A Healthier You in 2022
By Dr. John D. Dockins, MD, FACS, FASMBS, DABOM, Chief Bariatric Surgeon and Bariatric Surgery Medical Director at EvergreenHealth Weight Loss and Bariatric Care
As we enter the New Year, people everywhere are looking for ways to lead a healthier life. Whether you overindulged during the holidays and are looking to get back on track or vowed to make lasting health changes this year, there are many actionable steps you can take today to live and feel healthier.
Before diving in, it's important to note that a healthy lifestyle is called a lifestyle for a reason; it's a way of life that leads to overall health and well-being. Living a healthy lifestyle means living disease-free, especially now that we know the majority of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, can be prevented. In addition, a healthy lifestyle means that you feel your best physically, mentally and emotionally. It's never about fitting into a certain size or being "skinny."
Living a healthy life starts by evaluating your daily activities and noticing where you may need to make some changes or tweaks. Reflect on all aspects of your life and notice where you may want to make improvements. After deciding where you want to be, we can next determine how to get there.
I recommend making a "SMART" goal, which is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and within a realistic timeframe, to help ensure success.
The S stands for specific, which means making a simple, strategic goal and understanding the "why" behind your goal. It's easy to say you want to lose weight, but identifying why you want to lose weight—your motivation— will help you stay inspired and on track when you come to roadblocks or face challenges along the way.
The M is for measurable. Following the same example, you'll want to be able to track your goal, so perhaps you say you want to lose 10 pounds.
Next, your goal should be achievable and relevant. Make sure you're realistic in setting your goal and that your goal aligns with your schedule. In our example, this could mean that you determine you'll lose 10 pounds by aiming for one pound a week, which is attainable.
Finally, give yourself a realistic timeframe to accomplish your goal in. Given these attributes, our SMART goal would look something like, "Lose 10 pounds by shedding one pound a week by March 15."
While setting SMART goals is an effective method to reach your health goals in 2022, there's also a variety of simple lifestyle changes that you can start implementing today. First and foremost, strive for at least eight hours of quality sleep every night. While this may seem difficult, especially for those of us with children, sleep affects nearly all of our body's processes and makes a huge difference in your overall health.
Another important lifestyle habit is moving your body for about 30 minutes a day. That can seem daunting, but that doesn't mean the 30 minutes needs to be consecutive. Give yourself a break from your desk chair and go for a 10-minute walk a few times a day. You'll easily hit your half hour goal.
Related to exercise, fueling your body with the proper hydration and nutrition is key to feeling your best. I suggest consuming 64 ounces of water daily and monitoring your calorie intact. Virtually all nutritional labels are based on a 2,000-calorie-a day-diet and almost no one needs this many calories in a day. Focus on the quality of your calories. For example, eating a cookie means you're consuming 150 calories without much nutritional value. For the same amount of calories, you could eat an entire plate of carrots, celery, cucumbers and your favorite hummus. While the cookie likely won't satisfy you, your hummus snack plate will satiate your hunger and you'll be eating a greater volume of food.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is not only about feeling your best physically. It's equally important to feel mentally and emotionally healthy, as well. But we rarely think about how emotions affect our health, too. Take time to nurture your mental and emotional health by prioritizing them. Along the same lines, we often don't think about visiting our primary care provider each year. However, by making at least annual appointments with your provider, they'll be able to take a deeper look into your health profile and ensure you're on the right track.
Finally, it's imperative with any lifestyle changes that you stay positive! It's easy to beat yourself up if you have a meal that's less nutritious than your typical meal, but healthy living is all about sustainability. Even if you make a poor decision, stay positive, return to the "why" of your lifestyle change and keep going. Similarly, set up a good reward system when making lifestyle changes. If you stuck to your goals for the week, treat yourself to a new piece of clothing or your favorite movie. By rewarding yourself, you work towards rewards and create lasting change.
While deciding to change your current lifestyle can be intimidating, remember that there are a multitude of resources literally at your fingertips. Smart phone applications that help self-monitor your food intake, energy output and sleep quality are more widely available than ever before. Additionally, don't be afraid to reach out to the experts for help. At EvergreenHealth Weight Loss & Bariatric Care, we partner with people of all ages and from all walks of life to help them reach their goals with our dietitians, wellness coaches, behavioral health providers and weight loss surgeon, like myself.
This year, make a commitment to yourself to live and feel your healthiest best. By making SMART goals, slowly but surely making lifestyle changes and staying positive, you can create lasting change that benefits you and those around you.
To learn more about sustainable lifestyle changes or to chat with an expert at EvergreenHealth Weight Loss and Bariatric Care, visit www.evergreenhealth.com/health-services/weight-management/.