Setting Goals and Sticking with Them
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
At the top of almost everyone's list is better health, which includes such things as quitting smoking, eating better, getting more physical activity, and losing weight. The weight loss goal should come as no surprise, given that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and the costs associated with obesity run into the billions of dollars annually. People with disabilities have higher levels of obesity than the general population and also have lower physical activity levels, so this is a good goal to take on in 2006. If you're having trouble getting motivated to eat better or increase your physical activity, think of the consequences of not doing so - a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer, heart disease, stroke or recurrent stroke, depression, cognitive decline, fatigue, obesity, and many other health conditions. Several research studies have demonstrated that people with various types of disabilities including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and many others, can improve their quality of life by becoming more physically active.
This year, instead of reaching for the stars with goals that are much too ambitious, start with one or two easily achievable goals. Here are a few to consider - two for your physical health and one to improve your mental outlook.
1. Five M's to Good Health - Moving More Means More Mobility. If you use a wheelchair or have difficulty with ambulation, set a goal of moving around the house more often during the day while at home or work. If you're watching TV or using the computer, during commercials or at the end of every 1-hour block of time on the computer, take brief 'movement' breaks. If you're on the computer, set a timer that goes off the last 3 to 5 minutes of every hour (A 60-minute timer can be purchased at Radio Shack or other electronics stores). During this 3- to 5-minute break, do something that requires movement - wheeling back and forth from one room to another; lifting a couple of water-filled gallon or half-gallon milk/water containers (1 gallon of water is equivalent to 8 pounds); getting up and going outside for 2 to 3 minutes; performing chair or standing yoga, etc. (Contact NCHPAD Information Specialists for more ideas at 800-900-8086 or www.ncpad.org). Make your goal moving your body more often during the day rather than having to find a specific block of time to work out for 30 to 60 minutes. If you are at your computer for 8 hours a day and you move every five minutes on the hour, by the end of an 8-hour session, you've moved 40 minutes! That's a fair amount of physical activity.
The key to changing a behavior is to set reasonable goals that can be accomplished. Weight loss is not a quick 20-pound drop that most people will gain back by the end of the year. It's a slow consistent reduction by making two primary changes in your life - moving more and eating smarter.
2. Eliminate One or Two Fattening Foods - Some experts recommend that an effective way to lose weight is to eliminate one or two high-fat foods that are driving up your daily calorie intake. A few years ago, one of our stroke participants was consuming 8 to 10 cans of sugared iced tea daily! When she switched to a non-sweetened iced tea, she lost over 20 pounds in 12 weeks. Instead of making radical changes to your diet, take a look at what you're consuming on a daily basis and try to eliminate one or two high-calorie food products. You'll be amazed at how much weight you can lose by replacing a calorically dense food with one that has very few calories.
3. Become a More Positive Person - There is a strong tendency for most of us to see the glass 'half empty' rather than 'half full.' This often results from some bad news from your doctor, loss of a job, mounting bills, or various family matters that wreak havoc on your life. You can make 2006 a little more positive by teaching yourself that all of us, including the rich and famous, have immense challenges dealing with the hardships of life. A few months ago, it appeared that Jessica Simpson had it all until we realized she was going through a bitter divorce. Oprah looks like she has the perfect life but struggles daily with her weight and is constantly searching for new things to keep her busy. Dick Clark is struggling with his recovery from a stroke and dealing with the widespread discrimination seen in the mainstream media against people with disabilities. The key to becoming a more positive person is to not let the bad days get you down for too long. All it takes is a little practice and being aware that when it's your turn to deal with the 'messengers of misery,' you're going to find ways to bounce back with resilience and fortitude. Norman Vincent Peale called this the 'power of positive thinking.' Every time a negative thought comes into your mind, try to replace it with a positive one. Ask friends and family members to remind you when you are being too negative or 'down.' This will help you refocus on something more positive. It will take a lot of practice, but over time, you'll be a much happier and more positive person.