New year can bring life changes

Instead of making resolutions, look at lifestyle

For 2018, improve your level of fitness, eat better, live better, just don’t call it a resolution. Experts at Nathan Littauer are recommending to people that they stay away from the word resolution when it comes to living a healthier life. Instead, Registered Nurse and Director of Community Education Tammy Merendo says she urges people to look at lifestyle changes as action planning.

Evidence-based intervention shows that action planning is the new rage. “Set lifestyle goals that you can feel confident in, things that are obtainable, and ones that you can maintain,” said Merendo.

Merendo describes action planning as a process which helps you to focus your ideas and decide what steps you need to take to achieve particular goals. Simply put, it is a statement of what you want to achieve over a given period of time.

Many of us already know that often times resolutions have a short lifespan. Merendo said the way that we look at our personal goals has much to do with our success rate. She said to make goals specific and realistic.

“Instead of saying I want to lose 50 pounds, say I am going to increase the amount of vegetables I eat, and be specific. Make a plan to eat 3 more servings a week, then say okay I will eat an extra serving Monday night at dinner, that way you can see it by making it measurable,” said Merendo.

Lifestyle changes, as opposed to resolutions, tend to be more about making changes that are not fads, but instead a year-long program that focuses on long-term changes that are manageable. The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, says that in a recognized lifestyle change program, you’ll learn to build new habits that will ultimately lower your risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes. The CDC provides information through lessons, handouts, and other resources, along with links to support groups.

Merendo said a study conducted at Stanford University shows how successful action planning can be as opposed to New Year’s resolutions. The study shows that resolutions can sometimes cause people to fall prey to “false hope syndrome.” They aren’t able to meet the end goals of those resolutions, and often end up making the same ones year after year.

“Choose something you be successful with, to build your confidence up,” said Merendo.

The study at Stanford says if you’re going to make a resolution, make a promise to yourself that you believe you can see through. The study echoes what Merendo teaches her patients, set specific goals that help to foster a healthy lifestyle. Accountability is also a big part of finding success in making lifestyle changes Accountability makes the person resolving to make the change have to answer to themselves about why and how they want to make the change, and how important it is to them. The study also recommends finding something that you enjoy, like choosing a partner to help, making changes that won’t feel like a burden — all part of the action planning approach.

Merendo also reminds patients that being healthy means not only physical health, but mental health as well. Some strategies include learning to recognize your body’s signals when you are feeling stressed, anxious, sad, angry or depressed, as mental health significantly affects physical health.

“No matter what age, people need to take care of mental health. Remember to find joy and gratitude in living,” said Merendo.

Merendo said looking into the New Year, deciding to live a healthier lifestyle is for all ages. Seniors and children are two populations that can be especially vulnerable to things like obesity and diabetes. She said there are so many viable options now, that anyone at any stage of life can find a physical outlet. Rates for obesity in children tend to run high in Fulton County, so professionals like Merendo are always reminding parents to get their children moving. Area senior centers have information on finding classes to fit every level of fitness.

“A lot of the trendier forms of exercise, like chair yoga and Zumba, are modified, so there are options,” said Merendo.

Merendo recommends those looking to make 2018 a healthier year to check out HealthLink, Nathan Littauer Wellness Education & Resource Center. Now located downtown, the center is part of the hospital’s initiative to increase community awareness through providing resources for people who choose to make healthy lifestyle changes.

HealthLink offers programs based on the interests and needs of the community. Anyone interested in checking out their program is encouraged to check out the HealthLink Calendar for upcoming worksite wellness programs; speakers for community and school presentations; a list of informative books, videos, DVDs, magazines and brochures; and monthly health articles. The center sits behind Littauer Primary Care Center, across from the Colonial Little Theatre.

For more information on Healthlink visit www.nlh.org/classes-events/healthlink.

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