How can you coach yourself to better health?

March 25th, 2012

Guest Author: Beth Tansey Peller, RN, BS, CWC®

Change is Hard!

Making sustainable changes in habits that support our health can be challenging. We all know people who lose weight on a diet and then gain it all back, more than once. Or, start an exercise routine, and then stop going to the gym, running, or whatever they were doing. Say they want to get their blood pressure down, or maybe their cholesterol. Swear that they will give up junk food, soda, or something else. But they can’t stick with it. Maybe you have even been one of those people. A Certified Health or Wellness Coach can support your journey, but you can put the process to work for yourself.

The key to making changes that you can live with is to be strategic. Start with the end in mind. Create a vision of who you want to be, how your health with be different then, and how you will feel. Imagine that you are already there…

Ask yourself some questions

  • What will your energy level be like in the future?
  • How will your clothes fit?
  • What kind of exercise will you enjoy doing?
  • What kinds of food choices will you be making?
  • What will your doctor say about your blood work?

And, don’t forget why you are doing this. What is the motivator that will keep you on this path to better health when life gets in the way?

What could work for you?

Build Your Confidence

Think about what’s possible─talking into account the realities and demands of your life, your schedule, your personality─within 3 months or so. Losing 10 or 15 pounds? Getting a regular exercise routine in place? (One that actually works for you.) Making healthier food choices, like fruit instead of cookies, a baked potato instead of French fries? Taking a few minutes each day to do something relaxing or enjoyable instead of getting too stressed?

Think about what strengths you have to help you get there. Are you organized? A good planner? Have a lot of determination? Good at using your creativity to come up with ideas that could work?

SMART Goals Make all the Difference

After you’ve thought it through, think about what your first small, doable step will be. Choose a goal that’s really important to you, yet small enough to achieve. Turn it into a SMART goal for the coming week. One that’s Specific, Measureable, Action-based, Realistic, and on a Timeline, so that when you get to the end of that week, you will be able to gauge how well it worked for you.

Here’s an example: I will choose salad with dressing on the side for lunch instead of my usual sandwich with chips on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday next week.

Then, gauge how confident you are that you will actually achieve this goal. On a scale of 1 (not going to happen) to 10 (I am totally sure I will do this), a 7 is usually enough to result in success. If it’s lower, what one more thing could you do to be sure it will happen? Maybe a reminder in your Smartphone, a friend to share that healthier lunch with you, or picking up premade salads to bring to work.

Celebrate Your Success!

Health behavior change can be hard, but it can be done. Over time, through some experimentation to find what you can comfortably do on a regular basis, the SMART changes you make will become sustainable. To paraphrase Sheryl Crow, “A change will do you good.” For you, there will be no going back. These changes will stick.