and cultural factors, along with expectations of the benefits, costs, and consequences of that behavior. To assist my patients, I practice the “Five A’s” approach: Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, and Arrange – it has produced significant improvements in a variety of health behaviors.
Diet and exercise are key, there’s no way around it, but it all starts with turning your thoughts into actions. There’s actually a scientific model for this process, called Transtheoretical Model, which identifies six stages that are helpful to keep in mind:
Pre-contemplation – Not thinking about making lifestyle changes
Contemplation – Considering, but is not yet ready to change
Determination – Taken some behavioral steps, intends action in next 30 days
Action – Demonstrates the new behavior consistently for less than six months
Maintenance – Consistently performed new behavior for more than six months
Relapse – Returns to former (unhealthy) lifestyle habits
I stress to my patients that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy for me to write a prescription for medications to help control blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol. However, spring with its allure of outdoor activity and fresh seasonal foods, provides an opportunity for you take more control and management of your health.
With that in mind I focus on setting short terms goals, three weeks at a time, because it has been shown that if you change behavior for three weeks then it is more likely to be long lasting. Here are some examples.
Diet: First three weeks, go home and empty out the fridge and cabinet of all the “junk.” For the next three weeks do not replace it. Second set of three weeks: Keep a log of what you are actually consuming. Third set of three weeks: Make fruits and vegetables part of every meal, cut back on red meat and sweets, choose whole grains, eat smaller portions more slowly.
Exercise: First three weeks, establish a time committed to exercise. If it’s early in the morning then simply getting up at that time is adequate to start building that habit. Second set of three weeks: Work out two times per week. Third set of three weeks: Work out two to four times per week.
I’m always telling my patients that exercise and dieting is similar to an iceberg with 20 percent above water (exercise) and 80 percent below water (dieting). Spring is the perfect time to rejuvenate your body and mind, and a healthy mind leads to a healthy body, and likewise, a healthy body fosters an optimistic, grateful mindset.