Helping patients keep their New Year's resolutions

Helping patients keep their New Year’s resolutions
Helping patients keep their New Year’s resolutions

 My New Year's resolutions are to learn to knit, complete my online Spanish program, and to finally address my horrible Facebook addiction (acceptance is the first step). But when I ask my patients if they have any resolutions, most of them involve “to lose weight” in some way or another.

As we know, most people do not succeed with their resolutions. In fact, by most, it is almost everyone -- according to Forbes, only 8% of people are actually able to stick to their resolutions.

But why do most people fail? I think the problem is that people do not set realistic goals and their plans are too broad. How much weight are you planning on losing? I remind my patients that they have to set realistic expectations.

Losing 25% of your body fat seems a little too ambitious, but losing 10 pounds sounds much more doable. I also remind my patients that this will not happen overnight. They cannot give up when they do not see instant results. This is a process that will take many months, if not the entire year, and they have to have the mindset going into it.

I once read the entire Bible cover to cover. Attempt number one failed because it was just too overwhelming. Attempt number two was a success when I told myself it would probably take over a year, but that was okay. I set a goal of three pages a day and sometimes read more, and after a year and a half, my goal was achieved. Baby steps, I remind my patients, are most often the key to success.

Another thing I've noticed with my patients is they do not have set goals. Yes, you may want to lose weight, but how are you going to do it? What specific changes are you going to make? Are you going to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle or alter your diet?

I discuss with my patients specific goals that aren't too imposing but often show beneficial results. Taking a walk during lunch time can do wonders for metabolism as well as for mental health. Eliminating soda and replacing it with water can have a huge impact on the waistlines of obsessive soda drinkers.

One more thing I remind patients is that these plans do not have to be implemented all at once. Sometimes it can be too difficult to alter your entire lifestyle and often times much easier to incorporate one thing at a time until it becomes a habit, and then it is easier to incorporate something else. I like to break it down by months and develop rough outlines with patients.

For instance, January will be the month that I start walking 20 minutes a day on the treadmill. February will be the month that I eat at least one piece of fruit a day, hoping that my January plan has already become a routine.

Lastly, I like to remind my patients that New Year's resolutions can be mid-year's resolutions too. If you don't succeed with your resolution, do not wait until the next year. Reevaluate your goals, make sure they are realistic, and begin again as soon as possible.

With a little determination, everyone can become part of the 8%. Ahora voy a utilizar este tiempo para tejer una bufanda en lugar de ir en Facebook. Feliz Año Nuevo!

Jillian Knowles, MMS, PA-C, is an emergency medicine physician assistant in the Philadelphia area.

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