March 27, 2018

Changing Habits for a Healthier Lifestyle – 5 Ways You Can Make It Work

By Rob Luka, Nurse Clinician and Heath Educator
Mission Diabetes Center

Okay, we’ve heard it a thousand times… You need to change your diet, you need to exercise, and you need to eat better to lose weight. But how do you actually come up with a plan and follow through with it long enough to make it actually work?

Helping people make sustainable changes to their lifestyle is something I have had a lot of experience with while working with the Diabetes Center since 1996. That’s a lot of feedback over the years from people just like you, and here’s what they have had to say about what makes it really work.

  1. What do you want? – That’s a good question to ask ourselves every morning when we get out of bed. The main pivoting point is within us. Wanting the change is a thousand times more powerful than knowing how we’re going to make the change. That desire, that willingness to be open and learn, wanting it…truly wanting it, is pivotal. That requires honesty within ourselves. You have to come to a point where you’re ready to make changes for yourself and not for someone else. Do you really want to lose weight, stop eating junk and drinking regular soda or are you just saying yes because we think that’s what someone else wants to hear – especially if it’s someone in the health field you have been working with. Have an honest heart-to-heart conversation with yourself. It’s better to be honest and walk away from an idea and come back when you’re ready rather than going in half-hearted. The healthcare professionals and the people you chose to work with are your guides in helping you decipher the way best suited to your abilities, resources and personality type and then encourage your own personal engagement. We need to decide what we’re willing to do. Start from there. By being clear from the very beginning about what we want, our communication to others is also very clear and then we can be better guided.
  1. Know your “crabs” – It has been an observed phenomenon that if you put two crabs in a bucket one will try and crawl out… almost to freedom when the other one comes along and knocks it back down into the bucket. Who are the crabs in your life? Who tries to subtly distract or even sabotage your goals, plans, desires and ideas? Are they family, friends or co-workers? Identify them, distance yourself from them if not physically then by selected topics of conversation. I had a friend who only shared her strongest desires with certain people because she knew they would support her, encourage her and not make her feel incapable by being discouraging. “I don’t want someone to rain on my parade,” she would always say. We all know people we would never bring up the subject of politics or religion with, so use the same idea with habits and lifestyle changes you’re working hard on. Identify and avoid the “crabs” in your life.
  1. Take time to find the right support – Some people can go it alone, but most of us need support when working hard on making a worthwhile change because it’s an up and down journey. Easy at times, challenging the next. Once you have distanced yourself from the naysayers (the crabs) now find the yea-sayers. Solid support can come from close friends, loved ones, a minister or a co-worker. I had a friend who told me using strangers was his very best strategy. He shared his ideas and plans with people he never met before at the airport, at conferences and social events striking up conversations. He said, “The fact we don’t know each other brought an openness to my conversations because I knew I would never see them again! They also would tend to be direct and not beat around the bush.” Different feedback from various people gave him new perspectives. An unusual approach for sure…and one he swore by!
  1. Share your plans – This is a tough one. It’s called holding your feet to the fire or not letting yourself off the hook! Go and tell all the right people you’ve found what your plans are. Talk it up. Now they’re going to ask you about it every time they see you, a sort of a progress report. Verbalizing your plans helps to put them into action.
  1. Celebrate your success – Once you’ve earned it, acknowledge your efforts with a nonfood reward. Celebrate a job well done. I once had a husband who told his wife while they were in class together that if she followed through on her plans he would take her to see her favorite country singer. Take yourself to a comedy, spend a day with a close friend, anything that for you marks the significance of your accomplishment. Acknowledging hard work helps solidify the fact you can do it. And if you did it once, you can do it again!

Rob Luka, RN, CDE, IC, is a Nurse Clinician and Heath Educator at Mission Diabetes Center.

To learn more about managing your diabetes effectively,